J.N. v. Oregon Department of Education
In January 2019, the Bazelon Center, along with its co-counsel Disability Rights Oregon, the National Center for Youth Law, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), and pro bono attorney filed a federal class action complaint against the State of Oregon for denying Oregon children with disabilities the opportunity to attend school for a full day. The lawsuit alleges that public schools throughout Oregon unnecessarily shorten the school day of children whose disabilities lead to challenging classroom behaviors, and that the State violates federal law, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), by failing to take the steps necessary to ensure that these students receive the education to which they are entitled.
The lawsuit was filed by parents of children who have been deprived of the opportunity to attend a full day of school and by local and national disability advocates. Children in Oregon as young as five- and six-years-old are routinely excluded from attending a full school day with their peers because of their disability-related behaviors. Their school districts often make these decisions without first adequately considering and developing services or supports that would allow the students to successfully attend school for the full day. According to the lawsuit, some of these children receive as little as one or two hours of instruction a day instead of the six hours their classmates typically receive. Even when they are permitted to attend school, their instruction often takes place in a separate classroom where they have little or no opportunity to interact and learn with their non-disabled peers, despite abundant research and evidence that they are far more likely to enjoy academic and social success when allowed to do so.
According to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, under the IDEA, Oregon must ensure that all eligible children with disabilities receive an “appropriately ambitious” educational program, with the chance to meet “challenging objectives.” The IDEA also requires Oregon to ensure that children with disabilities are educated in general education settings whenever possible. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires Oregon to ensure that all students in the state receive equal educational opportunity, without discrimination based on disability.