ADA Exception for Religious Schools and Defamation Against Parents

Articles & Publications

Legal Intelligencer
April 18, 2016

A recent decision in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey analyzes the religious organizations exception under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12182 (“ADA”), as it applies to private schools and also evaluates whether a school has any claims against a parent for defamation. In Sky R v. Haddonfield Friends School, U.S.D.C., N.J., Civil Action No. 14-5730, the Honorable Joseph H. Rodriguez provides a thorough analysis of both concepts and shows that the court can giveth and taketh away.

The lawsuit was initiated against Haddonfield Friends School (“HFS”) by the mother of a 10 year old boy, Sky, who was expelled from the school on February 13, 2014. Sky was diagnosed with attention dysfunction and dyslexia and his mother claims that HFS discriminated against Sky by failing to allow appropriate, reasonable modifications for his disabilities and by shaming and humiliating him due to his disabilities. The mother asserted claims for discrimination and retaliation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (“Section 504”), Title III of the ADA, and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-1 (“NJLAD”). HFS moved for partial summary judgment with regard to the ADA and the NJLAD claims arguing that the ADA exemption based upon control by a religious organization applies. The ADA provides: “No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). However, Title III of the ADA contains an exemption for “religious organizations or entities controlled by religious organizations.” 42 U.S.C § 12187. More specifically, the exemption states that “if a church itself operates a day care center, a nursing home, a private school, or a diocesan school system, the operations of the center, home, school, or schools would not be subject to the requirements of the ADA.”

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Reprinted with permission from the April 18, 2016 edition of the Legal Intelligencer© 2016 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. - 877-257-3382 -

Disclaimer: This update is intended to educate generally on certain issues and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. The information and opinions expressed in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any current or former clients of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, Ltd.