Federal Court Finds School Policing Violates Disability Rights Laws

Press Release

Federal Court Finds School Policing Violates Disability Rights Laws

A young child in handcuffs

(Riverside, CA) - On October 13, 2023, Federal Court Judge Jesus Bernal ruled against Defendant Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD), finding the district’s campus security program violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This ruling is significant as it holds MVUSD accountable for its systemic discrimination against the over 4,000 students with disabilities in its care. The ruling affirms that MVUSD’s school police must comply with federal law and cannot discriminate against students with disabilities. During the 2019-20 school year, Black disabled students were 3.63 times more likely to be referred to law enforcement than their non-disabled peers. The Court has ordered Plaintiff and MVUSD to work together on how to bring MVUSD in compliance with the federal disability rights laws. 

This is a major victory for Plaintiff C.B., a minor, Black child with disabilities who in 2019 at the age of ten and weighing hardly 70 pounds was repeatedly physically tackled, handcuffed, and referred to law enforcement for exhibiting disabilities. As shown in the bodycam footage, MVUSD school police’s failure to account for a child’s disability results in physical harm, trauma, and terror for a child. According to W.B., the Plaintiff’s father, “C.B. did nothing wrong except being born Black with disabilities and we are grateful the court’s ruling will make it possible to ensure that no child with a disability is treated like this again at MVUSD.”

In its decision, the Court found Defendant MVUSD discriminates against students with disabilities in the following ways: (1) Allowing teachers to refer disabled students to school police for disability-related behaviors; (2) failing to train school police about students with disabilities; and (3) authorizing school police to physically restrain, handcuff, and/or refer students with disabilities to law enforcement for students exhibiting disability-related behaviors. As a result of MVUSD’s policies and practices, students with disabilities, especially Black students with disabilities, are placed in handcuffs and referred to police at staggering rates.

“This ruling is the first in the country that limits schools’ ability to rely on law enforcement and requires school policing practices to comply with the ADA and Section 504,” said Malhar Shah, counsel for Plaintiff and staff attorney for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. This “ruling marks an important win for disabled students and students of color as school districts are increasingly becoming reliant on school police,” said Munmeeth Soni, attorney with Disability Rights California and also Plaintiff’s counsel. “It is the first step towards dismantling the school to prison pipeline and returning our school campuses to providing safe and nurturing learning environments for all students.”

Read the full decision here.

Plaintiff C.B. is represented by Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Hadsell, Stormer, Renick, & Dai, LLP, and Barajas & Rivera, APC.

Media Contacts

Melody Pomraning
Communications Director
Disability Rights California

Tina Pinedo
Communications Director
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund



Disability Rights California (DRC) is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of drc is to defend, advance, and strengthen the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. For more information visit: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org.

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities. Founded in 1979, DREDF works to advance the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education, and public policy and legislative development. Learn more at https://www.dredf.org. 

Hadsell, Stormer, Renick & Dai, LLP is one of the largest and most successful civil rights firms in the United States. The firm specializes in plaintiff-side civil rights and employment issues. They pursue justice through individual and class action law suits, legal services, education, and community-based efforts. 

Barajas & Rivera, APC is a plaintiff-side civil rights law firm focusing on disability access and special education. B&R believes in using the power of law to protect civil rights and advance justice. Learn more at: https://www.barajasriveralaw.com