Supreme Court Punts On Special Ed, ADA Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court chose not to rule on whether the Americans with Disabilities Act applies during police encounters the same day the court said it would not consider a closely-watched special education case.
In a ruling issued Monday, the high court failed to address key questions about the implications of the ADA in situations involving law enforcement.
At issue was the case of Teresa Sheehan, a woman with mental illness who was living in a San Francisco group home. Police were called when Sheehan threatened to kill her social worker. The responding officers initially retreated from Sheehan’s room when she brandished a knife, but they then re-entered the room and shot her multiple times when she continued to confront them with the knife.
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Sheehan survived and sued the officers alleging that they violated her Fourth Amendment rights by entering her room without a warrant and she alleged violations of the ADA arguing that they did not accommodate her disability when they chose to enter her room a second time.
The court ruled this week that Sheehan cannot hold the officers liable for her injuries because they acted legally when they entered her room and their use of force was “reasonable.”
However, the justices declined to address the ADA issue because attorneys for the city of San Francisco changed their position on the matter. Initially, city attorneys suggested that the ADA did not apply to police at all, but in arguments before the Supreme Court earlier this year conceded that the law applied generally, but not in circumstances where a suspect is “armed and violent.”
Accordingly, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion that the justices did not decide on the ADA issue because it hadn’t been completely addressed by the lower courts.
Meanwhile, the high court said Monday that it would not take up a case centering on who should pay for private school tuition while special education disputes are being litigated.
Under the “stay-put” provision of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts are required to foot the bill so that students can remain in their existing educational placements while special education disputes are sorted out.
In the case known as Ridley School District v. M.R., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia found that the Ridley School District in suburban Philadelphia remained responsible for a child’s tuition costs while the child’s family continued their appeal even though a lower court found in favor of the district.
The Ridley School District in addition to the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, the National School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association had asked the Supreme Court to address the issue. The school district argued that their obligation to pay for a private placement ought to end once a court rules in the schools’ favor.