Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Nov 28
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by Doug Goldberg

The list outlines the top ten Special Education Supreme Court Cases and a short description of each ruling.  To read the entire opinion click on the name of each case below:

1. Hendrick Hudson Board of Education. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982)

First Supreme Court case regarding special education set the standard for what is a “Free Appropriate Public Education”.   The ruling provided children with disabilities access to public schools that also provided a basic floor of opportunity.  Not the best education but one where the child has passing grades in classes and is advancing to higher grades.

2. Irving Independent School District. v. Tatro, 468 U.S. 883 (1984)

This landmark case defined the scope of related services and created the medical exception rule.  The District must provide all support services necessary unless a physician is needed to provide the service.

3. Burlington School Committee v. Massachusetts Department Of Education, 471 U.S. 359 (1985)

This decision gave parents the right to reimbursement of private school tuition in certain situations.  If the School District’s offer didn’t meet the definition of FAPE and the parent’s private school placement did give FAPE then they could get reimbursed.  The  parent’s who privately place their children and seek reimbursement do it at their own financial risk.  It also clarifies procedural safeguards, parent role and child's placement during disputes.

4. Honig v. Doe, 484U.S. 305 (1988)

It removed a school’s unilateral authority to suspend or expel a student with an IEP for more than 10 days unless there is evidence of weapons, drugs, or serious bodily injury.  The school must get a ruling from a hearing officer or court.  It also clarifies that schools shall not expel children for behaviors related to their disability.

5. Florence Co. School District Four v. Shannon Carter, 510 U.S. 7, (1993) 

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court found that as long as the parents meet the test for reimbursement established in Burlington parents have a right to reimbursement even if the private school is not a non-public school certified by the State.

6. Cedar Rapids v. Garret F., 526 U.S. 66 (1999)

The ruling once again looked at related services and decided cost is not a factor.  If it’s needed to attend school and doesn’t meet the medical exception test the School must provide it.

7. Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U. S. (2005)

The Supreme Court decided that the burden of proof in a Due Process Hearing is on the party who files.

8. Arlington Central School Distict v. Murphy, 548 U.S. (2006)

The Supreme Court decided that parents who win in a Due Process hearing are not entitled to recover expert witness fees having to do with the claims established in Due Process.

9. Winkelman v. Parma City School District 05-983 (2007)

The Supreme Court decided parents, although not licensed attorneys may pursue IDEA claims on their own behalf.  These rights are independent of their child’s rights.

10. Forest Grove School District v. T.A. (2009)

The Supreme Court decided that IDEA allows reimbursement for private special education services, even when the child did not previously receive special education services from the public school.


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2 Responses to “Top Ten Special Education Supreme Court Cases”

  1. Wow, number two was new to me – and the school argued that they do not teach a child to eat (my daughter is on a feeding tube – completely due to oral sensitivity that is part of her sensory issues. They got some exlainin’ to do!

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  2. Arlington v. Murphy is a horror for parents, and advocacy groups are fighting hard to overturn it (through Congressional override). It basically says that – despite history and practice to the contrary – even if parents win at due process, they cannot get the costs of expert witnesses (doctors, therapists, etc.) reimbursed. So parents lose even if they win, making it even harder for parents to pursue their children’s educational rights. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR FEDERAL LEGISLATORS (Senators and U.S. Representatives) and ask them to “pass the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act” – which would allow parents to get reimbursed for these fees if they win at hearing!

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