Homebound Students May Not be Excluded from Class Activities
By Dean M. Beer, Esquire
Recently, a West Virginia school district refused to allow a homebound high school student to participate in a class dance and graduation ceremonies. The district took the position that if the student was too sick to attend school, he was too sick to attend the events. The parents sued the district under Section 1983 and Section 504, alleging the student was treated differently than non-disabled students. A West Virginia Federal District Court agreed, refusing to dismiss the parent’s case and allowing the family to proceed to trial.
In 2011, McAndrews Law Offices represented a family in a similar situation. Our client, a young woman who had been on homebound instruction for approximately one year, due to anxiety and stress issues, was prevented from walking in her graduation ceremony. The family did not ask for any special accommodations, and the young woman and her therapist had been preparing for this day in counseling. The district’s position was the same as the West Virginia school district’s response; however, our office believed that she should be able to walk in the ceremony and participate as her nondisabled peers would participate.
After a due process hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the ALJ found that the denial of the student’s participation in graduation was discrimination under Section 504 and ordered the district to allow the student to walk in graduation. We are happy to report that the student attended the graduation ceremony and it was a joyous occasion for both her and her family.
Students who are disabled should have every right and opportunity to participate in school related activities as their nondisabled peers. If your school district denied your child inclusion in school activities because of homebound instruction or a disability in general, please contact this office.