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Upper Arlington student sues school district in hopes of returning to in-person classes

The lawsuit was filed last week in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on behalf of “Jane Doe.”
Credit: WBNS-10TV / Scott Doelling
File photo

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An anonymous middle-school student has filed a lawsuit against the Upper Arlington School District over its decision to - as of now - cancel in-person classes this fall due to concerns over the potential spread of COVID-19.

The lawsuit was filed last week in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on behalf of “Jane Doe” – a middle school student who has an individualized education plan – or IEP – and has received special education services from the district.

“Due to online distance learning in the spring of 2020, she severely regressed in her learning process and in her IEP objectives. Continued distance learning in the fall of 2020 and beyond will cause plaintiff severe and permanent damage to her educational, mental, emotional and physical well-being,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit is also challenging the health advice that the district was offered by Franklin County Public Health – calling it “misleading.”

David Smith, an attorney for Franklin County Public Health, said during a court hearing Monday that they will be seeking to dismiss the lawsuit because there is “no claim” against the county health department and that it didn’t offer any health order to the school district and instead only made a “recommendation.”

In referring to the district’s current plan for distance-learning, the lawsuit also alleges:

“The Resolution provides no scientific-based benefit in stopping the spread of COVID-19 within Upper Arlington School District and only service to penalize and to harshly punish Plaintiff, and similarly situated minors, by requiring them to engage in distance learning.”

Attorneys for the student want a judge to halt the district from enforcing its distance-only learning option.

Attorneys for the school district have asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

During a court hearing Monday, Jessica Philamond, an attorney for the school district, said that the district will continue to provide a “high level” of education regardless of whether it is in-person or through distance learning.

Philamond also mentioned the district is constantly reviewing the local cases and is encouraged by recent COVID numbers in Franklin County.

A judge made no ruling during the Monday afternoon court hearing.

Upper Arlington’s school board is scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.

Judge Stephen McIntosh set another hearing for 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.