Special Education

Stewart, a high school special education student in Waco ISD, was involved in an incident involving sexual contact between her and another student. In response, the District modified Stewart’s Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) to provide that she be separated from male students and remain under close supervision while at school. Nonetheless, Stewart was allegedly involved in three other instances of sexual conduct, which she characterized as “sexual abuse,” over the next two years.

Stewart sued Waco ISD in state court, and the District removed on federal-question grounds. In addition to claims under the ADA and Title IX, Stewart brought a claim under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for the District’s alleged “gross mismanagement” of her IEP and failure to reasonably accommodate her disabilities. The district court dismissed Stewart’s action in its entirety, concluding that all her claims failed because they attempted to hold the district liable for “the actions of a private actor.” Stewart appealed and contended that she stated a claim under Section 504 for the District’s deliberate indifference to disability-related student-on-student sexual assault, in addition to “gross mismanagement” of her IEP.

A panel of the Fifth Circuit held that Stewart plausibly stated a cause of action under Section 504 by alleging that the District acted with gross misjudgment in failing to further modify her IEP. The court reversed the district court’s dismissal of Stewart’s Section 504 claim, and remanded the case for proceedings consistent with its opinion. Waco ISD filed a request for rehearing and for en banc review on March 28, 2013, arguing that the panel majority’s opinion permitted Stewart to use Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to enforce her IEP even though she never exhausted her administrative remedies under the IDEA.

TASB LAF filed a brief with the Fifth Circuit in support of the school district. The panel granted rehearing, vacated and withdrew its previous opinion, and remanded the case to the district court. Stewart v. Waco Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 11–51067 (5th Cir. Jun. 3, 2013). LAF’s Attorney: Jeffrey L. Rogers, Rogers, Morris & Grover, L.L.P., Houston

Stewart, a high school special education student in Waco ISD, was involved in an incident involving sexual contact between her and another student. In response, the District modified Stewart’s Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) to provide that she be separated from male students and remain under close supervision while at school. Nonetheless, Stewart was allegedly involved in three other instances of sexual conduct, which she characterized as “sexual abuse,” over the next two years.

Stewart sued Waco ISD in state court, and the District removed on federal-question grounds. In addition to claims under the ADA and Title IX, Stewart brought a claim under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for the District’s alleged “gross mismanagement” of her IEP and failure to reasonably accommodate her disabilities. The district court dismissed Stewart’s action in its entirety, concluding that all her claims failed because they attempted to hold the district liable for “the actions of a private actor.” Stewart appealed and contended that she stated a claim under Section 504 for the District’s deliberate indifference to disability-related student-on-student sexual assault, in addition to “gross mismanagement” of her IEP.

A panel of the Fifth Circuit held that Stewart plausibly stated a cause of action under Section 504 by alleging that the District acted with gross misjudgment in failing to further modify her IEP. The court reversed the district court’s dismissal of Stewart’s Section 504 claim, and remanded the case for proceedings consistent with its opinion. Waco ISD filed a request for rehearing and for en banc review on March 28, 2013, arguing that the panel majority’s opinion permitted Stewart to use Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to enforce her IEP even though she never exhausted her administrative remedies under the IDEA.

TASB LAF filed a brief with the Fifth Circuit in support of the school district. The panel granted rehearing, vacated and withdrew its previous opinion, and remanded the case to the district court. Stewart v. Waco Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 11–51067 (5th Cir. Jun. 3, 2013). LAF’s Attorney: Jeffrey L. Rogers, Rogers, Morris & Grover, L.L.P., Houston