The Justice Department recently announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed against Nobel Learning Communities, Inc., for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Nobel Learning Communities is a for-profit, nationwide network of more than 180 preschools, elementary schools and secondary schools. The company operates in the District of Columbia and 15 states (Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington).
The lawsuit alleges Nobel Learning Communities violated Title III of the ADA by “excluding from its programs children with disabilities, including some children with autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and global developmental delays.” Nobel Learning Communities must now pay $215,000 in monetary relief to the children involved in the suit, and comply with a host of requirements laid forth by the Justice Department, including: developing a disability non-discrimination policy, which must be made public; removing screening procedures that eliminate students with disabilities from full and equal participation; considering reasonable modification requests; appointing an ADA compliance officer; and training and reporting of outcomes.
In its release, Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department, said, “It is illegal under the ADA to discriminate against children with disabilities. Just like public schools, private schools must make reasonable modifications of policies to permit children with disabilities to participate fully in the programs they offer. This agreement ensures that children will not be denied quality preschool and other educational opportunities based upon their disabilities.”
Although it approved of the settlement, Nobel Learning Communities has denied the claims made against it. The company announced through a press release that it has served more than 2,860 students with disabilities and is the “gold standard for ADA classroom compliance,” despite being cited as a violator of the full and equal participation rights of children.
Despite the company’s reluctance to take full responsibility for these violations, TASH commends the settlement and steps that will be taken to prevent any future breach of rights to students with disabilities. This lawsuit should serve as a notice to all schools, public and private, that the rights of equal access and full participation guaranteed to all students cannot be ignored. Through the leadership of Thomas Perez and others, we hope to see all violators of the rights of students pursued and brought to justice through our legal system.