Battleground in the Classroom – Disabled Students and Section 1983 Claims Synopsis Over the last 30 years, there has been a surge of lawsuits filed against teachers and school personnel alleging violations of students' rights under 42 U.S.C. section 1983. While courts have cautioned that section 1983 is not a substitute for state tort law, cases have arisen in a variety of school contexts. Among these have been several cases involving students under disabilities of one kind or another. In general, most courts hold that to be actionable under section 1983, the alleged conduct must "shock the conscience" of the court. Detailed analyses of the application of this standard to varying fact situations involving attempts to maintain discipline, corporal punishment, and psychological injury allegations may appear to be contrary to the pronouncements of the United States Supreme Court in Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977), but have been widely utilized by courts of appeals and district courts, including cases in which disabled students are alleged to have been abused. The effectiveness of the doctrine of qualified immunity in such instances may well be less than it might initially appear. Courts should limit relief under section 1983 to those cases which are truly egregious, and be very cautious in extending the scope of this statute, even in emotionally charged cases involving disabled students.
- disabled students,
- section 1983,
- Fourteenth Admendment,
- Civil Rights
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