A national day care provider has agreed to pay the family of a 3-year-old girl with Down syndrome $18,000 after one of its southern New Jersey facilities expelled the child because she was not potty trained.
Chesterbrook Academy Preschool in Moorestown, about six miles northeast of Cherry Hill, told the toddler's parents that the girl had to be potty trained by a certain date, according to a press release on Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The day care kicked the girl out of the facility in March 2015 because she was not fully trained by the deadline, despite her parents' providing them with medical documents stating that toilet training is more challenging for children with Down syndrome, according to the settlement agreement.
The facility tried to justify its expelling the girl by telling her parents that parent company Spring Education Inc.'s corporate policy says that 3-year-olds in certain classrooms have to be fully trained, the press release stated.
The U.S. Attorney's Office launched an investigation into the school's actions after the parents filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.
After completing its investigation, the attorney's office filed a lawsuit in January 2017 against Spring Education Inc. alleging that the New Jersey day care violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it "refused to modify its standard toileting policy" for the child and then expelled her "on the basis of her disability."
Spring Education Inc. settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay the girl and her family, the attorney's office said. The company must also pay the United States a $30,000 civil fine and change its policy on potty training to one that provides "reasonable modifications for children with disabilities."
“With this agreement, we ensure that children with disabilities attending SEI’s daycare facilities in New Jersey and across the United States receive the protection to which they are entitled under the law," U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement.
Michelle Sie Whitten, president & CEO of Global Down Syndrome Foundation, praised the child's family for filing a complaint against the school. Whitten said their actions have led to a policy change at Spring Education Inc. that will protect "thousands of students across the U.S. which will resonate for decades to come."
"The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is deeply grateful and frankly relieved when our justice system prevails against blatant discrimination against people with Down syndrome, and all those who are differently-abled," Whitten said in a statement to NBC News.
"We applaud and stand by the 3-year-old student with Down syndrome, and her parents who were brave enough to file a lawsuit against the school which expelled their daughter wrongfully and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act," the statement said.
Spring Education, formally known as Nobel Learning Communities Inc., has seven day care centers in New Jersey and more than 150 in nearly 20 other states and Washington, D.C.
A spokesperson for the company told NBC News in a statement on Thursday: “We are very proud of the work our educators do to accommodate many types of disabilities in our classrooms, and we are pleased with the resolution of this matter.”