The Palo Alto school district has agreed to pay a $150,000 settlement to parents who alleged the district violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when a teacher allegedly divulged that their son carries a genetic marker for cystic fibrosis.
The school board unanimously approved the settlement on Tuesday. The district's share is $41,253, subject to the remaining balance being paid by the district’s insurance joint powers authority, board President Ken Dauber said.
James and Jennifer Chadam settled their civil lawsuit with the district in an Aug. 1 conference presided over by Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James, court documents show.
Under the terms of the settlement, the Chadams will put $90,000 into a "separate and segregated interest-bearing account" until Dec. 12, 2018, when their son turns 18 years old. He will then receive the money, according to a court order the judge signed last week.
The Chadams will pay the remaining $60,000 to their attorney, Stephen Jaffe of the Jaffe Law Firm in San Francisco.
The settlement bars either party from contacting the press regarding the settlement, a provision Jaffe said was requested by the school district's legal counsel.
"I cannot speculate on its motive, but you can," Jaffe wrote in an email to the Weekly.
When asked if the Chadams are satisfied with the outcome of the case, Jaffe replied: "They're happy to bring this matter to a conclusion."
Superintendent Don Austin said he has no comment on the settlement. He said he had no knowledge of the provision regarding notifying the press.
Almost five years ago, the Chadams filed action seeking damages after their son, Colman, who carries the genetic marker for cystic fibrosis but does not have the disease, had been transferred out of his Palo Alto neighborhood school, according to court documents. (Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease in which a person must have inherited two defective CF genes — one from each parent — in order to have the disease. As a carrier, he does not have the disease and therefore does not pose any cross-infection threat to others with cystic fibrosis, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.)
Because Colman carries the genetic marker, and that information was made public to the family of two other students who actively have the disease, the school district forced Colman to leave Jordan Middle School (now Frank Greene Jr. Middle School) involuntarily after the parents of the other two students complained, according to court records.
The school district claimed it made the decision to send the Chadams' son to Terman Middle School (now Ellen Fletcher Middle School) allegedly based on a doctor's recommendation, but that doctor had never examined Colman nor spoken with his parents, according to an appeal the Chadams filed.
The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice filed an amicus brief siding with the family in February 2016, urging reversal of a court decision that ruled against the Chadams' lawsuit.
Nine months later, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal and sent it back to the District Court.