On October 27th, 2023, Kennedy Hunt P.C. filed a complaint against O’Fallon Township High School District 203 and Dr. Tony Sanders, in his official capacity as State Superintendent of Education for the State of Illinois, over allegations defendants discriminated against the plaintiff’s minor child – in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Illinois Human Rights Act.
According to the lawsuit, Plaintiff O.P. is a fifteen-year-old girl with multiple disabilities. She has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, Graves’ Disease, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety, and hearing loss in her left ear. She uses an assistive device for her hearing loss, referred to interchangeably as an FM or DM system. Per the lawsuit, the defendant is obligated under federal and state law to provide a “free and appropriate public education” to all children with disabilities who reside within its educational boundaries, including Plaintiff O.P.
The lawsuit alleges the school district repeatedly discriminated against our client and unlawfully refused to provide our client with reasonable accommodations in keeping with Federal anti-discrimination laws and our client’s Individualized Education Plan.
For example, per the lawsuit:
On multiple occasions during hot days, O.P. and her sister walked or jogged instead of running due to chronic lung damage and Graves’ disease. O.P.’s Physical Education teacher gave O.P. and her sister grades of zero on those days because they jogged or walked, which humiliated O.P. and her sister. There were multiple other instances where Walsh denied O.P. the ability to fill her water bottle during class. Robyn and Matt contacted District 203 regarding these failures to accommodate. District 203 told parents that O.P. needed to advocate for herself. Parents informed District 203 that O.P. is not a good advocate for herself due to her anxiety.
The lawsuit also alleges that O.P. went days without access to the DM/FM system she uses to help with her hearing law, and the school district repeatedly did not notify parents regarding repeated issues with O.P.’s DM/FM system. According to the lawsuit, O.P. was discriminated against because of her disability by a teacher on at least one occasion.
O.P.’s algebra teacher was a strict teacher who slammed down books and yelled at students, which increased O.P.’s anxiety. On one occasion, [the algebra teacher] threatened to give the entire class pink slips (demerits) because some students did not finish their homework. This threat exacerbated O.P.’s anxiety even though O.P. completed her homework. District 203 never properly trained[the teacher] on using O.P.’s DM system, despite O.P.’s IEP requiring such training. [The teacher] made her dislike of O.P.’s DM system known by making comments in front of other students, including but not limited to: “I don’t want to see [the DM system] ever again…” and “Do I not speak loud enough for you?”.
The lawsuit also alleges the school district repeatedly refused to transfer O.P. to another section of algebra taught by a different instructor. The lawsuit claims O.P.’s algebra teacher refused to wear the DM system microphone. District 203 never told O.P.’s parents the teacher refused to wear the DM system microphone.
According to the lawsuit, O.P.’s parents met with the school district in February 2023 for an additional IEP meeting. The lawsuit alleges that during this meeting, parents told the school district that O.P. was anxious, upset, unable to sleep, and not eating.
Per the lawsuit:
During the February 2023 meeting, District 203’s representatives demeaned the fact that O.P. complained to her parents about [her algebra teacher’s] treatment, making comments such as “[O.P.] will have to learn to deal with people she doesn’t like throughout her life;” this experience would help prepare her for college and “She doesn’t need to be running home to Mommy and Daddy every time she gets upset.”
The lawsuit continues:
As a direct and proximate result of District 203’s conduct, O.P. has suffered damage, injuries, pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional distress, and impairment of the quality of life… District 203 has acted under the color of state law and engaged in the discriminatory and illegal practices described herein deliberately and with deliberate indifference to O.P.’s rights.
The lawsuit seeks the reversal of a special education hearing decision made by Illinois State Board of Education, as well as for an award of monetary damages, attorney’s fees, and costs. This case is ongoing. For more information, contact attorneys Michelle Faron, Thomas E. Kennedy III, Sarah Jane Hunt, and Ellen Bruntrager at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you or someone you know has had their educational or disability rights violated, our skilled attorneys at Kennedy Hunt, P.C. may be able to help you. Fill out a questionnaire so we can understand your claim.