A Capehart Scatchard Blog

District Court Denies Parents’ Claims Against School Board Involving Nursing Issue

The parents of a disabled student brought claims against the Voorhees Township Board of Education (“Board”) alleging various violations, including violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), for failing to place a nurse onsite at the school building the student would have attended for his extended school year (“ESY”) program. On June 5, 2017, the District Court for the District of New Jersey in R.G. v. Hill, found no violations and affirmed the Administrative Law Judge’s decision dismissing the parents’ claims. Neither the student’s individualized education plan (“IEP”) nor his medical needs required a nurse to be physically present at the building.

Student R.G. was eligible for special education pursuant to the IDEA under the classification of multiply disabled. He was diagnosed with several disabilities, including a seizure disorder. At the time student was transitioning to the middle school building for sixth grade, the school district proposed that the student attend an ESY program located at the middle school. The parents objected, arguing that the student’s IEP and needs required a school nurse at the building in order for him to receive a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”). While the school district had a nurse available within the district, it did not have a nurse on site at the middle school during ESY and disagreed with the parents’ position.

The parents initiated a due process petition against the Board on the issue. The student’s IEP included the following “special alert” at the top of the first page: “IF R.G. FALLS, TAKE HIM TO THE NURSE IMMEDIATELY AND NOTIFY PARENT.” The parents insisted that this “special alert” required a nurse to be physically present at the school building. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) disagreed with the parents. Instead, the ALJ found that the student’s IEP did not contain any related services for nursing or any required medical interventions by the school nurse. In addition, the seizure plan on file for the student did not require any related nursing services, actual nursing services, or medical interventions. In short, the ALJ determined:

The absence of any specific “related services” for the nurse in the IEP; the short durations of the seizures; lack of any prior treatment for seizures by the nurse; the lack of a nurse at home where R.G. spends the majority of his time; the lack of a nurse on field trips, vacations, and all events outside school; the extensive safety precautions taken by the district; and the historical evidence indicating that the role of the school nurse was that of a report generator, leads me to CONCLUDE that if two nurses were in nearby buildings but not in R.G.’s building, it would be a de minimis IEP deviation.

The ALJ reasoned that school districts are not required to have a school nurse onsite at every school building pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A.40-1. In addition, the ALJ found that the Board attempted to accommodate the parents’ concerns without cooperation from the parents. The Board offered to provide a one-to-one aide to ensure that the student was protected from falls or injury. The Board notified the school staff of the student’s unique needs and also assigned the student to a special education teacher who was trained in first aid and CPR.

Based on the specific circumstances of the case, the ALJ denied the parents’ claims and found no violation under the IDEA. The parents appealed to the District Court, which agreed with the ALJ’s determinations. Specifically, the District Court held that the Board “met its burden of proving that it did not violate the IEP, and that it took measures to ensure that safety measures were in place for R.G. in the event he had a seizure.”


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About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


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