Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sixth Circuit Holds That "Verbally Controlling" Resistant Students is Essential Function of Teaching Job

In Johnson v. Cleveland City School District, issued yesterday, the Sixth Circuit upheld a grant of summary judgment to the defendant school district in this ADA Title I failure-to-accommodate case.  Long story short, the plaintiff was a teacher who was seriously injured in a car accident. Among the restrictions her doctors placed on her was that she "not be required to verbally control resistant behavior in students that persists after initial warning."  She said she could nonetheless teach with an aide to assist her in this task, but the district court held that the provision of an aide would not be a reasonable accommodation.  The Sixth Circuit affirmed.  That court held (in an unpublished opinion) that controlling resistant students is an essential function of the job of school teacher, and that it cannot be a reasonable accommodation to assign an essential function to another employee.  This decision seems to be in some tension with Judge Calabresi's 1995 opinion for the Second Circuit in Borkowski v. Valley Central School District, which reversed a grant of summary judgment to the employer on very similar facts.

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