Back in March (of this year), the voters were 1% point away from a super majority vote that would have passed a bond, giving the Oneida County School District the money to build a new, ADA compliant elementary school. On May 10, 2019, a Jury of seven peers found the District liable for civil child abuse, and for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, and awarded those damaged by the District an award of $1.2 million dollars.
This brings us to now. On August 27, 2019, the voters went to the polls again on whether the District should get a bond to pay for the construction of a new ADA compliant elementary school. As the Idaho State Journal Reported, “Despite the district’s big loss in court, the bond actually fared worse with district voters on Tuesday than it had in March when it failed.” Even though I was the attorney representing the children and families in the lawsuit, I cannot say that I blame the voters for again pushing down the bond.
To understand what I mean, we need everyone on the same page. There is no question that a connection exists between the lawsuit, and the repeatedly pushed for and repeatedly failed bond to build a new school. But the news reporting on this case seems to evidence a misunderstanding of exactly what that connection is.
The lawsuit never asked for an elevator. It asked for damages because classes could have been easily moved downstairs, doors could have been cheaply retrofitted, and instead two students were left to crawl up and down stairs and carried in and out of restrooms in front of their peers. It asked for damages because while others got parking on the pavement, two students were asked to park in the mud. It asked for damages because when every other child ran quickly up and down the stairs to and from class, these two students spent nearly 2 hours of every school day, just on those stairs. Indeed, it asked for damages because these two students fractured their bones on dangerous and non-ADA compliant conditions existing at the elementary.
But to be clear, each and every one of the ADA barriers, and each and every safety hazard that were the subject of the lawsuit could have been removed and remedied for very little money. The District never raised as a defense that the modifications would have been an undue financial burden (a well known defense under the ADA). So, what is the connection between these failed bond elections, and the lawsuit?
Responsibility. The people vote, and very nearly pass a bond that would finance (through taxes) the building of a new elementary. Then a Jury finds that indeed the Government was responsible for these students’ injuries. The people vote again, but support for the bond significantly drops. It stands to reason, once a Government is found liable against its own citizens, its citizens will make the Government pay for those wrongs, not the other way around.
The foregoing is intended for general education purposes only, and is not intended as nor should be interpreted as legal advice, legal consultation, or a substitute for such advice or consultation. To receive legal help on your case, please contact an attorney at Bearnson & Caldwell by calling (435)752-6300. Attorneys licensed in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and Wyoming.