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Lawsuit Against the California School for the Deaf Settled

Publication Date: 
September 11, 2007
Source: 
Stanford Law School

Settlement Guarantees Special Needs Day Class for Deaf and Disabled Children

STANFORD, Calif., Sept.11, 2007―The Youth & Education Law Project (YELP) at the Mills Legal Clinic of Stanford Law School and Bingham McCutchen LLP obtained a court order from a U.S. District Court judge approving a settlement involving a deaf child with autism who had been excluded from services and programs at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, California (CSDF).

As part of the settlement, CSDF has agreed to establish a special needs day class for deaf and hard-of-hearing children with moderate to severe developmental disabilities, including autism and developmental delay. The California Department of Education and CSDF will be responsible for funding, establishing, and staffing the class by January 2008. The plaintiff, J.C., who in addition to being deaf is autistic and cognitively impaired, will be placed in the class for no less than three years. The agreement also provides for the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, to maintain limited jurisdiction for a period of three years for enforcement purposes.

With campuses in Fremont and Riverside, the CSD is the only publicly funded school in the state of California where deaf children can receive comprehensive educational programming among their deaf peers.

“We’re thrilled that the CSDF will be expanding its program to serve not only J.C. but other students like her,” said William S. Koski, Eric and Nancy Wright Professor of Clinical Education at Stanford Law School. “We hope that this classroom will be a model for other programs for children who are deaf and developmentally disabled.”

Koski directs Stanford Law School’s Youth & Education Law Project (YELP), a teaching clinic. Stanford clinical law students were involved with all aspects of representing J.C. YELP co-counseled the case with pro bono trial counsel William F. Abrams (BA '76), a partner at Bingham’s Silicon Valley office, and Mazen Basrawi, a Bingham associate in San Francisco.

"This is a great achievement both for J.C. and her family, who have struggled to get the services to which she is entitled, and for other children who are deaf and who have other disabilities,” said Abrams, who teaches Children, Youth, and the Law and other courses as a member of the Stanford University faculty.

Abrams continued: “This is the second time that we've teamed up with the Stanford Youth Education Law Project to enforce children's rights and access to education, and we look forward to another opportunity to work together soon,” he said. "The YELP students made remarkable contributions to the success of this case and had the opportunity to participate in many phases of litigation, including mediation with Magistrate Judge James. They are extraordinary young people, and it is a delight to work with them."

The settlement comes 11 months after a U.S. district court judge cleared the way for J.C. to pursue in federal court claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit, J.C. v. California School for the Deaf, et al., claimed that CSD admissions policies were discriminatory and unfairly excluded children like J.C. who would otherwise be eligible to participate in CSD programming.

J.C., who is now 15 years old, began attending CSDF at the age of 20 months. Despite her parents’ wish to keep J.C. in an environment with her deaf peers, the CSDF administration requested a fair hearing seeking to place J.C. in a special day class for hearing students with autism within the Fremont School District. An administrative law judge ruled in CSDF’s favor and J.C. appealed because she was the only deaf student in the class and could not communicate with her peers in her primary language, American Sign Language.

The settlement means that J.C. will be able to return to CSDF, which is premised on the importance of peer-to-peer communications among deaf students, the ability for deaf students to increase proficiency in American Sign Language and English, and to be exposed to a variety of deaf adult role models. According to CSDF, its mission is to “provide comprehensive educational programs…in an accessible learning environment that recognizes deaf students and adults as culturally and linguistically distinct.”

“This is wonderful day for our daughter and for all deaf children with disabilities,” said L.C., J.C.’s mother. “J.C. looks forward to returning to CSDF and learning among her peers.”

About the Youth & Education Law Project

The Youth and Education Law Project was founded in 2001 by William Koski, the Eric and Nancy Wright Professor of Clinical Education at Stanford Law School. The goal of the clinic is to help ensure that low-income children have access to equal educational opportunities, while providing an exceptional training ground for new legal practitioners dedicated to education and civil rights.

The clinic offers students the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of educational rights and reform work, including direct representation of youth and families in special education and school discipline matters, community outreach and education, school reform litigation, and/or policy research and advocacy.

Stanford Law School offers a variety of clinics that litigate in a number specialized fields, including immigration, community law, cyberlaw, environment protection, and educational advocacy. The clinics provide pro bono representation and operate cohesively as a single law firm, the Mills Legal Clinic of Stanford Law School. The clinic provides students an opportunity to apply classroom theory to real client situations and to develop a lifelong commitment to public service values.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, and write books and articles for academic audiences, as well as the popular press. Along with offering traditional law school classes, the school has embraced new subjects and new ways of teaching. The school’s home page is located at www.law.stanford.edu.

About Bingham McCutchen LLP

Bingham McCutchen LLP – www.bingham.com – is a national law firm with global capabilities and has nearly 1,000 lawyers in 13 offices. The firm represents clients in high-stakes litigation, complex financing and regulatory matters, government affairs, and a wide variety of sophisticated corporate and technology transactions. William F. Abrams is a partner in Bingham McCutchen's Intellectual Property Litigation and Patent Prosecution Group. He has handled a number of high-profile pro bono matters before the Supreme Court of the United States and the California Supreme Court, particularly involving the rights of children and capital punishment issues. Abrams also is a consulting professor at Stanford, teaching courses on Children and the Law, Intellectual Property and Capital Punishment.

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