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disability & schools

A Connecticut state commission charged with coming up with policy recommendations after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre is considering a draft proposal that would slap new regulations on homeschooling families. “Parents who home-school children with significant emotional, social or behavioral problems would have to file progress reports prepared by special education program teams” under the scheme. [Connecticut Post]

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Disabled rights roundup

by Walter Olson on September 5, 2014

  • Willingness of Connecticut courts to order accommodation of mental disorders is not limitless, as in case of “dazed and confused” teacher who “frequently reported to the wrong school or for the wrong class” [Chris Engler at Dan Schwartz's Connecticut Employment Law Blog; Langello v. West Haven Board of Education]
  • “‘Seinfeld’ diner sued for not being handicap-friendly” [NY Post] Florida lawyers descend on New Jersey to file ADA suits [N.J. Civil Justice Institute]
  • “Plaintiffs want to expand lawsuit against Disney for how it treats guests with autism” [Orlando Sentinel]
  • It’s “sad that we need a federal appellate court to remind us” that ADA’s protection of alcoholism does not actually immunize worker fired after repeatedly driving municipal employer’s vehicles drunk [Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer Law Blog]
  • “Employers beware: EEOC appears to be stepping up disability discrimination enforcement” [Hyman] EEOC sues Wal-Mart over firing of intellectually disabled employee [Rockford Register-Star, EEOC]
  • Nice crowd your ADA racket attracts, California [Modesto Bee]
  • Argument: Employers that use “emotional intelligence” measurement in evaluating job applicants may be violating ADA rights of those with autism [Michael John Carley, HuffPo]

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June 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 12, 2014

  • John McGinnis: As information technology disrupts the legal profession, will lawyers’ clout decline? [City Journal]
  • Law schools, especially of the more leftward persuasion, collecting millions of dollars in cy pres lawsuit diversions [Derek Muller]
  • Who’s still defending embattled medical examiner Steven Hayne? Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood, for one [Radley Balko, earlier here, here, here]
  • Life in America will become more drab if Campaign for Safe Cosmetics gets its way [Jeffrey Tucker via @cathyreisenwitz, earlier on "CPSIA for soap"]
  • LSAT settled with DoJ demands re: disabled accommodation back in 2002 and again just now, and the differences between the two settlements tell a story [Daniel Fisher, earlier] Some prospective students will be losers [Derek Muller]
  • “‘Swoop and Squat': Staged car accidents, insurance fraud rise in L.A.” [Los Angeles Times]
  • Toughen duty for California psychiatrists to inform on dangerous patients? Awaiting backfire in three, two, one… [Scott Greenfield]

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Law schools roundup

by Walter Olson on May 22, 2014

  • Under DoJ gun, LSAT agrees to end flagging of test scores taken with disabled accommodation, cough up more than $7 million [Justice press release, Caron/TaxProf roundup coverage]
  • “Things law school trustees probably should not do: subpoena their own school’s students for criticizing them” [@petersterne; Danielle Tcholakian, DNAInfo]
  • Should law students graduate without studying the First Amendment? And other thoughts from Justice Scalia’s William & Mary commencement speech [text via Will Baude]
  • “Rank ordering the likelihood of law school reforms” [Prof. Bainbridge] ABA moves forward with law school accreditation changes; tenure, among other institutions, likely to remain sacrosanct [Caron/TaxProf, Fortune]
  • Paul Horwitz reviews James R. Hackney Jr. book on contemporary legal academy [Journal of Legal Education via Prawfs]
  • Alex Acosta dean case: should conservative legal academics steer clear of Florida? [Bainbridge]
  • Orin Kerr vs. Erwin Chemerinsky and Carrie Menkel-Meadow on curricular reform [Volokh Conspiracy]

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…by tearing down the newly built seating on the boys’ side, provided by voluntary parent contributions. What’s important is that things be equalized, and someone had filed a Title IX complaint. “The seating was also not handicapped accessible.” [Plymouth, Mich.; MyFoxDetroit]

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A flawed IDEA

by Walter Olson on February 7, 2014

Author Philip K. Howard, who’s begun more regular blogging in connection with his forthcoming book The Rule of Nobody, wonders where the Congressional leader can be found with the courage to take on the failings of IDEA, the special-education law. [Common Good]

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The Justice Department and Department of Education have sent out a Dear Colleague letter discouraging schools from pursuing strict discipline policies against student misbehavior, especially against “routine” or “minor” infractions; Education Secretary Arne Duncan cited tardiness and disrespect as examples of the latter. [Christian Science Monitor]

Assuming that the federal government has somehow acquired the legitimate constitutional authority to begin dictating the fine points of disciplinary policy to local schools in the first place — a big if — it might seem at first that much of this is innocuous. Some early coverage, for example, makes it sound as if the letter is mostly aimed at obtaining a reconsideration of zero-tolerance policies, long criticized in this space, as well as the sorts of suspensions and expulsions that are based on far-fetched dangers like finger guns or forbidden hugs.

Unfortunately, there’s much more. The letter represents the culmination of a years-long drive toward imposing tighter Washington oversight on school discipline policies that result in “disparate impact” among racial or other groups. Policies that result in the suspension of differentially more minority kids, or special-ed kids, will now be suspect — even if the rate of underlying behavior is not in fact uniform among every group. (Special-ed kids, for example, include many placed in that category because of emotional and behavioral problems that correlate with a higher likelihood of acting out in misbehavior. Boys misbehave more than girls.)

If the policy helps speed the correction of some overly harsh, mechanical school policies, both under the zero-tolerance rubric and otherwise, it may have some positive side effects. But the disparate-impact premise is a pernicious one that’s sure to create many new problems of its own. [Andrew Coulson, Cato; Scott Johnson, PowerLine]

More: in 2012 Senate testimony, Andrew Coulson pointed out that 1) compared with the alternatives, the use of out-of-school suspensions appears to improve the learning environment for other (non-disciplined) students by protecting them from disruption; 2) zero-tolerance policies were adopted in the first place in part as a defense for administrators against disparate-impact charges. In other words, the new supposed remedy (disparate-impact scrutiny) helped cause the disease to which it is being promoted as the cure. (& welcome Andrew Sullivan, Scott Greenfield, Hans Bader readers; cross-posted at Cato at Liberty)

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on December 2, 2013

  • Organizers of college conference on “intersection of health, humanities and disabilities” forget to make it accessible [Inside Higher Ed]
  • Law forbade disclosure re: sex offender classmate, now Seattle schools are paying assault victim $700,000 [KIRO]
  • Update: Lehigh U. student who sued over C+ grade won’t get a new trial, judge rules [Allentown Morning Call, earlier]
  • U.K.: “Refusal to allow your child to attend this trip will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s education record…” [Althouse]
  • Truly awful idea SCOTUS has helped us dodge so far: constitutional right to education [Andrew Sullivan]
  • Washington Monthly interviews Zach Schrag on institutional review boards (IRBs) [earlier here and here];
  • Oldie but goodie: dissent from Second Circuit chief judge Dennis Jacobs on College of Staten Island student politics complaint [Husain v. Springer, alternate]

Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on October 17, 2013

  • Opponents, including U.S. Department of Justice, go after school choice programs in court [Jason Bedrick, more]
  • Study finds bullying programs may have opposite from intended effect. Why, next they’ll tell us D.A.R.E. is a flop at curbing drug use. Oh wait [CBS Dallas]
  • National Association of the Deaf files lawsuit against Maryland, seeking captioning at sporting events [WaPo]
  • “NYC will spend $29 million on salaries, benefits of educators it can’t fire” [NY Daily News] [NY Times]
  • Gotta-cover-yourself incident and accident reports clog the classroom day with paper [Ted Frank, Point of Law]
  • “IRBs and mission creep” [Dave Hoffman, Prawfs, earlier]
  • Boy who drew cartoonish bomb at home suspended, reinstated [Fox Carolina, Free-Range Kids]

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Disabled rights roundup

by Walter Olson on September 25, 2013

  • A rein on line-jumping by disabled tour guides? Walt Disney World changes ride admission policy [WKMG Orlando, earlier here and here]
  • Every body into the ADA: Michael Stein, Anita Silvers, Brad Areheart, and Leslie Francis in U. Chi. Law Review are latest to propose “universal” right to accommodation [Bagenstos]
  • Speaking of which, everyone interested in disability law should be following Prof. Sam Bagenstos’s Disability Law Blog, the ultimate source of many articles linked in this space. I’m honored that Prof. Bagenstos has invited me to speak to his disabilities law class today at the University of Michigan (sorry, it’s not a public event), all the more so since we regularly square off on opposite sides of these issues;
  • “First ADA suit since AMA’s obesity policy: Is this the start of something big?” [HR Morning via Eric B. Meyer]
  • “Disability Groups Defend California’s LSAT Anti-Flagging Law” [Karen Sloan, NLJ]
  • “Student Sues Kaplan For Not Providing Sign Language Interpreter” [Florida Daily Business Review] Another movie theater captioning suit [Connecticut Law Tribune]
  • Rep. Tammy Duckworth vs. putative set-aside “disabled vet”: “I’m sorry that twisting your ankle in [prep] school has now come back to hurt you in such a painful way” [Daily Caller]
  • From the rumor mill: Senate Foreign Relations Committee may hold hearings next month on ratification of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, much criticized in this space; here’s a pro-ratification Facebook group and a John Kerry op-ed to the same effect.
  • From historic Julian, Calif. to Philadelphia, we all pay price of ADA’s coercive utopianism [Mario Loyola and Richard Epstein, The American Interest]

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One school attorney’s plea:

Teachers may tell you (privately) that inclusion [of special education kids in regular classroom, as mandated by federal law] often leads them to slow down and simplify classroom teaching. Yet the system is entrenched and politically correct. Many parents remain silent. Some quietly remove their kids from public schools.

Can this be anything but very bad for America?

[Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, WSJ via Common Good]

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Sports roundup

by Walter Olson on June 27, 2013

  • Florida attorney John Morgan, suing NASCAR over crowd injuries, says waiver on back of ticket isn’t valid [Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel, scroll to "Open Mike"; John Culhane, Slate] Idaho court denies assumption-of-risk “Baseball Rule” in foul-ball case [CBS]
  • “Pennsylvania vs. NCAA: case dismissed” [antitrust; Rob Green, Abnormal Use]
  • 1911 article: aviation “as safe as football”: 47 aviation vs. 60 football fatalities in 1909. [Kyle Graham, @tedfrank] “Do no harm: Who should bear the costs of retired NFL players’ medical bills?” [WaPo] “Retired Jocks Dig for Gold in the California Hills” [Jon Coppelman on state's generous worker's comp arrangements, earlier]
  • “The Derrick Rose lawsuit and emotional distress claims in South Carolina” [Frances Zacher, Abnormal Use]
  • “Parents of autistic New Jersey teen sue so he can play on” [Brick, N.J. football team; WPVI]
  • NY Yankees successfully challenge company’s effort to trademark “Baseball’s Evil Empire” [Ilya Somin, Michael Schearer]
  • “Memo to Roger Goodell: I’ll take my NFL football without Obamacare propaganda, please” [Bainbridge]

Patrick Wolf at Education Next and my Cato colleague Jason Bedrick have more on the Department of Justice’s aggressive interpretation of federal disabled-rights law to go after the successful Milwaukee school-choice program (earlier). Private schools that accept vouchers, Bedrick writes, do not become government contractors “any more than grocery stores become ‘government contractors’ when citizens use their EBT cards to purchase food there.”

Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on May 16, 2013

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First the complaint, then the money, now the public accolade: as we noted last month, student Kendra Velzen filed a complaint — and got a $40,000 settlement — after administrators at Grand Valley State University in Michigan declined to allow her emotional-support guinea pig to live with her in the dorm, even though she had a doctor’s note for it. Now the “Fair Housing Center of West Michigan has given … Velzen its annual Outstanding Effort by an Individual award. The group says Velzen was honored for promoting ‘equal housing opportunity for university students throughout the country.'” The center has a previous connection with the case, having assisted Velzen in her complaint. [AP/WILX]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on April 12, 2013

  • Appalling: pursuing the logic of equality arguments, prominent constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky has proposed abolishing private/religious/home K-12 schooling [Eugene Volokh, Rick Garnett, Marc DeGirolami]
  • How wrong is the NRA on school security? So wrong that even Marian Wright Edelman makes more sense [Gene Healy]
  • Schools, marriage, and self-replicating elites: Ross Douthat tells some secrets of the NYT-reading class [NYT]
  • Critics flay Connecticut bill to require school mental health checkups of children [Raising Hale]
  • “How the Anti-Bully Movement is Hurting Kids: An Interview with Bully Nation’s Susan Porter” [Tracy Oppenheimer, Reason]
  • Montgomery County, Maryland pols concerned some public schools might become unfairly good [DC Examiner] Also in Maryland, there’s a push to emulate a truly bad New Jersey idea by shifting the burden of proof onto schools in special education disputes [WaPo]
  • Telephone frustration in New Haven: “How public schools drive us away…” [Mark Oppenheimer]

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Don’t you wish we’d heard more about this before the election, and not just afterward?

Breaking new ground, the U.S. Education Department is telling schools they must include students with disabilities in sports programs or provide equal alternative options. The directive, reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for women, could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come.

Schools would be required to make “reasonable modifications” for students with disabilities or create parallel athletic programs that have comparable standing as mainstream programs.

[AP/Yahoo, New York Times, Michael Petrilli/NR ("The Obama Administration Invents a Right to Wheelchair Basketball")]

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“A longtime French and Spanish high school teacher is suing the Mariemont school district, alleging it discriminated against her because she has a disability – she has a phobia of young children.” [Cincinnati Enquirer] More: Eric Owens, Daily Caller.

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