U.S. District Court Rules that District Did Not Discriminate Against Student under Section 504 and ADA by Refusing to Allow the Student to Continue Enrollment in the District Despite Changing Residency

By April 4, 2018 News No Comments

In H.P. v. Naperville Community Unit School District No. 203, 118 LRP 5475 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 8, 2018), the District Court held that the student failed to establish discrimination on the basis of her disability, and, as relief, granted the District’s summary judgment motion.

Plaintiff, a 17-year-old student diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and epilepsy, attended Naperville Central High School in the Naperville Community Unit School District 203 (“District 203”) for her freshman, sophomore, and junior years of high school. After her mother’s death, Plaintiff moved in with her father and, for the 2017-2018 school year, enrolled at and attended Downers Grove North High School in the Community High School District 99 (“District 99”). For the 2017-2018 school year, Plaintiff requested that District 203 waive its residency requirements and allow her to enroll in the District due to the fact that attending school in District 99 was causing her anxiety and mental stress. District 203 denied the request. On July 21, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint, including a claim that District 203 violated Title II of the American Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by refusing to accommodate her disability by waiving the residency requirement and allowing her to attend school in District 203 even though she does not reside in the District.

ADA and Section 504 both prohibit discrimination again disabled individuals, specifically prohibiting the exclusion of participation in or denial of benefits due to a person’s disability. Here, the Plaintiff argued that District 203’s refusal to waive its residency requirement constituted a failure to provide her with a reasonable accommodation due to her disability. Moreover, she claimed that despite residing in District 99, District 203 should allow her to attend school in the District for her senior year because of her disability.

The District Court ruled that the Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that her exclusion from District 203 was the direct result of her disability—that the District refused to enroll her because of her mental health conditions. The District Court found that District 203 excluded the Plaintiff from participation in or denied her the benefits of attending school in the District not because of her disability, but because she does not reside in the District. Furthermore, District 203’s residency requirement precludes an identically situated person without a disability from attending the high school. As such, the Court ruled that District 203 did not discriminate against the Plaintiff on the basis of her disability under ADA or Section 504.

Please contact Jessica T. Nguyen or Jennifer A. Mueller with any questions regarding residency requirements or accommodation requests under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or IDEA.

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