U.S. Federal District Courts: Disability discrimination
S.C., a student in the Round Rock ISD (RRISD), was diagnosed Anorexia Nervosa and given a 504 Plan that excused her from any assignment or activity that involved diet, nutrition, fitness, or body image. Staff was not to discuss dieting, body image, or related topics around S.C.
In 2018, her Journalism teacher, despite being aware of her accommodations, recruited her into the journalism department intending to make S.C. the subject of a feature article in the high school yearbook concerning mental illness. Submitting to the peer and faculty pressure, she participated but soon photographs and rumors of her condition began appearing on social media. S.C. went into an emotional tailspin, stopped eating, and was hospitalized. Upon returning to school, she was subjected to a hostile environment.
Her parents sued RRISD and two staff members on S.C.’s behalf alleging disability discrimination under Section 504 and ADA and invasion of privacy under Section 1983. The district court dismissed Section 1983 claims against the defendants but denied their Motion to Dismiss the disability discrimination claims. The judge subsequently denied defendant RRISD’s motion for summary judgment as well.
This wrongful death case was brought by the parents of Isis Esquivel, a 20 year old with cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, development delays, and hypertonicity in her limbs which caused her to have decreased mobility, muscle rigidity, and uncontrollable muscle spasms. She weighed less than 100 lbs., could not walk, and was non-verbal.
On May 13, 2015, Ms. Esquivel participated in a program Aquatic/Adaptive Center, a facility owned and operated by Brownsville ISD (BISD). She was left alone by the water, in spite of her physician's handwritten order of 1:1 supervision (among other strict safety protocols), and fell into the water, going unnoticed for an undeterimed amount of time. She sustained severe injuries and subsequently died in the hospital on May 30th. Importantly, video evidence of the incident was corrupted during the time of her injury for which Plaintiff's added a spoilation claim.
Ultimately, the district judge denied BISD's Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to Esquivel's ADA and Section 504 claims and remanded the spoilation issue to a Magistrate Court for a hearing to determine the appropriate sanctions as a result of the lost video.