Coalition of Attorneys Achieves Order Declaring Moreno Valley Unified School District Discriminates Against Students With Disabilities

On October 13, 2023, the court found it to be undisputed that Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) discriminates against students with disabilities. HSRD partner David Clay Washington called the ruling “a great victory for MVUSD’s over 4,000 children with disabilities who have been disregarded and suffered violence for far too long at the hands of administrators, police officers, and security staff.”

HSRD Partners David Clay Washington and Dan Stormer, alongside Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and the law firm Barajas & Rivera APC sued MVUSD, its administrators and security staff for repeatedly violently striking and handcuffing an eleven-year-old Black student with disabilities (C.B.). In addition to monetary damages, the coalition sought injunctive relief against the school district for systemically violating the rights of its disabled students.

Through extensive discovery, the coalition representing C.B. gathered evidence to prove conclusively that MVUSD (1) authorizes its school security and police to handcuff and shackle students without any regard for their disabilities, (2) fails to train its school security and police about the needs of students with disabilities, and (3) directs its staff to call these untrained police and security when a student engages in disability-related behaviors. In MVUSD schools, students with disabilities are nearly nine times more likely to be handcuffed, shackled, and referred to law enforcement than their non-disabled peers. The coalition moved for summary judgment on C.B.’s claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act, arguing that it is undisputed that MVUSD’s policies deprive disabled students of their rights under these acts.

On October 13, 2023, the judge issued a scathing ruling, finding that MVUSD “fail[ed] to point to any disability-specific training or policy that would comply with the ADA and Section 504 requirements,” and that it “uses methods of administration that have resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory use of removal and physical restraints as well as law enforcement referrals as a response to disability-related behaviors.” As a result, the court ordered the parties to design remedial injunctive relief to bring the District into compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act.

The coalition is now gearing up to go to trial on C.B.’s remaining claims, which include excessive force, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision.

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