Supreme Court To Weigh In On Special Ed Disputes
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in a case centering on how families and schools go about resolving disputes over services for students with disabilities.
The justices said this month that they will take up the matter known as Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, which raises two questions under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The high court will consider whether families that have settled IDEA claims can pursue lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act without fully exhausting all administrative proceedings under IDEA.
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In addition, the justices will weigh if families must exhaust administrative procedures under IDEA before seeking monetary damages that are not available under that law.
The case was brought by the family of Miguel Luna Perez, who is deaf, after the Sturgis Public Schools in Michigan failed to provide him a qualified sign language interpreter for 12 years. According to court filings, the family was led to believe that Perez was on track to earn a high school diploma, but just months before graduation learned he would receive a certificate of completion instead.
The family settled with the school district over Perez’ claims of discrimination under IDEA, but then brought suit under the ADA in an effort to seek monetary damages for the harm suffered.
However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Perez’ ADA claim determining that by taking the settlement he had not fully exhausted his options under IDEA.
The ruling conflicts with precedent from other circuit courts and “defies common sense,” Perez argues in court filings asking the Supreme Court to intervene.
“It essentially requires children with disabilities to turn down even full IDEA settlements — and forgo their ability to immediately receive an IDEA-mandated ‘free appropriate public education’ — to preserve their distinct non-IDEA claims,” reads the petition. “There is no way that is what Congress intended.”
The Sturgis Public Schools filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to decline the case arguing that the questions at hand were moot anyway in light of a recent decision from the high court finding that “emotional distress damages are not recoverable” under the Rehabilitation Act. The district said that because remedies under the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the ADA “are coextensive,” Perez’ case would fail regardless.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case sometime early next year with a decision likely by June.
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