In February, 2011, when he was twelve (12) years old, Timothy Collins (“Tim”) had a near fatal water skiing accident which ultimately left him paralyzed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator for life support. However, his intellectual faculties and intelligence were unaffected by the accident, and Tim continues to be a friendly, creative, and bright young man. He is able to hear, speak, and control his motorized wheel chair, and use a computer through a system developed for those with his disabilities.
Tim is now sixteen (16) years old, attends Entwhistle High School in Seminole County, Florida where he takes regular classes in a typical school program. His academic performance has been deemed to be of a superior nature. However, because he is paralyzed and ventilator dependent, Tim requires a responsible, trained individual nearby to attend to certain physical needs while at school.
He requires that someone render assistance with urinary bladder catheterization once a day; the suctioning of his tracheotomy tube as needed but at least once every six hours; with food and drink at lunchtime; help in getting into a reclining position for five minutes each hour; and ambu bagging occasionally, as needed when the ventilator is checked for proper functioning. He also needs assistance from someone familiar with his ventilator in the event there is a malfunction or electrical problem, and someone who can perform emergency procedures in the event he experiences autonomic hyperreflexia, which he hasn’t experienced in recent years and which has usually been alleviated by catheterization. He has never experienced this problem at school. He is able to communicate his needs orally or in another fashion so long as he has not been rendered unable to do so by an extended lack of oxygen.
After his accident and up through the current school year, Tim’s physical needs at school were attended to by his family members and by licensed practical nurses his family was able to hire with the settlement proceeds he and his family received after the accident and other sources including health insurance policies the family maintained. Tim is now completing his first year of high school, but due to the dwindling of the settlement proceeds (all used for Tim’s benefit), the discontinuance of the health insurance policies (Tim’s father lost his job resulting in the cancellation of the policies), and other family financial setbacks, the family will not be able to attend to him while at school or hire assistance for him.
Tim’s mother and father, Nick and Nora Collins, requested the Seminole County School Board (the “Board”) to accept the financial responsibility for the health services that Tim requires during the school day. Tim will not be able to attend school without them. Also, because Tim is such a fan of the high school football team (the “Screeching Paralegals”), they have also requested that the Board provide these services while Tim attends these extra-curricular activities, because Tim desperately wants to attend at least the home games and take part in typical school life. All students are encouraged by the school and the Board to attend their teams’ games to show support for their home team, and because attendance at these activities, while recreational, is a perceived as a valuable component of the overall school and educational experience.
The Board denied Tim’s parents’ request based on a variety of grounds and factors. These include the following:
1. The cost and burden placed upon the Board;
2. The continuing nature of the services required (the Board provides all of these services to other students through the “school nurse” but only on an occasional basis);
3. The Board is not required to provide “medical services” to students under the relevant federal statute;
4. It should first be determined that the requested services meet the test for “support services” which has not been determined;
5. Even if the Board is required to provide these services to Tim, it could only be required to do so at school during normal school hours, and not, in any case, during optional extra-curricular recreational activities.
Tim and his mother and father made an appointment with their attorney, Mr. Craig V. Boren and you attended that conference with him. Mr. Boren had asked you, as his paralegal, to be present to take notes. During the conference they related the above facts to you and Mr. Boren and asked him for his opinion concerning whether the Board had a legal duty to provide the services, first, at school, and second, at the extra-curricular activities. They also said that they believed there was a federal statute bearing on these issues and that the Board received federal funds under this statute. Mr. Boren indicated to them that research was necessary to answer the questions and that he would be able to get back to them on these issues next week.