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Amici Curiae Brief Filed in Support of Student Subjected to Bias-Based Bullying

Wednesday, August 14, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jamie Anderson

COPAA, together with Disability Rights of Pennsylvania, filed an Amici Curiae brief in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Nicole B. v. School District of Philadelphia, on August 5, 2019. Catherine Merino Reisman drafted and filed the brief for COPAA. The Pennsylvania Human Rights Act (PHRA) prohibits withholding or denying, either directly or indirectly, any accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges of public accommodation from any person because of his disability (among other protected classes). 43 P.S. § 955(i)(1). At issue in this case is the Commonwealth Court’s refusal to toll the statute of limitations during the minority of a plaintiff, because as Amici set forth, not tolling the statute allows a school district to ignore years of bias-related bullying, harassment, and assault which can cause significant and longstanding mental, emotional, behavioral, and physical harm to a child with a disability which deprives them of the right to receive their education.

In urging the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to reverse the Commonwealth Court’s decision, Amici described the abundant empirical evidence which has established that bias-based bullying is a pervasive problem with severe consequences for its victims both emotionally, behaviorally, and academically, including but not limited to lower academic performance and higher drop out rates, all of which can have a profoundly negative impact on the lives of children, particularly those with disabilities.Amici further explained the benefits of inclusion for children with disabilities in regular education classrooms with typically developing children, and how bullying and harassment of these children with disabilities makes the benefits of inclusion unavailable to these students. Unfortunately, as Amici explained, children with disabilities often do not receive adequate responses from teachers and school officials when they report incidents of bullying and harassment, which further prolongs the mistreatment and excludes them from receiving the benefits of their education.This result is disheartening as educators are the ones in the unique position to identify students who are chronically victimized by bullying and harassment to address their needs and stop the illegal behavior so as not to deprive students of their right to access their public education. Accordingly, as urged by Amici, the Commonwealth Court’s decision to deprive Nicole B. of the benefit of minority tolling is incorrect, dangerous, and should be reversed.


Read the Appellants brief.

Read the Amici’s brief.

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