The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Moulton, over and extensive dissenting opinion, determined that a special needs student’s statutory actions against NYC’s Office of Pupil Transportation should not have been dismissed. The opinions are too detailed and comprehensive to fairly summarize:
[Plaintiff student, I.M., who was six at the time, is] a nonverbal diapered child with autism spectrum disorder, moderate to severe intellectual disability, and attention deficit disorder. His 2005-06 Individualized Educational Program (IEP) stated, in bold faced type, that he required a “mini-bus” to transport him to and from school … . However, due to a computer coding error he was placed on a full-sized school bus operated by defendant the Pioneer Transportation Corporation (Pioneer) from September 8, 2005 through October 19, 2005. During this period, Pioneer filed nine incident reports with I.M.’s school in connection with these trips. I.M.’s family also repeatedly complained to I.M.’s school and to the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT). The problem was not rectified until October 20, 2005, when I.M. was placed on a minibus in accordance with his IEP.
Plaintiff … appeals from Supreme Court’s dismissal of his claims under section 504(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 … (the RA), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the ADA), section 296(2)(a) of the New York State Executive Law, and section 8-107 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York (the State and City HRLs). Supreme Court dismissed these statutory claims on the basis that “[t]here is no evidence that the infant was purposefully discriminated against as a result of his disability when he was placed on the full-sized bus.” … It let stand plaintiff’s common-law negligence and gross negligence claims. The only issue on appeal is whether Supreme Court properly dismissed plaintiff’s statutory discrimination claims.
We … reverse … and reinstate these statutory discrimination claims against the Board of Education of the City of New York, its employees Lorraine Sesti and Joanne Richburg, and OPT (collectively DOE) … . We affirm Supreme Court’s dismissal of the statutory claims against Pioneer but on different grounds. Viewing the evidence, much of which is uncontested, … issues of fact exist as to whether DOE violated the discrimination statutes by acting with bad faith, gross misjudgment, or deliberate indifference to [plaintiff’s] rights to be transported by minibus, thereby depriving him of a FAPE [free appropriate public education]. A reasonable jury could conclude that a simple bureaucratic mistake was compounded by inaction into a violation of the RA, the ADA and the State and City HRLs. I.M. v City of New York, 2019 NY Slip Op 07756, First Dept 10-29-19