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News & Press: Policy

Parents Should Not Have to Exhaust Administrative Remedies Under IDEA

Monday, January 14, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jamie Anderson

COPAA filed a brief on December 21, 2018 in the Ninth Circuit in A.L. v. Clovis Unified School District. Catherine Merino Reisman and Selene Almazan drafted and filed the brief for COPAA. Barbara Ransom, COPAA member, represents the family. IDEA is a very different statute from ADA and Section 504. Reading the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986, Pub. L. No. 99-372 (HCPA), now codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1415(l), to require exhaustion in all discrimination cases that deal with students or educational environments confuses and conflates the entirely different processes, standards, and purposes of these acts. Such a reading is inappropriate and erroneous.

IDEA provides a strong entitlement to an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) with appropriate special education and related services regardless of cost to the school district. IDEA also provides strong procedural protections. There are claims for which IDEA provides appropriate remedies and claims for which it cannot. To require exhaustion even when IDEA procedures cannot resolve the harms at issue or provide meaningful relief will have significant due process and practical consequences that are detrimental to students with disabilities seeking to vindicate their Section 504/ADA rights. Congress passed HCPA to ensure that students do not lose their right to bring their non-IDEA civil rights claims when they enter the schoolhouse door. Students, like A.L., with disabilities who have resolved their IDEA FAPE claims 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 it.

The district court’s decision in this case erroneously dismisses 504/ADA claims for failure to exhaust when there is no dispute that the student exhausted administrative remedies with respect to her IDEA claims and is seeking systemic relief under federal civil rights law. California’s Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) does not have jurisdiction of the 504/ADA claims and A.L. could not have sought systemic relief to address discriminatory policies and practices in front of an OAH administrative law judge.


Read COPAA’s Brief in A.L. v. Clovis USD.

Read Appellant’s Brief in A.L. v. Clovis USD.

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