Ariz. Districts Ruled to Lack State Immunity In Federal Suits

Hendrie, Caroline E.
October 2003
Education Week;10/8/2003, Vol. 23 Issue 6, p12
In a case brought by a school employee who says she was fired after refusing to affix a flag to her wheelchair, a federal appeals court has ruled that Arizona school districts are not immune from lawsuits by individuals seeking damages under federal disability-rights laws. Shelley Savage, who was partially paralyzed in a car accident, was an aide in a high school computer laboratory in 1999 when school administrators asked her to make herself more visible by attaching to her wheelchair a flagpole akin to those on children's bicycles. Ms. Savage sued the Phoenix-area Glendale Union High School District, claiming that the request to use a flag violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The school system sought to have the case thrown out on jurisdictional grounds, arguing that school districts in Arizona are arms of the state and thus immune from suits for damages under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix disagreed, and last month a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, unanimously upheld his ruling.


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