Special Needs Education Court Cases

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This page contains information regarding court cases pertinent to special needs education.

U.S. Supreme Court Cases

Florence Co. Sch Dist Four v. Shannon Carter, 510 U.S. 7, (1993)

After respondent Shannon Carter, a student in petitioner public school district, was classified as learning disabled, school officials met with her parents to formulate an Individualized Education Program(IEP), as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. Shannon's parents requested a hearing to challenge the proposed IEP's appropriateness. In the meantime, Shannon's parents enrolled her in Trident Academy, a private school specializing in educating children with disabilities. After the state and Local Educational Authorities (LEA) concluded that the IEP was adequate, Shannon's parents filed this suit, claiming that the school district had breached its duty under IDEA to provide Shannon with a "free appropriate public education," §1401(a)(18), and seeking reimbursement for tuition and other costs incurred at Trident. The District Court ruled in the parents' favor, holding that the proposed IEP violated IDEA, and that the education Shannon received at Trident was "appropriate" and in substantial compliance with IDEA's substantive requirements, even though the school did not comply with all of the Act's procedures. In affirming, the Court of Appeals rejected the school district's argument that reimbursement is never proper when the parents choose a private school that is not approved by the State or that does not comply with all of the requirements of §1401(a)(18).

Held: A court may order reimbursement for parents who unilaterally withdraw their child from a public school that provides an inappropriate education under IDEA and put the child in a private school that provides an education that is otherwise proper under IDEA, but does not meet all of §1401(a)(18)'s requirements. Read more

Board of Ed. of Hendrick Hudson Central School Dist. v. Rowley 458 U.S. 176 (1982)

This case arose in connection with the education of Amy Rowley, a deaf student at the Furnace Woods School in the Hendrick Hudson Central School District, Peekskill, N. Y. Amy has minimal residual hearing and is an excellent lip-reader. During the year before she began attending Furnace Woods, a meeting between her parents and school administrators resulted in a decision to place her in a regular kindergarten class in order to determine what supplemental services would be necessary to her education. Several members of the school administration prepared for Amy's arrival by attending a course in sign-language interpretation, and a teletype machine was installed in the principal's office to facilitate communication with her parents who are also deaf. At the end of the trial period it was determined that Amy should remain in the kindergarten class, but that she should be provided with an FM hearing aid which would amplify words spoken into a wireless receiver by the teacher or fellow students during certain classroom activities. Amy successfully completed her kindergarten year. Read more

Burlington Sch. Committee v. Mass. Bd. of Ed., 471 U. S. 359 (1985)

Michael Panico, the son of respondent Robert Panico, was a first grader in the public school system of petitioner Town of Burlington, Massachusetts, when he began experiencing serious difficulties in school. It later became evident that he had "specific learning disabilities" and thus was "handicapped" within the meaning of the Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1401(1). This entitled him to receive at public expense specially designed instruction to meet his unique needs, as well as related transportation. § § 1401(16), 1401(17). The negotiations and other proceedings between the Town and the Panicos, thus far spanning more than 8 years, are too involved to relate in full detail; the following are the parts relevant to the issues on which we granted certiorari.

In the spring of 1979, Michael attended the third grade of the Memorial School, a public school in Burlington, Mass., under an IEP calling for individual tutoring by a reading specialist for one hour a day individual and group counseling. Michael's continued poor performance and the fact that Memorial School encompassed only grades K through 3 led to much discussion between his parents and Town school officials about his difficulties and his future schooling. Apparently the course of these discussions did not run smoothly; the upshot was that the Panicos and the Town agreed that Michael was generally of above average to superior intelligence, but had special educational needs calling for a placement in a school other than Memorial. They disagreed over the source and exact nature of Michael's learning difficulties, the Town believing the source and exact nature of Michael's learning difficulties, the Town believing the source to be emotional and the parents believing it to be neurological. Read more

Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305 (1988)

As a condition of federal financial assistance, the Education of the Handicapped Act requires States to ensure a "free appropriate public education" for all disabled children within their jurisdictions. In aid of this goal, the Act establishes a comprehensive system of procedural safeguards designed to ensure parental participation in decisions concerning the education of their disabled children and to provide administrative and judicial review of any decisions with which those parents disagree. Among these safeguards is the so-called "stay-put" provision, which directs that a disabled child "shall remain in [his or her] then current educational placement" pending completion of any review proceedings, unless the parents and state or local educational agencies otherwise agree. 20 U.S.C. 1415(e)(3). Today we must decide whether, in the face of this statutory proscription, state or local school authorities may nevertheless unilaterally exclude disabled children from the classroom for dangerous or disruptive conduct growing out of their disabilities. In addition, we are called upon to decide whether a district court may, in the exercise of its equitable powers, order a State to provide educational services directly to a disabled child when the local agency fails to do so. Read more

Cedar Rapids v. Garret F. (1999)

Respondent Garret F. is a friendly, creative, and intelligent young man. When Garret was four years old, his spinal column was severed in a motorcycle accident. Though paralyzed from the neck down, his mental capacities were unaffected. He is able to speak, to control his motorized wheelchair through use of a puff and suck straw, and to operate a computer with a device that responds to head movements. Garret is currently a student in the Cedar Rapids Community School District (District), he attends regular classes in a typical school program, and his academic performance has been a success. Garret is, however, ventilator dependent, 2 and therefore requires a responsible individual nearby to attend to certain physical needs while he is in school.

During Garret’s early years at school his family provided for his physical care during the school day. When he was in kindergarten, his 18-year-old aunt attended him; in the next four years, his family used settlement proceeds they received after the accident, their insurance, and other resources to employ a licensed practical nurse. In 1993, Garret’s mother requested the District to accept financial responsibility for the health care services that Garret requires during the school day. The District denied the request, believing that it was not legally obligated to provide continuous one-on-one nursing services. Read more

Editing Editing Schaeffer v. Weast, 546 U.S (2005)

This case concerns the educational services that were due, under IDEA, to petitioner Brian Schaffer. Brian suffers from learning disabilities and speech-language impairments. From prekindergarten through seventh grade he attended a private school and struggled academically. In 1997, school officials informed Brian's mother that he needed a school that could better accommodate his needs. Brian's parents contacted respondent Montgomery County Public Schools System (MCPS) seeking a placement for him for the following school year.

MCPS evaluated Brian and convened an IEP team. The committee generated an initial IEP offering Brian a place in either of two MCPS middle schools. Brian's parents were not satisfied with the arrangement, believing that Brian needed smaller classes and more intensive services. The Schaffers thus enrolled Brian in another private school, and initiated a due process hearing challenging the IEP and seeking compensation for the cost of Brian's subsequent private education. Read more

Kentucky Courts of Justice Cases

M.R.D., v. Fayette County Board of Education, NO. 2001-CA-002537-MR

20 U.S.C. Section 1415(e)(2), the Individuals with Disabilities Act, provides that “any party aggrieved by the findings and decisions made by a state educational agency shall have the right to bring a civil action with respect to the complaint. . . .” The statutory intent of the IDEA is adopted at KRS 157.200, and 707 KAR 1:015, et seq.

Appellant M.R.D., through his parents and nextfriends, K.D. and K.D., appeal from a ruling finding that the child was offered a Free Appropriate Public Education, (FAPE), by the Fayette County Board of Education, (Fayette County), as required by law. Appellant M.R.D. is a handicapped child in the areas of speech, language, socialization and organization. As an initial matter, Appellee Fayette County Board of Education asserts that M.R.D.’s brief fails to address the issue raised on the Civil Appeal Pre-Hearing Statement. We find this assertion to be in error, and hold that the brief filed by Appellant sufficiently addresses the issues to be raised on appeal.

Appellants requested an administrative due process hearing in July, 1999, to address deficiencies in the proposed Individual Education Plan, (IEP), drawn up by Fayette County to meet M.R.D.’s needs. The Administrative Determination denied Appellants’ request for compensatory education or tuition reimbursement, but did order that the Fayette County Board of Education provide M.R.D. with three years of occupational therapy. On administrative appeal to the Exceptional Children Appeals Board, the Administrative Determination was affirmed. The Fayette Circuit Court in turn affirmed the Board’s ruling. This appeal is from that decision. Read more

Harden v. Kentucky High School Athletic Association, NO. 2002-CA-000035-MR

Joseph Harden was in the tenth grade and attended Lexington Catholic High School in the fall of 2000. He played basketball that school year while enrolled at Lexington Catholic. On January 16, 2001, Joseph was diagnosed with Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Inattentive type. Thereafter, on January 25, 2001, Joseph transferred to Henry Clay High School where special education was available for children with ADHD. On February 28, 2001, the Commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletics Association (KHSAA) found Joseph ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletics for one year from the date of transfer from Lexington Catholic to Henry Clay, pursuant to KHSAA Bylaw 6, Section 1. Harden appealed the Commissioner’s decision to a hearing officer. At a hearing on April 16, 2001, the hearing officer recommended overruling the Commissioner’s determination and finding Joseph immediately eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics at Henry Clay. The matter was then referred to KHSAA’s Board of Control, which reversed the recommendation of the hearing officer. On May 25, 2001, the Board of Control concluded that Joseph was ineligible to play for one year from the date of transfer pursuant to the applicable KHSAA Bylaw. Read more

Meers and Rogers v. Medley, Flynn, Comer, and Mooneyhan, NO. 2003-CA-001003-MR and NO. 2003-CA-001008-MR

Meers and Rogers were students at Shelby County High School. Both suffer from severe disabilities and were placed into the special education program at the high school. On February 7, 2002, Meers and Rogers filed complaints in the Shelby Circuit Court, alleging that their teacher, Debbie Medley, physically and mentally abused them. Specifically, it was further alleged that both Meers and Rogers were “berated, harassed, embarrassed, abused physically and mentally by Medley.” Meers and Rogers also claimed that Jim Flynn (Principal of Shelby County High School), Mary Comer (Special Education Coordinator), and Leon Mooneyhan (Superintendent)(collectively referred to as appellees) “acted negligently, recklessly and/or grossly negligently” by failing to remove Medley as a teacher, by failing to monitor Medley, by failing to act on complaints about Medley, and by failing to enforce school policies. Each defendant/appellee was named in his/her individual capacity only.

Meers and Rogers claimed relief under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 (West 2003 & Supp. 2004), Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 344 (the Civil Rights Act), the torts of intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, negligence, and defamation. There are no claims asserted in the complaints under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (20 U.S.C.A. § 1400-1491o (West 2003 & Supp. 2004). Appellees filed motions to dismiss in each case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (Ky. R. Civ. P. (CR) 12.02), claiming Meers and Rogers failed to exhaust administrative remedies as required by the IDEA. The court dismissed the actions.

In dismissing Meers’ and Rogers’ actions, the circuit court merely stated “[u]pon motion being made, and the Court being sufficiently advised, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this action be DISMISSED with prejudice.” No grounds are stated for dismissal nor can we determine what part of the record, if any, was considered by the court in this ruling. Read more

Fayette County Board of Education v. M.R.D., 2003-SC-0448-DG

M.R .D . was formally diagnosed with a learning disability in 1993, during his fourth grade year in Fayette County Schools, and determined eligible for special education services . Consequently, an individualized educational plan (IEP) was developed to address M.R.D.'s educational needs for his fifth grade year. Over the next four academic years - that is, M .R.D .'s fifth through eighth grade years - M.R.D.'s IEP was annually revised . For some years M .R.D . was educated in the regular education classroom with supplemental services provided . Other years he was pulled out of the regular education classroom to receive additional help in the school's resource room. For at least one year, M.R.D. was in the resource room full-time . The record reflects that M.R .D .'s parents were conscientious in their involvement in his education, and regularly requested and attended meetings with his teachers. The evidence also reveals that the school conducted annual reviews of both M.R.D .'s progress and his IEP as required by law. Finally, it should be noted that M.R.D.'s parents obtained extensive outside assistance for their son during these years in the form of private tutoring,speech therapy, and summer educational programs. Though an IEP had been developed at the end of M.R.D.'s eighth grade year for the following school year, his parents decided instead to enroll M .R.D . in the GOW School, a private, residential education facility in New York. M .R.D.'s parents did not seek the FCBE's approval for this placement. However, during his ninth grade year at the GOW School, M.R.D .'s parents consented to a re-evaluation for special education services in the hopes that he might return to Henry Clay High School in Fayette County. The FCBE sent a speech and language therapist to the GOW School to gather data, and several meetings of the Admissions and Release Committee were held to develop a revised IEP. The FCBE specifically rejected the GOW School as the appropriate placement for M.R.D. M.R.D.'s parents, however, were not satisfied with the results of these meetings, and determined that the GOW School was the proper placement for M.R.D. He remained enrolled in the GOW School for the remainder of his high school years. Read more

A.R. v.Fayette County Board of Education, NO. 2004-CA-002377-ME

A.R. was born on August 30, 1987, and was a minor at the time she filed this suit.4 On August 27, 1991, A.R. was identified by at an Admissions and Release Committee (ARC)meeting to be a student with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act(IDEA). In 2000 A.R. was a student at Tates Creek Middle School in Fayette County and in the special education program. Michael Brady was A.R.’steacher, case manager, and in charge of supervising her at thetime the alleged incident that is central to this case occurred. After the assault incident, school personnel refused to transfer the offending student to another school so that A.R. might avoid contact with the offender. Subsequently, A.R. and the offending student were actually placed in one class together. Further, instead of limiting the offending student’s extracurricular activities, the school advised A.R.’s parents that A.R. should not attend after-school activities, where the offender might possibly be present. Read More

Pennington and Pennington v. Greenup County Board of Education and Kelly, NO. 2006-CA-001942-MR

Andrew Rice has a primary diagnosis of mental retardation, functioning in the profound range. He attended special education classes at Greenup County High School, where Tracey Kelley was his teacher. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) was designed for Andrew, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C.§ 1400 et seq. In accordance with 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d), Andrew's IEP required that he be given the opportunity to take part in community activity programs. One such program included the community outing to the Spare Time Recreation Center in Ironton, Ohio, during which Andrew was injured. There was a roller rink at the recreation center. Andrew was fitted with a pair of roller skates, and the wheels of the skates were locked to prevent them from rolling. “Peer tutors” were assigned to supervise and assist Andrew while he was on the skates. An adult, who was along to assist in supervising the class on the outing, was on the skating rink floor taking photographs of the students. She approached Andrew and his peer tutors and started to take their picture. Andrew fell when he leaned over and tried to kiss one of the other students on the cheek as the picture was being taken. Ms. Kelley was told that Andrew had fallen and went to see about him. When she arrived Andrew was sitting on the floor with his legs straight out in front of him. He told Ms. Kelley that his ankle hurt. Andrew was helped off the floor, and Ms. Kelley removed his skate and sock and looked at the ankle, but couldn't see any obvious indication of an injury. Ms. Kelley contacted Andrew's mother and told her about the incident and asked what she wanted to do. When she was told that the class was going to a steakhouse in Ashland for lunch, Andrew's mother told Ms. Kelley that she would meet them there. Ms. Pennington then took Andrew to be examined by a physician and discovered that his ankle was broken. As a result, this action was filed against the Greenup County Board of Education and Ms. Kelley.Following discovery, the Board of Education and Ms. Kelley filed summary judgment motions based on governmental immunity from suit. The Greenup Circuit Court granted the motions on behalf of both defendants, holding that the Board of Education is immune from suit due to governmental immunity and that Ms. Kelley is immune due to qualified official immunity. The Penningtons filed motions to alter,amend or vacate the judgment pursuant to Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure (CR) 59.05 and requesting that the court make a factual finding, pursuant to CR 52,indicating whether Tracey Kelley was acting in a discretionary or ministerial capacity at the time Andrew was injured. The CR 59.05 motion was denied, but the court granted the CR 52 motion and entered a brief order specifically finding that Ms. Kelley's “act . . .in putting Andrew Rice on roller skates was solely discretionary on her part.” The Penningtons then appealed the portion of the judgment dismissing their claim against Tracey Kelley. Read more

D.F v. Codell, 2001-SC-0718-DG

KRS 159 .051 provides that when a 16 or 17 year old student drops out of school or is declared to be academically deficient, the school principal "shall notify the superintendent" who "shall report the student's name and Social Security number to the Transportation Cabinet." The Transportation Cabinet shall then revoke or deny the student's operator's license, permit, or privilege to operate a motor vehicle.Revocation or denial of driving privileges only applies to students who attend school or reside in school districts which "operate an alternative education programapproved by the Department of Education designed to meet the learning needs of students who are unable to succeed in the regular program." KRS 159.051 . In other words, the "no pass-no drive" law only affects students in school districts that have implemented alternative education programs . Students in school districts that do not have alternative education programs will not lose their driver's licenses if they drop out of school or are declared academically deficient. The original plaintiff was a minor, M.F., who attended Calloway County High School ("CCHS") in Western Kentucky. CCHS has an alternative education program. M .F ., however, who has a learning disability, was enrolled in CCHS's regular academic program, rather than the alternative education program . M.F., despite her best efforts, was declared academically deficient and, as a result, lost her driver's license. During the course of litigation, the trial court certified the case as a class action. The class consists of all students who are currently affected by KRS 159 .05 and all students who will or may be affected by the statute in the future. Read more

See Also