ATLANTA – On Friday, Dec. 16, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a lower court’s decision denying a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order that would have allowed students with disabilities in Cobb County to safely attend school in-person at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and co-counsel from the Goodmark Law Firm and the Law Office of Allison B. Vrolijk represent four students with disabilities denied in-person educational opportunities due to the Cobb County School District’s discriminatory COVID-19 policy.
The following statement is from Eugene Choi, senior staff attorney for the SPLC, who argued the case on behalf of the student plaintiffs:
“We are pleased that the Eleventh Circuit rejected the school district’s erroneous arguments. The court agreed with our clients that school policies can be discriminatory even when they are facially neutral, and schools must provide students with disabilities access to a safe, in-person learning environment.
“Students with disabilities have the right to the same services and programs as their non-disabled peers, including the right to receive the benefits of an in-person education. The court's opinion confirmed this right. School districts cannot relegate students with disabilities to home virtual programs because of their disabilities. Instead, schools must make reasonable accommodations and modifications so that students with disabilities can safely and meaningfully access their schools in-person.
“This is a victory for our clients and the thousands of students with disabilities who need accommodations to attend school safely, particularly as the COVID-19 virus and other serious respiratory viruses continue to spread throughout our communities.
“We look forward to returning to the district court to adjudicate our clients' claims.”