CASE NO. 2023070050
Student v. PALO ALTO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Counsel for Student: Marc Buller and Emily Hart
Counsel for District: Jennifer Choi
Representative for District: Amanda Boyce
ALJ: Cynthia Fritz
Date of Decision: August 09, 2023
Significant areas of law: What constitutes a serious bodily injury?
- Did Student’s conduct constitute serious bodily injury?
FACTS OF THE CASE:
- Student was nine years old and eligible for special education under the categories of autism and speech or language impairment.
- Student bit his one-to-one aid, which caused a wound i.e. approximately 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches in length and width, oblong, and bleeding mixed with plasma and clear liquid coming out.
- The District contends that this caused serious bodily injury to the staff while students argue otherwise.
- Student’s conduct constitute serious bodily injury.
- The photographs submitted in evidence corroborated staff’s testimony. The pictures include both the elbow and wrist, so scale was evident. The bite was accurately described in size and depth. A bite frequently includes an outline of the mouth dotted by teeth marks. Not in this case. The flesh was removed from the entire area, including the center, as individual teeth marks were not visible.
- District’s witness also described victim as very upset, frightened, crying, breathing erratically, unable to talk, and squeezing her hand tight, and telling her that the injury really hurt. The victim went to 16 follow up medical visits, with some virtual visits, and four mental health related visits through the time of hearing and still undergoing treatment.
- The victim’s injury rendered her temporarily unable to perform her work duties completely, she was unable to change her own wound dressing for days and had to do modified work through the end of the school year.
- Student failed to present any evidence contrary to the personal accounts of the victim and witnesses who had firsthand knowledge of the injury or an expert witness in opposition to victim’s opinion and other witnesses that victim was in extreme pain at the time of the bite.
- Even after lapse of two months, victim describes her injury as the skin being extremely rough, difficult to touch, painful, scarred, wrinkled, and with a large skin tag through it. The scar is approximately 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches on the outside of her forearm in a prominent, obvious, and readily visibly area. Victim believes plastic surgery will not help and the scar is hard for her to look at.
- The evidence presented not only established permanent scarring on victim’s forearm, an obvious location on a person’s body, but also significant cosmetic deformity with the wrinkling, rough skin, and large skin tag through the scar.
- While Parents disputed the seriousness of the injury at a subsequent meeting with District and did not believe it constituted a serious bodily injury, neither Parent had any personal knowledge of the injury. Thus, their opinions were less persuasive.
- Within 15 calendar days of this decision, District must conduct a manifestation determination meeting to determine whether Student’s conduct, was a manifestation of his disability or caused by District’s failure to implement his IEP.
- If it is determined that Student conduct was a manifestation of his disability, the IEP team must review Student’s behavioral intervention plan and modify it, if necessary, to address the behavior.
- District must return Student to his last agreed upon and implemented placement upon expiration of the 45-day interim alternative educational placement unless Parents and District agree otherwise.