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On March 9th, 2023, Kennedy Hunt P.C. filed a complaint against the Special School District of St. Louis County, Missouri Educational Facilities Authority and Great Circle for discrimination based on disability in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act, and retaliation. 

The lawsuit alleges Great Circle, a private school for individuals with disabilities, and the Special School District of St. Louis County, Missouri discriminated against and retaliated against our client – a former student – because of her disabilities. The lawsuit alleges the Special School District of St. Louis County’s programming discriminates against students based on the severity and type of their disability. Because of these discriminatory actions – the lawsuit claims ​​our client spent months out of school and her family was isolated at home without support for months. 

According to the lawsuit, Orchard Farm School District, paid for our client to attend Great Circle, which offers services to the public in exchange for tuition, from September 2015 until April 2020. Our client’s progress was successful until remote instruction began during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Per the lawsuit: 

Due to her disabilities, M.T. could not participate in or benefit from remote instruction. As a result, M.T. was denied the benefit of an education during the seven-month period of exclusive remote instruction. M.T.’s exclusion from school caused her to regress significantly and caused her problematic behaviors to escalate. Great Circle’s exclusive remote instruction continued until November 2020, when Great Circle began a hybrid instruction schedule for students, which allowed M.T. to receive two days of in-person instruction a week. M.T.’s in-person instruction, though limited, was successful. M.T. made progress and did not experience a recurrence of aggressive behaviors. On February 3, 2021, Great Circle changed M.T.’s schedule to 100% virtual instruction due to alleged “staffing issues.” In fact, Great Circle shut down due to verified incidences of child abuse committed by members of its residential staff. M.T. could not access virtual education due to her disabilities, and the change to online learning once again excluded M.T. from the benefit of an education because of her disabilities. As a result, M.T. did not attend school from February 3, 2021, until March 16, 2021. 

Our client and her family moved from the Orchard Farm School District to the Hazelwood School District at the end of February 2021. 

The lawsuit continues to allege the discrimination and retaliation the Special School District of St. Louis County took against our client once she enrolled at Ackerman School in March 2021.  

Per the lawsuit:

The staff at Ackerman repeatedly locked M.T. in an empty classroom, called 911, or removed M.T. from class for the behaviors she exhibited due to her disabilities. During the approximately two months she was enrolled at Ackerman, M.T. spent very few full days in school. In May 2021, SSD unenrolled Ackerman and did not enroll her in another school, which excluded her from an education because of her disabilities. After M.T. spent months at home without an education, SSD sent her back to Great Circle when it re-opened in August 2021. Because SSD denied M.T. the benefit of participating in her education for months, the problematic behaviors that stemmed from her disabilities escalated significantly. Great Circle responded to these behaviors by excessively and improperly physically restraining M.T. and secluding her. From August 2021 to November 2021, M.T. attended school at Great Circle for approximately 30 days. In those 30 days, Great Circle physically restrained M.T. over 111 times. Each incident of restraint involved 5-7 members of Great Circle staff holding M.T. down until they deemed her sufficiently calm. In doing so, Great Circle physically punished M.T. for exhibiting symptoms of her disability. 

The lawsuit also alleges Great Circle staff repeatedly requested that parents pick our client up from school early or keep her home for several days a week. 

The lawsuit continues: 

When Parents refused to reduce M.T.’s minutes at Great Circle, the school retaliated by discharging M.T. from the school altogether, effective December 3, 2021. After December 3, 2021, SSD did not know what to do with M.T. SSD’s program lacked a continuum of educational placement options for students with disabilities that manifest severe behaviors. As such, SSD’s programming discriminates against students based on the severity and type of their disability. Because of the discriminatory apportionment of SSD’s programming, SSD had nowhere to send M.T. after her retaliatory discharge from Great Circle. Despite knowing that M.T. cannot access virtual education because of her disabilities, SSD returned M.T. to 100% virtual instruction. Parents reminded SSD that M.T. could not participate in virtual learning because of her disabilities. However, SSD refused to accommodate M.T.’s disabilities and ceased serving her on or about December 3, 2021. 

Our client has suffered serious mental injury and other damages as a result of the Defendants’ acts and omissions. The lawsuit seeks damages for our client and costs, expenses, and attorneys fees.This case is ongoing. For more information, contact attorneys Michelle Faron, Nicole Matlock, and Sarah Jane Hunt at info@kennedyhuntlaw.com. If you or someone you know has been a victim of discrimination, our skilled attorneys at Kennedy Hunt, P.C. may be able to help you. Fill out a questionnaire so we can understand your claim.