Geneva D-304 asks judge to drop suit alleging officials didn’t stop bullying of student with autism

The student has not attended Geneva Middle School South since December 2021

Geneva Middle School South

GENEVA – Geneva District 304 has asked a federal judge to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit alleging that officials allowed a middle school student with autism to be bullied over a long period of time despite his parents’ numerous requests for help.

The district disputed in paperwork filed in court earlier this month that it intentionally acted on the basis of the boy’s disability or that it refused to provide reasonable modification or that its rules disproportionally impacted people with disabilities.

“Simply because a disabled person was bullied does not, without more, compel the conclusion that the bullying was based on [the person’s] disability,” according to the district’s filing.

The district’s latest response to the lawsuit, filed Jan. 6, asserted that, among other deficiencies, “still absent (from the complaint) is any connective reasoning as to exactly how the plaintiff’s facts establish a violation of any of the state and federal laws that plaintiff insists were clearly violated.”

The district’s filing also argued the complaint is devoid of facts that demonstrate the district did not provide reasonable accommodation, “as it is only required ‘when necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of a disability.’”

The father of a former Geneva Middle School South student filed the lawsuit in August 2022 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleging the district violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, due process under the 14th Amendment and alleged unlawful disability harassment under the Rehabilitation Act.

In addition to the district, the 51-page complaint also named Geneva Middle School South Principal Terry Bleau and Assistant Principal Daniel Jones as defendants, alleging their inaction resulted in the boy being “both physically damaged and, more significantly, mentally/psychologically damaged.”

The stress from the bullying caused the boy to suffer severe anxiety, stomachaches, headaches, vomiting, chest pains, emotional outbursts, excessive hand washing “to the extent that skin was coming off his hands,” and the stress caused the boy’s mother to have a stroke on Oct. 5, 2021, the lawsuit alleges.

In addition to autism, the boy has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, an anxiety disorder and has a physical disability that affects his walk, according to the lawsuit.

In a response filed Dec. 16 arguing against dismissal, the father stated that the complaint “contains over 282 factual allegations that describe defendants’ wrongdoing.”

“All those well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true and all reasonable inferences from those facts must be drawn in plaintiff’s favor,” the response stated. “The purpose of a motion to dismiss … is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits of the case.”

The district also filed a 36-page memorandum supporting its dismissal request, citing more than 50 court decisions and 10 statutes.

“On a fundamental level, defendants have struggled to figure out what plaintiff is claiming, whether any law supports his claims, and what facts relate to which claims,” according to the memorandum.

The boy has not attended Geneva Middle School South since December 2021, and the district would not provide homebound instruction for him, according to the original complaint. In a telephone interview, his father said the boy is in private school.

The lawsuit does not state an amount of damages being sought, outside of legal fees, compensatory monetary damages and other relief as the court deems.

The court does not have a schedule posted for further filings.