Our 100th Blog Entry
Thanks to those who follow the blog and have reached out with their feedback. This marks the firm's 100th blog entry and we go straight to D.H. v. Lowndes County School District, a September 9, 2011 decision from a Georgia federal district court...
How strictly does a court construe procedural requirements against a parent pursuing an IDEA claim against a school district? Well, in D.H., the court construed some procedural requirements loosely and in favor of the parent. One issue related to the timing of filing a complaint. If a student has moved out of one school district and into a new one, could the parents still bring the claim if the student is no longer attending school in the district the parents are suing? Surprisingly, some courts have held that parents would be barred in this type of situation. This makes little sense since from a "notice" standpoint because the IDEA has a 10-day notice requirement which contemplates that parents will file for an impartial hearing after the child has already enrolled in a private school. The Georgia court ruled on the issue in favor of the parents and explained as follows:
"IDEA is remedial in nature. Disabled students are guaranteed an appropriate public school education, and if a school fails to provide this education, IDEA enables these students to be compensated for the lack of educational opportunities. The opportunity to recover for a school district's violations should not be limited to the time when the student is enrolled in the school district."
The court also considered whether failing to file a complaint before the child leaves the district constitutes a "failure to exhaust administrative remedies." The court stated:
"In this case, Plaintiffs allegedly attempted contact the District numerous times to schedule an IEP meeting pursuant to IDEA procedures. The frustration of repeated failed attempts to contact the District eventually intensified to such a degree that Plaintiffs felt compelled take immediate action and move D.H. to a new school. While the exact reason behind Plaintiffs' failure to file a due process complaint before transferring D.H. is unclear, what is clear is that if Plaintiffs allegations against the District are true, the District should not be rewarded for its avoidance techniques and its failure to respond to Plaintiffs' concerns."
The main point, the court said, is that the exhaustion requirement is not meant to be applied absolutely where doing so would lead to an unjust result and it is important to remember that the purpose of the IDEA is to compensate students who have received an inadequate education.