United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
CRISTINA CORDERO, individually and as guardian and next friend of the minor children C.J. and J.J. PLAINTIFF
PICAYUNE SCHOOL DISTRICT; and FRANK FORD, in his official capacity as chief executive of the Picayune School District DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS'
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
THE COURT is the  Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
the defendants Picayune School District and Frank Ford. The
defendants seek dismissal of the plaintiff's claims
alleging violation of Title II of the Americans with
Disabilities Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The plaintiff has responded in opposition and the defendants
have replied. After due consideration of the submissions and
the relevant law, it is the Court's opinion that the
Motion should be granted because the plaintiffs have not
exhausted their administrative remedies.
plaintiff alleges that she and her two minor children C.J.
and J.J. suffer from branchio-oto-renal syndrome, which
causes her to be deaf and her two children to be hard of
hearing. The family's primary method of communication is
American Sign Language (“ASL”). The children are
enrolled in Picayune School District schools. The plaintiff
alleges that since C.J. and J.J. were first enrolled in 2015,
she made numerous requests that the District provide ASL
interpretation services for herself as a parent and for her
children as students. She requested ASL interpretation
services for C.J. and J.J. “with their teachers,
principal, and the school board, using email and Video Relay
Service telephone calls, by making in-person visits at which
written notes were exchanged with school administrators and
educators, and by sending written notes to school with the
children.” (Compl. 4, ECF No. 1). She states that she
has “only been provided ASL interpretation services at
meetings and special events.” (Pl. Resp. Ex. A, at 6,
ECF No. 19-1.) The District “continues to suggest that
[the] boys should attend the Mississippi School for the Deaf,
” but Cordero does not believe that is in their best
interests. (Id. at 2.)
regard to J.J., Cordero alleges that the District moved him
to the front of his classroom and used an assistive hearing
device rather than provide him with ASL interpretation
services. Cordero alleges this is insufficient to allow J.J.
to effectively communicate with his teachers regarding
deadlines and other assignment expectations.
regard to C.J., Cordero alleges that the District had him
examined by Dr. Luke Thompson, an ear, nose, and throat
specialist, in February 2017. Cordero alleges she has not
been provided with a copy of the audiology report, but
believes that Dr. Thompson suggested cochlear implants for
C.J. Cordero “rejects the notion that C.J. should
conform to the expectations of mainstream hearing culture
rather than have his disability accommodated . . . .”
(Compl. 6, ECF No. 1.) Cordero alleges that rather than
provide C.J. with ASL interpretation services, the District
assigned a special education assistant to C.J. for the
2017-18 school year. Cordero alleges that because of the lack
of an ASL interpreter, C.J. was unable to participate in his
class play. (Id. at 5-6.) C.J. also received an
in-school suspension because he was unable to effectively
communicate with school officials in his defense.
(Id. at 6.)
District makes two general arguments for dismissal of this
case. First, that it is immune from suit under the Eleventh
Amendment. Second, that this lawsuit is subject to the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Cordero has
not exhausted her administrative remedies under that Act.
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
District argues that it is immune from Cordero's ADA
claims under the Eleventh Amendment. In support, the District
cites two cases involving a state university. See
Dansby-Giles v. Jackson State Univ., 638 F.Supp.2d 698
(S.D.Miss. 2009); Ward v. Jackson Stae Univ., No.
3:11cv188-TSL-MTP, 2013 WL 75077 (S.D.Miss. Jan. 4, 2013).
Because a state university is an arm of the state, the court
in those decisions found that the university was immune from
ADA claims. This case involves a local school district, which
is not an arm of the state and therefore not entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Black v. N. Panola
Sch. Dist, 461 F.3d 584, 598 (5th Cir. 2006)
(“[W]e conclude that [the school district] is not an
arm of the state of Mississippi; therefore, it is not
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity in federal or state
court.”). Dismissal of the ADA claims is not warranted
based on Eleventh Amendment immunity.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
District argues that Cordero's ADA and Rehabilitation Act
claims are, in reality, IDEA claims. IDEA claims are subject
to an administrative remedy exhaustion requirement, and the
District contends that Cordero failed to exhaust her
administrative remedies before filing this lawsuit.
plaintiff bringing suit under the ADA, the Rehabilitation
Act, or similar laws must in certain circumstances - that is,
when ‘seeking relief that is also available under'
the IDEA - first exhaust the IDEA's administrative
procedures.” Fry v. Napoleon Cmty. Sch., 137
S.Ct. 743, 750 (2017); see also Reyes v. Manor Indep.
Sch. Dist., 850 F.3d 251, 256 (5th Cir. 2017)
(“The IDEA requires administrative exhaustion not just
of claims arising under it, but also of Rehabilitation Act
claims that overlap with the IDEA.”). Therefore, the
Court must first resolve the threshold question of whether
the plaintiffs' ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims are
subject to the IDEA's exhaustion requirement. The parties
agree that the United States Supreme Court's decision in
Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools governs this
Fry, the court explained the landscape of federal
regulation of educational ...