Perez v. Sturgis and its Implication for Parents of Special Education Students

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The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools that a student with a disability can sue a school district for damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) without first exhausting administrative remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The case involved a deaf student who alleged that his school district failed to provide him with a qualified sign language interpreter for 12 years. As a result, he did not receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) and could not graduate from high school.

Miguel Luna Perez, was born deaf. Perez attended Sturgis Public Schools in Michigan from kindergarten through high school. During that time, the school district provided Perez with a variety of accommodations, including a classroom aide, a notetaker, and an FM system. However, the school district never provided Perez with a qualified sign language interpreter.

As a result of the school district’s failure to provide him with an interpreter, Perez struggled academically. He was placed in special education classes and received lower grades than his peers. He also experienced social isolation and anxiety.

When Perez graduated from high school, he was not able to read or write in sign language. He was also unable to hold a job nor communicate effectively with his family and friends.

Perez filed a lawsuit against the school district under the ADA, alleging that the district had discriminated against him by failing to provide him with a qualified sign language interpreter. The school district argued that Perez should have exhausted his administrative remedies under the IDEA before filing his lawsuit.

The IDEA requires parents of students with disabilities to go through a series of administrative steps before filing a lawsuit. These steps include filing a complaint with the school district, requesting a hearing, and appealing the hearing decision to the state education agency.

The Supreme Court rejected the school district’s argument, holding that Perez did not have to exhaust his administrative remedies under the IDEA before filing his lawsuit under the ADA. The Court found that the ADA’s remedies are not available through the IDEA’s administrative process.

The Court’s decision is a victory for parents of students with disabilities, who have long argued that the IDEA’s exhaustion requirement is unfair and puts them at a disadvantage. The requirement forces parents to go through a lengthy and often frustrating administrative process before they can file a lawsuit in federal court. This can take years, and by the time the case reaches court, the child may have already missed out on critical educational opportunities.

The Court’s decision in Perez will make it easier for parents to hold school districts accountable for failing to provide their children with a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). It will also give parents more options if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the administrative process.

The Court’s decision is also a victory for students with disabilities, who will now have a greater chance of receiving the services they need to succeed in school. The IDEA is a vital law that ensures that students with disabilities have access to quality education. However, the law’s exhaustion requirement has made it difficult for students to obtain the services they need. The Court’s decision in Perez will help to ensure that all students with disabilities have the opportunity to receive FAPE.

Under the IDEA, parents have the right to due process if they disagree with a school district’s decision about their child’s education. This means that they can request a hearing before an independent hearing officer. If the hearing officer finds that the school district has not provided FAPE, the school district must either provide the requested services or pay for the student to attend a private school.

However, the IDEA does not allow parents to sue for compensatory damages. This means that parents who believe their child’s school district has not provided FAPE cannot recover monetary damages for things like the emotional distress their child has suffered. It is also a warning to school districts that they must take their obligations under the ADA seriously. School districts that fail to provide FAPE to students with disabilities could now be held liable for large sums of money in damages.

The Court’s decision is likely to have a significant impact on special education law and practice. It is unclear how the decision will be applied in future cases, but it is likely to open the door to more lawsuits by parents of students with disabilities. The decision is also likely to lead to changes in the way that school districts provide services to students with disabilities.

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