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School Bd. of Nassau County v. Arline

Supreme Court of the United States

December 3, 1986, Argued ; March 3, 1987, Decided

No. 85-1277

Opinion

 [*275]  [***313]  [**1125]    JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 87 Stat. 394, as amended, 29 U. S. C. § 794 (Act), prohibits a federally funded state program from discriminating against a handicapped individual solely by reason of his or her handicap. This case presents the questions whether a person afflicted with tuberculosis, a contagious disease, may be considered a "handicapped individual" within the meaning of § 504 of the Act, and, if so, whether such an individual is "otherwise qualified" to teach elementary school.

 [*276]  I

From 1966 until 1979, respondent Gene Arline taught elementary school in Nassau County, Florida. She was discharged in 1979 after  [****7]   [***314]  suffering a third relapse of tuberculosis within two years. After she was denied relief in state administrative proceedings, she brought suit in federal court, alleging that the school board's decision to dismiss her because of her tuberculosis violated § 504 of the Act. 2

A trial was held in the District Court, at which the principal medical evidence was provided by Marianne McEuen, M.D., an assistant director of the Community Tuberculosis Control Service of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. According to the medical records reviewed by Dr. McEuen, Arline was hospitalized for tuberculosis in 1957. App. 11-12. For the next 20 years, Arline's disease was in remission. Id., at 32. Then, in 1977, a [****8]  culture revealed that tuberculosis was again active in her system; cultures taken in March 1978 and in November 1978 were also positive. Id., at 12.

The superintendent of schools for Nassau County, Craig Marsh, then testified as to the school board's response to Arline's medical reports. After both her second relapse, in the spring of 1978, and her third relapse in November 1978, the school board suspended Arline with pay for the remainder of the school year. Id., at 49-51. At the end of the 1978-1979 school year, the school board held a hearing, after which it discharged Arline, "not because she had done anything wrong," but because of the "continued reoccurence [sic] of tuberculosis." Id., at 49-52.

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480 U.S. 273 *; 107 S. Ct. 1123 **; 94 L. Ed. 2d 307 ***; 1987 U.S. LEXIS 1058 ****; 55 U.S.L.W. 4245; 43 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 81; 42 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P36,791; 1 Am. Disabilities Cas. (BNA) 1026

SCHOOL BOARD OF NASSAU COUNTY, FLORIDA, ET AL. v. ARLINE

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition:  772 F.2d 759, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

handicap, disease, contagious disease, contagious, Rehabilitation, tuberculosis, regulations, handicapped individual, impairment, physical impairment, handicapped person, conditions, effects, substantial limitation, major life activity, coverage, district court, school board, capabilities, judgments, reactions, suffering, illness, cancer, reasonable accommodation, legislative history, mental impairment, federal funds, Epilepsy, public health

Business & Corporate Compliance, Discrimination, Disability Discrimination, Rehabilitation Act, Public Health & Welfare Law, Advocacy & Protection, Disabled & Elderly Persons, General Overview, Labor & Employment Law, Scope & Definitions, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Disabled Persons, Federal Employment & Services, Scope, Accommodations, Education Law, Discrimination in Schools, Reasonable Accommodations, Labor & Employment Law, Accommodation, Qualified Individuals With Disabilities, Reasonable Accommodations, Undue Hardship, Defenses