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Posts Tagged ‘physical injury’

Special education teacher’s injury, resulting from a student’s known violent behavior, does not raise a constitutional claim.

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Jackson v. Indian Prairie School District 204, No. 1:08-CV-04312 (7th Cir. 2011):  A federal appeals court determined that the conduct of a school district’s special education administrators did not “shock the conscience” of the Court.  Therefore, the constitutional (substantive due process) claim by the teacher who was sent into the student’s room was dismissed.

The teacher was injured after being instructed by the school principal to check in on an autistic student with a history of aggressive behaviors toward staff.  The student, who had been de-escalating after an aggressive incident, became agitated once again by the time the teacher entered his room.  The student tried to throw a chair, but the teacher intervened and was injured as a result.  She sued the school district, claiming that her constitutional rights were violated because the principal sent her to the student’s room even though the student was known to be violent, and that the student should have been previously transferred to an alternative school.

The appeals court affirmed the district court’s decision that the circumstances leading up to the teacher’s injury did not “shock the conscience” as is required in order to establish a constitutional claim.  Notwithstanding that the district’s actions were “flawed and short-sighted” (and that it was a “close question”), sending the teacher to attend to the student, despite his violent history, was not significant enough to incur constitutional liability.  While the school district’s attempts to maintain the student in a general education environment (despite recommendations to the contrary by several faculty and staff members) may have been inappropriate, it did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.

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