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Student Project: Individualized Education Programs: Case Law

This guide provides a collection of freely available web resources (as well as resources available through Westlaw and Lexis) that cover various areas of Individualized Education Programs, including eligibility and evaluation, the program creation process

Board of Ed. of Hendrick Hudson Central School Dist. v. Rowley (1982)

Rowley defined FAPE and is the first special ed. case decided by the Supreme Court.

Facts: "Furnace Woods School refused to provide deaf student Amy Rowley with a sign language interpreter... Amy’s parents sued the school on her behalf for violation of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (later became the IDEA). The Act requires all schools that accept federal funds to provide [FAPE] to all handicapped students."

Issue: "What does [FAPE] require in the context of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975?"

Holding: [The] Act does not require a school to provide a sign language interpreter to a deaf student when she is otherwise receiving personalized instruction and an adequate education."

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (2017)

Endrew F. rejects the “de minimis” standard for academic progess.

Facts: "Endrew, a child with autism, attended public school. Endrew’s parents rejected the 5th grade IEP proposed by the Douglas County School District. Endrew’s parents believed the proposed IEP was the same as the previous IEPs under which their child’s academic and functional progress had stalled. Endrew’s parents withdrew him from public school and placed him in a private school. Endrew’s parents were unable to obtain tuition reimbursement for the cost of the private school."

Issue: "Endrew F. clarified the substantive standard for determining whether a child’s IEP – the centerpiece of each child’s entitlement to FAPE under the IDEA – is sufficient to confer educational benefit on a child with a disability."

Holding: "The Court held that to meet its obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances."

Schaffer ex rel. Schaffer v. Weist (2005)

Weast established the burden of proof in a due process hearing challenging an IEP is on the party seeking relief. 

Facts: "The parents of Brian Schaffer, a disabled child, sued their public school district under the IDEA. Schaffer's parents claimed the EP that the school system devised for their son was inadequate.  Because IDEA was silent on whether the parents or the school system bear the burden of proof, the Fourth Circuit held, the general rule that the party initiating the suit bears that burden should be applied.

Issue: Whether the parents or school bears the burden of proof in disputes over a child's IEP.

Holding:"The Supreme Court held that the party bringing the suit bears the burden of proof, whether that party is the parents or the school system."

Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools (2017)

Fry held that a student or family suing a school district over a disability-related issue does not always have to "exhaust" all the procedures under the IDEA before going to court.

Facts: "The Frys’ daughter, E.F., was born with cerebral palsy and was prescribed a service dog to assist with everyday tasks. Her school provided her with a human aide in her IEP and did not allow her to bring her service dog to school."

Issue: Whether the IDEA's requirement that plaintiffs exhaust administrative remedies before suing under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act apply to plaintiffs seeking damages, which are not available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Holding: "IDEA does not require that a plaintiff exhaust administrative remedies before suing under the ADA if the plaintiff’s claims are not based in, and seeking relief for, the denial of FAPE... If a lawsuit is not seeking relief for the denial of FAPE, then it is not seeking an available remedy under the IDEA, and the exhaustion requirement does not apply.