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News & Press: Amicus

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Student with a Disability

Wednesday, February 22, 2017  


Press Contact: Selene Almazan, Esq., Legal Director, selene@copaa.org

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Student with a Disability

Washington, DCToday, the U.S. Supreme Court  ruled unanimously in favor of the student and her family in Fry V. Napoleon Community Schools reversing and remanding the case back to the appellate court. COPAA’s legal director, Selene Almazan, Esq. issued the following statement: 

“COPAA is very pleased with the Court’s unanimous decision to support the child and her right to a service animal in school. We are thrilled the court accepted the argument COPAA made in its brief that it is erroneous to require the family to exhaust all of the legal remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when the child’s right to her service animal is fully supported under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). The court accepted  the argument – that requiring parents to participate in extensive litigation for which they know compensation may never be obtained under IDEA as a prerequisite for a distinct ADA/504 claim – is contrary to the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986 (HCPA) and its purpose.”

At issue in the case was the refusal of Napoleon Community Schools to allow E.F. to bring her service dog to school -- which COPAA argued was in violation of the ADA and Section 504. In a joint brief filed with Advocates for Children New York, COPAA showed that there are claims for which IDEA provides appropriate remedies, and claims for which it cannot. COPAA established that to require exhaustion – even when IDEA procedures cannot resolve the harms at issue or to provide meaningful relief -- would have significant due process and practical consequences that are detrimental to students with disabilities and their families seeking to uphold their Section 504/ADA rights. COPAA further asserted that schools must be required to uphold the remedy and claim centered inquiries set out in 20 U.S.C. Section 1415(l) of the HCPA. Students with disabilities who are receiving a free, appropriate public education under IDEA may still have Section 504 and ADA claims that do not involve the right to receive FAPE under IDEA and are therefore not seeking relief available under the IDEA.


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