ALEX W. OLSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
DURANT COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Cedar County, Mark R.
Olson appeals an order granting summary judgment in favor of
Durant Community School District. AFFIRMED.
S. Zmuda of Califf & Harper, P.C., Moline, Illinois, for
R. Schiltz and Wendy S. Meyer of Lane & Waterman LLP,
Davenport, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
Olson appeals an order granting summary judgment in favor of
Durant Community School District (Durant) on his claims of
disability discrimination, intentional infliction of
emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional
distress. He contends genuine issues of material fact exist
as to each of his claims.
Background Facts and Proceedings
has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder,
post-traumatic stress disorder, a sleep disorder, and autism.
Olson resided in and initially attended the North Scott
Community School District (North Scott). Olson and his
parents experienced problems at North Scott in relation to
educators not following Olson's individualized education
program (IEP). Olson was also allegedly harassed by teachers
and bullied by other students at North Scott. Olson's
father, Allen, was a teacher at Durant's middle school,
and he spoke to Durant's high school principal, Tony
Neumann, and superintendent, Duane Bennett, about the
possibility of Olson attending Durant, although he did not
reside in the district. Bennett approved, and Durant entered
into a contract for special-education-instruction services
with North Scott through the end of Olson's junior year,
ending on June 30, 2013. Prior to entering into the contract,
Durant was aware of Olson's diagnoses. Olson began
attending Durant in January 2012, which was in the second
semester of his sophomore year. Durant is a significantly
smaller school district than North Scott, with fewer
resources. A second contract was subsequently entered into
between the schools for Olson's senior year, the 2013-
2014 school year, ending on June 30, 2014.
Allen's employment with Durant was terminated in the
spring of 2013 as part of a reduction in force. After
Allen's termination, Olson's parents requested an
independent educational evaluation be conducted as to Olson.
Durant agreed to the evaluation, and the Olsons selected
Alyson Beytein as the evaluator. Beytein completed a behavior
consultation report in September 2013 detailing the
challenges Olson faces and her recommendations for addressing
the same. Beytein submitted a second report in January 2014,
in which she noted "Durant . . . has provided sufficient
and often extensive accommodations for" Olson, but he
"needs support that cannot be given within an
the onset, Olson was expected to graduate from Durant on
schedule at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. However,
Olson, had very significant school-attendance issues during
his time at Durant, despite multiple changes to his IEP aimed
at remedying the same. As a result, Olson was unable to
accumulate enough credits to graduate as planned. At an IEP
meeting in April 2014, a potential plan was discussed that,
if implemented, would allow Olson to attend Durant for
another year and graduate in May 2015.
IEP meeting in March 2014, Olson's parents asked
Olson's special education teacher, Alan Hartley, who was
also serving as Durant's athletic director at the time,
whether Olson would be eligible to participate in school
sports in the 2014-2015 academic year. Hartley advised
the Olsons by letter on April 1 of his conclusion that, based
on the Iowa High School Athletic Association's (IHSAA)
eligibility rules, Olson's athletic eligibility would end
with the 2013-2014 academic year. Hartley further advised the
Olsons they could appeal his conclusion to the IHSAA and
Durant would allow Olson to compete in school athletics if
the IHSAA concluded he was eligible. On May 29, the IHSAA
notified the Olsons by letter that it agreed with Durant that
Olson was ineligible for further participation in high school
athletics. At an IEP meeting in early June, Olson was
provided a tentative schedule for the 2014-2015 school year.
On June 6, Olson's parents appealed the IHSAA's
eligibility decision. Thereafter, on June 11, Bennett
notified North Scott's superintendent that Durant would
not be entering a new contract as to Olson for the 2014-2015
school year. Bennett testified in his deposition that he
decided not to enter into another contract with North Scott
because of Olson's lack of progress and poor attendance
at Durant, in addition to Beytein's opinion that Durant
was unable to provide the services Olson required to succeed.
Bennett felt that, because Durant could not provide Olson
with the services he needed to succeed, it was his obligation
to not renew the contract. On June 13, after Bennett's
decision, the IHSAA notified the Olsons by letter of its
decision to reverse its prior decision and allow Olson an
additional year of athletic eligibility.
the contract was not renewed, Olson had the option of
returning to North Scott, but he decided not to. After
"briefly" looking at other schools, Olson and his
parents decided it would be best for him to obtain his GED
and then start college. Olson ultimately obtained his GED in
the summer of 2014, passing his exams on his first attempt
without studying, and started college in the fall. After
successfully completing three semesters at a college in South
Dakota, Olson transferred to a college in Illinois; he is on
course to graduate in 2018.
obtained a right-to-sue letter from the Iowa Civil Rights
Commission in May 2015. In June, Olson filed a petition at
law asserting claims of disability discrimination in
education under the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA), intentional
infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of
emotional distress. Durant ultimately moved for summary
judgment on all claims, and the district court granted the
motion. As to Olson's disability-discrimination claim,
the court concluded "[t]here are simply no circumstances
here raising an inference of disability discrimination in the
renewal decision" and Olson is therefore "unable to
demonstrate a prima facie case of disability
discrimination." As to the
intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress claim, the court
concluded Durant's conduct was not sufficiently
outrageous for the claim to withstand summary judgment. As to
the negligent-infliction-of-emotional-distress claim, the
court concluded emotional-distress damages are not
recoverable in tort in Iowa absent intentional conduct or
physical injury, and the exceptions to that rule do not apply
in this case. The court denied Olson's subsequent motion
to reconsider and this appeal followed.