Justice Department settles with public school district to resolve HIV-related discrimination findings
Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division
The Justice Department recently announced that it has reached an agreement with the Pea Ridge School District (PRSD) of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, to remedy alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination by public entities, including school districts, against individuals who have disabilities; individuals regarded as having disabilities; and individuals associated with people with disabilities.
Based on its investigation, the Department previously issued a Letter of Findings outlining how the District excluded three students after reviewing a document referencing the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status of the students’ family member. The District initially concluded that the students were not to be allowed back into the school district until they underwent HIV testing and the results were returned to the District. Following the students’ exclusion from school and extracurricular activities for multiple days, the District changed its position, readmitting the students prior to its receipt of their HIV test results.
The Settlement Agreement requires the District to adopt and implement a written non-discrimination policy that makes clear that PRSD does not discriminate on the basis of disability and that those individuals who are “regarded as disabled” or are associated with a person with a disability are covered by the ADA’s protections. PRSD has also agreed to revise its “Communicable Diseases and Parasites” policy to state that HIV is not considered to be a condition requiring a student’s exclusion from school under that policy; to provide ADA training to PRSD instructors and administrators; to report on its compliance with the agreement; and to pay $15,000 in compensatory damages.
“No child should be kept from attending school based on unfounded fears about HIV,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We commend the Pea Ridge School District for its commitment, reflected in this agreement, to ensure the ADA’s nondiscrimination promise for all students.”
To read the Settlement Agreement or for more information on the ADA and HIV discrimination, visit www.ada.gov/hiv. For more information about the ADA, including how to file a complaint, call the Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or access the ADA website at www.ada.gov.
By Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs
Cross-posted from Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs