Federal Jury Sides With Idaho Districts in Special Education Lawsuit

The lawsuit that pitted the parents of a student with Asperger’s syndrome against two Idaho school districts ended with a federal jury ruling that the Boise and the Meridian school districts fulfilled their legal obligations to provide specialized education options under federal law. After deliberating for 6 and a half hours, the jurors agreed that the accommodations provided to Matthew Abramowski – whose mother Diana filed the suit – were in line with the requirements set out by Section 504 of the American with Disabilities Act.

Charlene Quade, who argued the case on behalf of the Abramowski family, expressed disappointment at the verdict, but said that the plaintiffs felt no animosity towards the jurors. Nick Crawford, who argued for the school districts, admitted that the case was a tough one of everyone involved, but felt relief at the vindication of his clients and added their best wishes for Matthew for his future.

The end of the lawsuit means that it’s likely that Matthew – who is 19 – will now exit out of the school system, as districts had argued that he’s met the requirements for graduation more than a year ago.  A judge’s order kept him in school while the case made its way through the courts.

Diana Abramowski filed the lawsuit on behalf of her son, Matthew Abramowski, in 2011, contending that the two school districts failed to give him the education promised under federal law, instead, teaching him counterproductive strategies to cope that he could rely on to avoid dealing with his disability and leaving him unprepared for the world. The Abramowskis also said school officials failed to step in when other students reported that Matthew was being repeatedly physically and emotionally bullied by his peers because of his disabilities.

But the districts’ attorneys countered that Matthew was given more time and more assessments than any other student in the districts and that his education was both equal and appropriate. School officials contended that Matthew, now 19, had successfully met all the requirements for graduation more than a year ago, though he remained a student under a judges’ order while the case moved through the courts.

The Associated Press reported that the Abramowski family hoped that even in failure, the lawsuit would serve as a primer to other parents of disabled students fighting to get them the best academic assistance under the law. As Quade explained, the family’s argument was never that people who worked directly with Matthew were indifferent, but that the issue was systematic. Those charged with his education were simply not equipped or properly trained to deal with him effectively.

When filing the lawsuit, Abramowski asked for alternative education arrangements for her son, as well as a financial settlement that would cover intervention needed for Matthew to “unlearn his bad habits.” She claimed that the district was particularly deficient in providing Matthew with tools to navigate his social environment.