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If a student suffers a sports injury, must a school accommodate?

A few weeks ago, we discussed the tragic death of a young athlete and the battle his family faced when trying to hold his university accountable. The man suffered a serious head injury while playing football for the school, and his parents sued for wrongful death. The result of that case depended on who was responsible for the brain injury. What happens, however, when a person survives a brain injury but needs special accommodations in school because of it? Does the school have to agree?

Several recent cases in the Pittsburgh area have brought this issue to light. One in particular shows how little school districts seem to care about their students who suffered serious sports injuries and need their curriculums adjusted as a result.

One 14-year-old students suffered multiple concussions while playing sports. His injuries have left him constantly tired. Although his doctor recommended that he be allowed to take more breaks in school, be given additional time to complete tests and have less homework than other students, the school has refused to comply. Even after his doctor recommended he learn from home, more than a month of the school year went by before the district sent a teacher to help him.

Schools are required to accommodate students who have suffered brain injuries under federal law, so the boy's family sued.

Unfortunately, this boy's situation is not unique. Several students in the Pittsburgh area alone have sued their school districts for failing to make accommodations for students who are living with the difficult effects of brain injuries.

While it is not clear whether these students were injured while playing sports for their schools, it is certain that many cases of student head injuries would have occurred at their school. As we mentioned in the post about the student-athlete who suffered a fatal head injury, sometimes school officials or coaches are at least partially to blame. The least they could do is ensure that the injured student gets the education he or she deserves. Fortunately, there are ways to hold a school accountable if it refuses to do so.

Source: Action News 4, "Kids with concussions suing Pittsburgh-area school districts," Paul Van Osdol, Feb. 24, 2014

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