By Suzie Glassman: NewsBreak/Denver
(Castle Rock, CO): The United States Attorney General’s Office recently released a expression of interest in an ongoing case against the Douglas County School District. The filing indicates the Justice Department’s willingness to notify the Federal Court that the law indicates that the District violated the defendant’s federal civil rights.
The lawsuit against the district alleges the DCSD is responsible for the harm caused to an 11-year-old autistic boy when school resource officers (SROs) handcuffed the child and left him in a police cruiser for more than a year. hour.
The school district filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit claiming that the sheriff’s office employed the SROs involved and that the district had no authority over them.
However, the United States Attorney General’s statement indicates that under “Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a school district is liable for discrimination in its programs, services, or activities, even when it provides them through contracts, licenses, or other arrangements.”
The Department of Justice has said that a public entity (in this case, the school district) cannot subcontract its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. “What matters for the purposes of potential liability is whether the alleged discrimination occurred in a program, service or activity of that school district.”
AV vs. Douglas County School District
The complainant is a student named AV, who was attending Sagewood Middle School when two SROs arrested him on August 29, 2019. The school knew the sixth-grader had autism and suffered from a severe emotional disorder.
Another boy branded AV’s arm, and AV responded by poking the boy with a pencil, creating a small cut. The Sagewood principal escorted AV out of the room and allowed him to defuse while listening to music through headphones.
According to the lawsuit, two SROs, Sydney Nicholson and Lyle Peterson, arrived and asked the boy to accompany them to another room. AV refused.
According to a article in Colorado Politics“Nicholson, who discussed the situation with the manager and initially said it was ‘fine’ if AV didn’t want to come with the officers, allegedly handcuffed AV with Peterson after the boy refused. Images from a body-worn camera showed AV crying, screaming for the police to stop and banging her head against the wall.”
Initially, a judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying the plaintiff failed to prove that the school district jointly employed ORS with the sheriff’s department. The plaintiff now claims that the district is liable on appeal because it contracts with ORS to serve in its schools.
What is an Expression of Interest?
According the Harvard Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Act Review“These written statements are filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in many of the more than 15,700 state and federal trial courts across the country and are ‘designed to explain to the court the interests of the United States in disputes between private parties”.
These documents help clarify the law and serve as the official position of the federal government.
The Law Review says these statements are increasingly being used in civil rights cases and can be a game-changer for litigants.