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Justice Department Files Statement of Interest About the ADA Rights of Children with Disabilities Experiencing Behavioral Health Challenges in School

June 29, 2023
Source: U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)

On June 26, 2023, the Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in D.P., et al. v. School Board of Palm Beach County. This private lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Florida against the county school board, including its police department, on behalf of parents/guardians and their children with disabilities like Autism and other emotional or behavioral disabilities. The children, some as young as nine and ten years old, were removed from school by police officers after experiencing disability-related behavioral episodes, and then taken in handcuffs to locked psychiatric facilities for involuntary examinations.

One of the lawsuit’s claims is that the school board discriminated against the children in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), when it did not reasonably modify its policies, practices, and procedures while interacting with and removing the children from school. The Department filed the Statement of Interest to clarify how Title II of the ADA applies to a school board’s response to children experiencing disability-related behavioral challenges. The Department’s brief explains that public entities like school boards have an obligation under the ADA to reasonably modify their behavioral response by helping the children calm down, involving professionals including a mobile crisis team or a child’s therapist, or calling the child’s guardian, even if the child has not made a request for such modifications while they are experiencing behavioral challenges. Finally, the Department explains that the modifications sought by plaintiffs are not a fundamental alteration of the Title II program or service in this case because the school board employed them in the past and they are consistent with requirements of the state mental health law under which the police officers removed the children from school. The Statement of Interest can be read here.

To find out more about the ADA, visit or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-833-610-1264 (TDD).

Related Information in D.P., et al. v. School Board of Palm Beach County
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center