Doe v. Withers; 1993 W.V. Circuit Court, Taylor Co

I. Case Background

This court case takes place in a West Virginia School system in Taylor County, when a general education high school history teacher failed to comply with an IEP for one of his learning disabled students. The defendants of this court case were Michael Withers, a teacher at Grafton High School; Greg Cartwright Principal of Grafton High School; Wendell Teets the Superintendent of Schools of Taylor County; and the Taylor County Board of Education. The learning disabled 16 year old student D.D. Doe, child of Jane and John Doe, used an alias to protect the family and child from any further embarrassment or publicity regarding the child’s handicap. In this case, Withers refused to comply with the requirements on an IEP for D.D. Doe, which tests be read orally to a student with learning disabilities. This was an action pursuant case where a jury assessed monetary damages against a teacher under Section 1983; (institution of Free Appropriate Public Education, FAPE). This was the first special education jury trial and the first special education dollar damages case.

II. Issues in the Case

As mentioned, this was the first special education jury trial where a Grafton High School History teacher refused to accommodate the child’s handicapping condition in the classroom. The Doe v. Withers 1993 case was decided in part under United States Code Section 1983, where the implementation of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) began. In 1a court case in 1983, FAPE was designed to support special education and related services that:

(a) Are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, without charge;

(b) Meet the standards of the SEA, including the requirements of this part;

(c) Include preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and

(d) Are provided in conformity with an IEP that meets the requirements of IDEA.

Withers failure to comply with the guidelines/ expectations of FAPE since he refused to accommodate the child’s handicapping condition in the classroom. In addition, a claim for injunctive relief against the Taylor County Board of Education to enforce laws that protect handicapped students

Another key issue in the casewas the general educator's awareness of the instructional requirement and he deliberately ignored it. Withers would not follow the IEP, despite being instructed to by the Superintendent, School Principal, Special Education Director, and special education teacher. As a result of the teacher’s action, the student failed the history course. Interestingly enough, the following semester the history teacher was replaced by a substitute teacher. This substitute implemented oral reading of tests, and the student’s grades improved dramatically.

III. Outcome of the Case

In conclusion, a jury found in favor of the parents and awarded them damages against Withers, the history teacher, in the amount of $5,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitive damages. The special education teacher and Director of Special Education were not defendants in the civil suit because there was documentation in the file that they directed to the teacher to follow the IEP. In addition, the Superintendent and School Principal were also dismissed from the case because they too, had told Withers to follow the IEP.