Federal government intervenes in case accusing Ohio school of violating ADA

Federal government intervenes in case accusing Ohio school of violating ADA

Mother of student with autism says Montessori school violated law when it said boy could not return for 5th grade.

The U.S. Justice Department is intervening in a lawsuit filed by a Cleveland Heights, Ohio, woman who says a private Montessori school unlawfully refused to let her autistic son return for the 2015-16 school year.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the initial lawsuit was filed last year after administrators at Ruffing Montessori School in Rocky River told Rebekah McClelland that her son, Manny DeJesus IV, could not return. McClelland contends in the lawsuit that the school's action violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to court documents, Manny, who is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, attended Ruffing from first through fourth grade and "was successful...both academically and socially."

But in spring 2015, "Ruffing suddenly informed McClelland that [Manny] could not return for fifth grade, claiming the class size would be too large to accommodate his needs."

The U.S. Justice Department has asked to join the case so it can carry out its duty to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Ruffing's alleged conduct goes to the heart of the ADA's prohibitions in an area of specific concern to Congress: the ability of individuals with disabilities to access on an equal basis opportunities offered by private elementary and secondary schools," the department's motion states.

The Ruffing school says it cannot comment on a student's educational record because of federal privacy laws, but "believes that at all times it complied with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act."

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