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The Supreme Court Decision in Fry requires that Parents be Allowed to Pursue Civil Rights Claims

Tuesday, December 5, 2017   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall
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COPAA submitted an amicus curiae brief in the Ninth Circuit, Soto v. Clark County School District, on November 28, 2017, pending acceptance of the Motion for Leave to File an Amicus Brief.  Selene Almazan, Catherine Reisman, Ellen Saideman, and David Grey drafted and filed the brief on behalf of COPAA.  In this case, the parents filed a due process request alleging claims on behalf of their daughter for violation of IDEA and discrimination under Section 504 and ADA.  Prior to the due process hearing commencing, the Administrative Law Judge issued a preliminary decision which stated, “the Hearing Officer has no jurisdiction regarding ADA or Section 504, and consequently will not be an issue at the Hearing.”  On the third day of the due process hearing, the parties entered into a settlement agreement on the parents’ IDEA claims.  The parents then filed their Section 504 and ADA claims in the U.S. District Court of Nevada but the district court dismissed the parents’ discrimination claims under Section 504 and the ADA on the grounds that the parents did not administratively exhaust their Section 504 and ADA claims. 

 

COPAA supports the parents and urges the Court to reverse the district court’s ruling dismissing the parents’ discrimination claims under Section 504 and the ADA as not having been administratively exhausted.  As set forth in the statute, and explained by COPAA, IDEA requires that parents exhaust administrative remedies through due process hearing channels for both their IDEA claims and claims brought under other federal statutes that seek relief available under the IDEA.  20 U.S.C. §1415(l).  Nothing in the IDEA statutorily nor its implementing regulations state that exhaustion requires the completion of an administrative hearing with a Hearing Officer rendering a written decision. 

 

Under the Ninth Circuit’s “relief-centered” approach, parents must exhaust their administrative remedies only when they seek an IDEA remedy, injunctive relief to alter an IEP or placement, or the enforcement of rights arising out of a denial of FAPE.   Payne v. Peninsula Sch. Dist., 653 F.3d 863 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc), cert. denied, 132 S. Ct. 1540 (2012).  Here, the parents asserted and settled their IDEA claims and have achieved all relief available under the IDEA through the administrative process. Therefore, COPAA asserts that because the remaining relief requested (monetary damages under Section 504 and the ADA) is not available under the IDEA, the parents have fulfilled their obligation to exhaust administrative remedies.  Moreover, as COPPA brings to the Court’s attention, requiring the parties to exhaust remedies under IDEA to bring 504/ADA claims in court only by completing a due process hearing is a burden on both students and schools and unnecessarily delays the provision of appropriate educational services to students.

 

Furthermore, relying upon persuasive authority from the Tenth Circuit in A.F. v. Espanola Public Schools, 801 F.3d 1245 (10th Cir. 2015), COPAA explains that when parties reach a settlement on their claims at any point during the administrative proceedings, the settlement agreement constitutes completion of the administrative process and therefore does meet IDEA’s exhaustion requirement.  COPPA further cites policy reasons of judicial efficiency, economy, and encouraging settlement agreements to be reached to support the position that settlement of IDEA claims at any point in the administrative proceedings is sufficient for purposes of exhaustion of administrative remedies.   Thus, COPAA urges the Ninth Circuit to reverse the district court’s dismissal and find that the settlement agreement executed during the administrative hearing settled the IDEA claims and served as a valid exhaustion of administrative remedies. 

 

Read the Appellant’s brief

Read COPAA’s brief 

Comments...

Felicia Kent says...
Posted Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Omg this is good to know. I am fighting a huge school district now for restraining my son over 39 times without having lunch. He is now suffering from PTSD among other things and I am speechless. I am filing due process and hopefully moving forward but it’s really unbelievable.

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