Two special education suits at US Supreme Court

October 19, 2016 08:49 AM

There are two accepted cases at the United States Supreme Court that school pools, and others, may wish to monitor. Both could subject schools to additional federal lawsuits for monetary damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For a useful review of these and other cases, or to sign up for case updates, visit SCOTUSblog.

The question in Fry v Napoleon Community Schools is whether families must exhaust procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) before suing under the ADA or Rehabilitation Act. Although IDEA does not allow for monetary damages, the other Acts do. Federal appeals courts are split on interpretations of whether procedures under IDEA must first be exhausted. After Fry's request for accommodation was discussed with the school and denied in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting, her family filed a lawsuit in federal court rather than filing a due process hearing request with the State of Michigan.

The question in Endrew F. v Douglas County School District RE-1 is what level of educational benefit a child must receive to satisfy requirements under IDEA. At issue is whether "some educational benefit" is enough to satisfy IDEA or whether "meaningful educational benefit" is required. Again, federal appeals courts are split on interpretations of the benefit. Endrew F, a child with autism, was provided some educational benefit by the public school in which he was enrolled, but his parents disputed the IEP and its quality of education under the IDEA. 

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