Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Other Supreme Court Case: Service Dogs, Exhaustion and IDEA #ServiceDog #exhaustion

Last week we discussed the pending supreme court case involving the standard for FAPE and the question of meaningful vs some educational benefit. You can read the post here.

There is one other special ed case pending before the Supremes. Fry v Napoleon Community Schs No. 15-497.  It is a service dog case, an issue mentioned many times in this blog. (the dog is named "Wonder.") Unfortunately, however, the issue before the court has very little to do with service dogs and the rights of kids with disabilities to have service dogs in school. Instead the issue is the more legalistic one of exhaustion of administrative remedies. 

The parent brought the case under §504 and ADA. The District Court dismissed the complaint because the parents had not exhausted administrative remedies by first having an IDEA hearing. The Sixth Circuit affirmed by a 2-1 vote. The Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General to file a brief giving the opinion of the United States. The Solicitor General filed a brief agreeing with the parents. You can read the Solicitor General's brief here. Here is the case page for this case on the SCOTUS blog.

Readers of this blog know that the Supreme Court reviews only a small number of the cases filed with it, so it is possible that neither of the two pending cases will result in a decision. Also complicating the matter is the fact that Justice Scalia still has not been replaced because of the failure of the  Congress to act, so even if they accept the case, another 4-4 non-decision may result. ( A 4-4 tie affirms the lower court decision without a precedential decision by the high court.)

But there are only ten U S Supreme Court decisions in special ed law so the possibility of another one, or two, is something to watch.

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