Thursday, April 27, 2017

How One Circuit Court Applied Fry #exhaustion #scotus #seclusion #restraints

One Circuit has applied the new rule regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies for special education cases announced by the Supreme Court in Fry v Napoleon Community Schs 69 IDELR 116, 137 S.Ct. 742, 580 U.S. _____ (2/22/17)  You can read our previous posts about the Supreme Court decision here, here and here.

The Eighth Circuit in JM by McCauley v Francis Howell Sch Dist, No 16-1756, 69 IDELR 146 (8th Cir 3/7/17) affirmed the district court decision dismissing the parent's ADA/§504/§1983 claims because the parent did not first exhaust administrative remedies. The parent contended that the district violated IDEA and the other statutes and constitutional provisions by placing the student repeatedly in seclusion and by improperly using restraints. The parent later amended her complaint to remove the IDEA and state common law claims.

The Eighth Circuit stated:
"The IDEA’s exhaustion requirement also applies to claims under the Constitution, the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and other federal laws protecting children with disabilities to the extent those claims seek relief “that is also available under [the IDEA].” 20 U.S.C. § 1415(l); Fry v. Napoleon Cmty. School, No. 15-497, 2017 WL 685533, at *8 (U.S. Feb. 22, 2017)...After argument in this case, the Supreme Court held that “‘relief that is also available’ under the IDEA” means “relief for the denial of a FAPE, because that is the only ‘relief’ the IDEA makes ‘available.’” Fry, 2017 WL 685533, at *8. Thus, “exhaustion is not necessary when the gravamen of the plaintiff’s suit is something other than the denial of the IDEA’s core guarantee—what the Act calls a ‘free appropriate public education.’” Id., at *3, quoting § 1412(a)(1)(A)." 

In analyzing whether the parent's complaint concerned FAPE, the Eighth Circuit reasoned as follows: "Considering “substance, not surface,” the district court did not err in finding the complaint seeks relief for denial of a FAPE under the IDEA. Id., at *11. The second amended complaint states, “At all times mentioned above, [J.M.] was entitled to the educational services and protections available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975” and “at all times[J.M. was] entitled to reasonable accommodations” for his disabilities. It alleges that “[b]etween February 2014 and September 5, 2014, J.M. was placed in physical restraints for half of the time he actually spent at Defendant’s schools.” It further states that J.M. was “denied . . . because of his disability, participation in and the benefits of a public education.” These allegations show that the complaint was based on the “denial of a FAPE” under the IDEA. See id., at *13 (determining the Fry’s complaint “alleges only disability based discrimination” and “contains no allegation . . accus[ing] the school even in general terms of refusing to provide the educational instruction and services that E.F. needs”)... The complaint here is not based on disability discrimination. Except for Count IV (the MHRA claim), the complaint does not use the word “discrimination.” Rather, the complaint is based on how the use of isolation and physical restraints failed to provide proper “sufficient ‘supportive services’ to permit [J.M.] to benefit from . . . instruction,” id., at *4, and ultimately “denied [J.M.] . . . the benefits of public education.” Finally, although McCauley did not “invoke[] the IDEA’s formal procedures to handle the dispute,” “the history of the -6- proceedings,” including her initial complaint and first amended complaint contained claims under the IDEA, which is “[a] further sign that the gravamen of [the] suit is the denial of a FAPE.” See id., at *13." (emphasis added).

After concluding that no exception to the exhaustion requirement was applicable, the Eighth Circuit dismissed the claim.

You can read the entire Eighth Circuit decision here.

So what do you think of this ruling?

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