Disability Fears At Center Of Lawsuit Against School District
PALO ALTO, Calif. – A Palo Alto student who was temporarily moved to another school because he carries a genetic marker for cystic fibrosis will be backed by two federal agencies in his lawsuit against the school district for alleged discrimination and privacy violations.
A court decision in the school district’s favor should be reversed, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Department of Education argued in an amicus brief filed on the student’s behalf late last month in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Palo Alto Unified regarded James and Jennifer Chadams’ son as someone with a disability and denied access to his neighborhood school “based on prejudice, stereotypes and unfounded fear,” the agencies’ brief states.
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A federal judge dismissed the student’s 2013 lawsuit seeking damages after finding that the district believed the Chadams’ son was a threat to two Jordan Middle School brothers with cystic fibrosis and followed state law to ensure the safety of all students.
The federal agencies say the Chadams’ son does not have cystic fibrosis and was not a health risk to other students. In addition, the district failed to seek medical information on whether a child with a genetic marker for cystic fibrosis, but not the actual disorder, is a threat.
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, people with cystic fibrosis are at particular risk of spreading germs to others with the condition and should be kept at least six feet apart from them in schools.
In their lawsuit, the Chadams said they enrolled their son in school in July 2012 and disclosed that he has a gene for cystic fibrosis but has never had the disorder.
In September 2012, a teacher told parents of students at the school with cystic fibrosis that the Chadams’ son has the condition. By the end of the month, the district told the Chadams their son would be transferred to Terman Middle School.
The Chadams filed a lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court to keep the district from transferring their son. The case was settled, with the Chadams’ son allowed back at Jordan provided cross-infection protocols were followed.
The Chadams filed a federal lawsuit in September 2013 for legal fees and damages, alleging Americans with Disabilities Act and medical privacy violations.
© 2016 the Palo Alto Daily News
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