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COPAA Files Brief in Long v. Murray: School Shows Deliberate Indifference

Wednesday, October 17, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall
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COPAA filed a brief on September 28, 2012 in support of appellants and reversal of the trial court in the case of Long v. Murray County in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is on appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia – Rome Division. The case is represented by Jon Zimring, COPAA Board member. Tyler Long was an eleventh grade student at Murray County High School when he committed suicide. Tyler was previously diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Manifestations of his disability caused Tyler to be subjected to repeated, intense bullying at the hands of his classmates, resulting in tragic consequences. The trial court rejected summary judgment on four of the five elements of the Longs' disability discrimination claims against the school under Section 504, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132. The trial court concluded that "[t]here is little question that Tyler was the victim of severe disability harassment, and that the Defendants should have done more to stop the harassment and prevent future incidents.” The trial court improperly found, however, that there was insufficient evidence with respect to the last element of these claims–deliberate indifference. COPAA's brief asserts that the trial court improperly dismissed the Longs' expert testimony as being insufficient, under any interpretation, to show the Defendants' actions constituted deliberate indifference and makes the following points: 1) The deliberate indifference standard is met when a school is knowingly ineffective in preventing sustained disability discrimination, 2) The deliberate indifference standard requires an assessment of the totality of circumstances including prevailing methods known to be effective in combating bullying of students with disabilities, 3) A written Individualized Education Program is not an adequate mechanism to prevent disability discrimination, and, 4) Schools should be held accountable for failing to implement known strategies that effectively respond to disability discrimination. Many thanks to pro bono counsel from Baker and McKenzie, LLP for writing the brief. COPAA Amicus Committee members Selene Almazan and Catherine Merino Reisman assisted in the review of drafts.

Read the Long Appellate Brief

Read the US Department of Justice Brief in support of Appellants.

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