N.J. AG announces civil rights settlement with Secaucus school district

By Bryan Cohen | Aug 2, 2013

TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman and the Division on Civil Rights announced a settlement Thursday with the Secaucus Board of Education to resolve allegations that it deliberately discriminated against a disabled student.

The Secaucus Board of Education allegedly deliberately caused a student to miss out on her middle school graduation ceremony in 2012 by failing to tell her mother about the opportunity to attend. The school district will pay $30,000 to resolve the allegations, provide proper notification via mail or email to all students with disabilities regarding graduation ceremonies and other special events and provide staff-wide training in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

"This settlement represents a fair and just resolution to an unfortunate situation," Hoffman said. "This case wasn't simply about allegations of disparate treatment. It was about a young, disabled student having the same chance as her non-disabled schoolmates to take part in an especially well-deserved youthful rite of passage."

The student who missed her graduation was diagnosed with a chromosome abnormality known as Cri Du Chat 5P Minus Syndrome, which is characterized by significant intellectual disability and delayed development. The student receives all her educational services in a special education classroom and has an individual education program developed by a team of professionals that meets regularly to discuss the student's goals, progress and goals for the following year.

On Feb. 28, 2012, the student's team held a meeting attending by the mother in which it was determined the girl's current placement at an eighth-grade level was appropriate and would stay the same the following year. A meeting in April 2012, however, determined that the student should be designated as a ninth grader the next school year. The girl's mother was not informed of the change until after the graduation ceremony.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Secaucus school district makes no admission of liability or wrongdoing.

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