Friday, December 7, 2007

What Should the Supreme Court Decide Next?

The United States Supreme Court has issued only ten decisions on special education law, including the inconclusive Tom F 4-4 tie. Since the seminal Rowley decision which defined FAPE, and Honig which spelled out stay put and Burlington which established reimbursement for unilateral placements as a remedy for denial of FAPE, some have criticized the Court for tackling tangential issues. Especially lately, the Court has seemed to be nibbling at the edges of the body of special education law. Recent issues have included the burden of persuasion (which only applies in ties); the payment of experts; whether parents without lawyers can represent children with disabilities in federal court; and whether parents of students who never attended public school but who were denied FAPE can seek reimbursement. Moreover, there are two decisions affirming unilateral placements and two decisions interpreting the medical exception to related services.

I am aware that the Court is limited to what is in front of it and cannot literally choose the issues it wants to decide, but I seriously think they are selecting the easier cases. Wouldn't it be nice to get guidance about LRE or the relationship between the seemingly contradictory NCLB and IDEA? How about bullying of kids with disabilities, liability of school officials, or predetermination of IEPs? Maybe resolution on the Tom F issue, or the role of public school teachers and funds in private school special ed? How about the many quirks of IDEA'04 like my favorite the resolution session, or the methodology issues sure to be spawned by the new requirement of "peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable." I haven't even gotten to the new Response to Intervention methods for measuring specific learning disabilities.

Well here's your chance to forecast what the Supreme Court should decide next. We have created a new poll that lets you vote on what hot special education issue you would like to see the high court tackle. The poll is on the left side of this blog. As always, this is not a scientific poll. There is no random selection, indeed only readers of this blog have the right to vote. The margin of error approaches infinity! Nonetheless, I feel that we have the right to vote for what we would like to see. So be sure to vote, and if the Court continues to get into the special education business, we will later compare our forecasts to the actual case selections.

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