Cases & Deals

Misdiagnosed student won $156,000 in private school tuition from Atlanta Public Schools in 2007 and graduates high school in May 2010

Client(s) Draper, Jarron

In 2007, Jones Day successfully represented Jarron, a special education student, and now a recent high school graduate, against the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) in an appeal of an order from U.S. District Court Judge Shoob that APS pay up to $156,000 in future private school tuition, plus transportation costs, because of APS' multiple violations of federal law.

The School System had contended that Draper's award was disproportionate to the violations of his rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Firm worked with California-based Wyner & Tiffany, a nationally-recognized firm in the area of special education law.

"The broader legal significance of this decision is the holding that a District court can order a private education remedy even if a public school claims it is willing and able to provide it," said David Monde, a Partner in the Atlanta Office who represented Draper at both the trial and appellate level on a pro bono basis. "Parents who can afford it can have long been able to place children with special needs in private schools unilaterally and then seek to recover reimbursement. This case really stands for the proposition that families of limited means should not have fewer educational options than the wealthy."

Judge Shoob had affirmed an administrative law judge (ALJ) finding that (1) APS misdiagnosed the student as mentally retarded when in fact he suffered from a learning disability, (2) APS placed the student in the wrong class for five years, never re-evaluating him as required, and (3) APS failed to take any corrective action, even when the retesting finally done at the family's urging showed their mistake.

Draper attended Benjamin E. Mays High School until 2005. He had been misdiagnosed with mental retardation by the school system in 1998. Despite protests from his family, he was not retested by the schools for another five years, when they said tests confirmed the diagnosis of mental retardation. An independent test later that year showed that he actually has dyslexia, a learning disability. In his court order, Judge Shoob agreed with an administrative judge who had found in favor of Draper, saying that it is "incredulous that anyone, let alone supposedly trained professionals, could have deemed JD mentally retarded as late as 2003."

On May 28, 2010, Jarron graduated from The Cottage School, in Roswell, Georgia, with a high school diploma and he plans to pursue an information technology degree in college, and motivational speaking. At the graduation ceremony, Jarron thanked his lawyers at Jones Day and Wyner & Tiffany, saying that without them, he would never have realized his dream of graduating from high school.

Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Independent School System, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Case No. 07-11777-1