A Dose of Education Law: Supreme Court Rules Disabled Students May Sue Under ADA After Settling with School District
As you may know, I represent students in education matters (as well as educators in some employment matters.) I help elementary and secondary students with everything from attaining special education services, accommodations, and payment for private schools when public schools aren’t serving students’ needs, provide bullying help to victims, and I defend disciplinary matters such as expulsions. For post-secondary (including graduate) students, I defend Title IX complaints, appeal disciplinary actions and school or program dismissals, and enforce my clients’ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rights to accommodations (enforceable in every post-secondary program that accepts federal student loan money or federal grants). So I am, of course, interested in a recent Supreme Court case on an ADA action brought by a deaf student.
Students and parents must proceed with an administrative process before seeking court relief in special education cases for failure to provide a free appropriate education under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Money damages are not available under the IDEA; courts may order school districts to pay for tutoring or private education as a remedy for failure to provide a proper education, however. The question arose whether, if a special education student settled a complaint against a school district for violating their ADA rights, they may sue in court for monetary damages without going through the administrative process regarding the ADA claim.
Mr. Perez, a deaf man, alleges that the district provided him with aids who didn’t know sign language to translate for him and misled the family about the amount of progress he made.
The unanimous Court allowed the case under the ADA for money damages to move forward even after Mr. Perez had received a settlement for his violation of IDEA claims.
This decision is a game changer, as many students with disabilities will have a threat of an ADA claim hanging over the school district in addition to the threat of an administrative hearing under IDEA. In fact, Justice Gorsuch wrote that the case “holds consequences not just for Mr. Perez but for a great many children with disabilities and their parents.” The case is Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, et al., No. 21-887, U.S. (2023).
Many parents and students don’t know the extent of their rights under the ADA nor the IDEA and don’t know where to get assistance. Education specialists give legal guidance and help students navigate the process of attaining relief for students who were denied education via legal violations. Reach out if you have questions.
ABOUT KATHERINE WITHERSPOON FRY
For over 25 years, Katherine has provided her clients with robust representation in matters of employment and related business law. Katherine represents and counsels employers and executives in all facets of the employment relationship, including hiring, termination, discrimination, non-competition, Fair Labor Standards Act matters, issues regarding Family and Medical Leave and other leaves, whistleblowers’ complaints, and regulatory matters. As a litigator, she is well aware of the nuances of law necessary to draft effective restrictive covenants, severance agreements, and employment contracts. Along with her over 250 colleagues, she represents companies and non-profit organizations of all sizes. She has defended companies under investigation by both U.S. and state Departments of Labor and handled multiple matters before the EEOC.