Temporary Injunction Granted for 12 Plaintiff Students in 10 School Districts
RICHMOND, VA — On Wednesday night, Senior Judge Norman K. Moon of the U.S. District Court of the Western District granted a preliminary injunction for the plaintiffs in Seaman, et al. v. Commonwealth of Virginia, et al. The plaintiffs, 12 students with disabilities in school districts throughout Virginia, challenged Executive Order 2 and Senate Bill 739 which strip from school districts the ability to provide accommodations for students with disabilities by banning schools from using community masking as a COVID-19 prevention strategy. This violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and puts the lives of immunocompromised students at risk.
The preliminary injunction prohibits the state defendants from enforcing Executive Order 2 or SB 739 against the 10 school districts in which the 12 plaintiffs live if those schools make accommodations for the Plaintiffs, ensuring safe access to education. While the injunction is limited to these 12 students, it is clearly a blueprint for any parent of a student with disabilities to assure their school district can make accommodations when the safety of their children is at stake and that state law cannot stand in the way.
Judge Moon wrote, “E.O. 2 and S.B. 739—just like any other state law—cannot preclude Plaintiffs from asking for some required masking as a reasonable modification, nor can they bar Plaintiffs’ schools from implementing some required masking, if in fact, it would constitute a reasonable modification under federal law.” Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), both state agencies and public schools are obligated to provide reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures to give students with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from public education.
The injunction is a win for schools and students. Schools in the 10 impacted districts can now make accommodations to keep students safe – a flexibility all schools should have to address the needs of their students, not only from COVID but any health crisis that may arise in the future. It also sends a clear signal that parents should not have to make the difficult choice between their child’s health and their education.
The Court’s injunction affirms the basis of our case: That schools must have the authority and discretion to provide accommodations for students with disabilities, including the masking of those around them during infectious disease outbreaks, so that they can attend public school like their nondisabled peers.
The parents are represented by the ACLU of Virginia, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, Brown Goldstein & Levy, the disAbility Law Center of Virginia, and Arnold & Porter.
About the ACLU of Virginia: The ACLU of Virginia promotes civil liberties and civil rights for everyone in the Commonwealth through public education, litigation, and advocacy with the goal of securing freedom and equality for all. For more information on the ACLU of Virginia go to www.acluva.org.
About Washington Lawyer’s Committee: Founded in 1968, The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org or call 202.319.1000. Follow us on Twitter at @WashLaw4CR.
About Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP: Brown Goldstein & Levy, LLP provides the highest quality legal services to a broad range of clients, without sacrificing our deep sense of community and social responsibility. By elevating our clients’ voices and fighting for their rights, we seek to bring about a more just world – sometimes one dispute at a time, sometimes through systemic change.
About disAbility Law Center of Virginia: The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is the federally authorized protection and advocacy organization for Virginians with disabilities. Learn more at www.dlcv.org.
About Arnold & Porter: Arnold & Porter is a law firm with a long history of fighting for equal access to justice through its pro bono efforts. With nearly 1,000 lawyers practicing in 13 offices around the globe, Arnold & Porter serves clients across 40 distinct practice areas. The firm offers 100 years of renowned regulatory expertise, sophisticated litigation and transactional practices, and leading multidisciplinary offerings in the life sciences and financial services industries.