At the end of a decision regarding whether nominal damages can be awarded under IDEA, the 9th Circuit held they cannot, the Court then went on to address a counter-claim brought by the parent. In this claim, she asserted that the district court improperly dismissed her Rehabilitation Act Section 504 and ADA monetary relief claims which were based upon the admissions policy of the school district’s magnet high schools. The Court upheld the district’s court decision, and that monetary relief was not appropriate here.
aIn Oman v. Portland Public Schools, the Court began be quoting the direct language of Section 504, “[n]o other-wise qualified individual with a disability . . . shall, solely by
reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation” in a program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, 29 U.S.C. § 794, or a public entity, 42 U.S.C. § 12132. These statutes provide a private cause of action in certain circumstances.The court went on to note that under very limited circumstances, ADA and Section 504 may provide a cause of action for failure of public school to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
In analyzing whether such a claim existed under the circumstances of this case, the Court quoted Se. Cmty. Coll. v. Davis,
“Section 504 by its terms does not compel educational institutions to disregard the disabilities of handicapped individuals or to make substantial modifications in their programs to allow disabled persons to participate.”
Rather, schools may not exclude a person who is “otherwise qualified” based upon their disability. For a student to be qualified, an applicant must be able to “meet all of a program’s requirements in spite of his handicap.” In it’s holding the Court stated,
we do not read this to give schools leave to adopt requirements that are not reasonably related to the program at issue, we extend judicial deference to an educational institution’s academic decisions in ADA and Rehabilitation Act cases.
Noting that here the requirement which was keeping the plaintiff’s son from attending the school was a threshold that to be admitted students had to be able to write at a minimum of an eighth grade level.