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A mom sued this Columbus school for alleged discrimination of her son. Judge decides case

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer - 10/30/2023

Oct. 27—A mother who sued a Columbus private school two years ago for alleged racial and disability-based discrimination against her child has lost the lawsuit.

Jaketra Bryant's 2021 lawsuit against Calvary Christian School was filed on behalf of her son in the Middle District of Georgia federal court. Angelik Edmonds of the Edmonds Law Office in Atlanta represented her in the case.

Bryant asserted her claims under federal laws from the Civil Rights Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Calvary's attorney, Hieu Nguyen of the Gainesville, Georgia-based law firm Harben, Hartley & Hawkins, wrote in the defendant's response to the lawsuit that all of the school staff's decisions regarding Bryant's son "were made in good faith and were based on legitimate, non-discriminatory and valid educational reasons and reasonable factors other than race or disability."

In his order granting summary judgment in favor of Calvary, Judge Clay Land wrote that he agrees with Calvary's assertion that Bryant's son doesn't have a disability "within the meaning of the Rehabilitation Act because Bryant did not point to evidence from which a fact finder could conclude that (her son's) ADHD and autism substantially limit one or more of his major life activities."

As for Bryant's claim of racial discrimination, Land wrote, "Bryant has failed to show that Calvary's proffered reasons were false and that the real reason for (her son's) dismissal was race."

Land also ruled that Bryant shall recover nothing from Calvary and shall pay the school's costs of the lawsuit.

Bryant sought a jury trial, unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, plus legal expenses. Now, according to court documents, she seeks to appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta.

Lawsuit's claims against Calvary Christian School

Bryant's son, who is Black and was diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, enrolled at Calvary as a sixth-grader in 2019 because of its advertisement as a school providing "personalized attention for students with special needs," according to the complaint.

Bryant, however, contends Calvary teachers and administrators violated her son's civil rights by:

— Discriminatory discipline

— An unwillingness to accommodate his disability

— Repeatedly encouraging Bryant to medicate him despite her requests for non-medical interventions

— Refusing the assistance of supportive therapies to help teachers instruct him

— Forcing him to remain with a teacher following complaints of discrimination.

According to its website, Calvary's program for students with special needs, called Discovery School, has "an atmosphere in which students are nurtured, encouraged, and challenged to explore their talents and use their strengths in order to reach their potential. We work closely with the classroom teachers, school administrators, and parents to provide individual and small group instruction daily in the areas of mathematics, reading, and language."

Calvary dismissed her son in March 2021 "for behavioral manifestations of his disability," the plaintiff says in the lawsuit.

Nguyen wrote in his defense of Calvary that Bryant's son "was disciplined for his inappropriate and explosive behavior in the classroom."

He also wrote, "Plaintiff consented to the educational placement of minor child (Bryant's son) and failed to take advantage of the corrective or therapeutic opportunities suggested by Defendant."

Edmonds told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email, "I am certainly disappointed in the court's decision. . . . Civil rights cases are nearly impossible to win in the Eleventh Circuit because of high evidentiary burdens and a generally conservative bench. . . . My client was devastated to hear the outcome, but she remains hopeful that other black children will not receive similar treatment in the future."

The L-E didn't reach a Calvary Christian official or representative for comment before publication.

This story was originally published October 25, 2023, 3:45 PM.

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