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California Education Law Blog

Avila v. Spokane School District 81, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision Issued in March 2017 is helping to Preserve Student Rights in California.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a ruling in Avila v. Spokane School District 81 (9th Cir. 2017) 852 F.3d 936 (Avila), which held that the two-year statute of limitations for filing a due process complaint pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) begins when a parent "knew or should have known," a claim against a local educational agency (LEA) existed. In other words, if a parent has reason to believe their child is not receiving appropriate evaluations, placement, specialized academic instruction, or related services he/she has a right to receive under the IDEA, they have two years from that date of discovery to file a complaint to seek enforcement of their rights.

On March 22, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court Issued Unanimous Decision Overturning a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision Limiting School Districts' Responsibilities Under the IDEA by Interpreting a FAPE to Mean Providing Merely "De Minimis" Benefit.

In a case called Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, parents of Endrew F. did not agree that a Colorado school district's Individualized Education Program (IEP) prepared for their son with autism, was reasonably calculated to provide him with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

A November 2015 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Makes it Clear that Districts in California Must Not Only Offer a Student with Special Needs a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), They Must Also Ensure a FAPE is Provided, Even if it Means Fi

When parents and school districts disagree about whether the placement and services offered in a Student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) are appropriate, a number of different things can occur. In order to resolve the dispute(s), the parties can hold additional IEP meetings to try to eventually come to an agreement; the district can file a due process complaint against the parents; or the parents can file a due process complaint against the district. If a party files a complaint requesting a due process hearing, and the parties are unable to come to an agreement prior to hearing, ultimately a judge will decide whether the placement and services offered provide a FAPE.

So, what happens when neither party files a complaint? Time goes by...tick tock...There is no agreement as to what placement and services are appropriate for a child. In this scenario, it is the child who suffers. The law accounts for that. The law basically states that if the parents do not file, the district must file within a reasonable time. Parents should be aware of this.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as well as California Law, a school district may not implement what is offered in an IEP without parental consent. The law is very clear that parents are extremely an important part of the IEP team, however, parents cannot call all the shots and override the district IEP team if there is a dispute.

The U.S. Supreme Court Plans to Issue a Ruling sometime during the summer of 2017, which could really change things for Students with IEPs and School Districts' Responsibilities to those students.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), School districts are required to provide eligible special needs students with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). But what does that mean? What is appropriate for an individual student? How much progress should they make in order to determine that their IEP is appropriately designed to meet their needs?

In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a paramount opinion in a case called Board of Education of Hendrick Hudsona Central School District v. Rowley. Rowley was a hugely important case in the area of special education because it was the first U.S. Supreme Court case to interpret the meaning of the IDEA, and further, it is cited in virtually every FAPE-related judicial and administrative decision.

In Rowley, the high Court provided guidance on the factual question of whether a school district provided a student with a FAPE by providing a two part test. The first question is whether the District has complied with the procedural aspects of the IDEA, and secondly, whether a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) is "reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive an educational benefit." The Court in Rowley provided further guidance by pointing out that the IDEA does not require districts to provide the best possible educational services to a student, however, the IDEA does confer on the student the right to receive a program designed to provide "some educational benefit," or a "basic floor of opportunity."

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Unanimously on Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies, Differentiating Section 504 and ADA Claims from IDEA Claims (February 22, 2017)

On February 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court set a standard related to the rights of special needs students. The case refers to whether a parent must first use the formal administrative process to "adjudicate" or remedy their educationally-related complaints with a local educational agency (LEA), or whether they may file a lawsuit based on other discrimination claims under Section 504 or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The language within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) compels exhaustion of administrative remedies when a plaintiff seeks "relief" that is "available" under the Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court held in favor of parents. Even though a Section 504 or ADA claim could be related to the student's education, it does not mean a parent must exhaust their administrative remedies under the IDEA, so long as the main focus, or "gravamen" of their complaint is not related to the student being denied a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

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