My child did not get the educational help they needed. Can I sue for damages?

|March 23, 2023 | Firm News

It depends. According to the new decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, you can file for damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (or other applicable federal law) if the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does not provide a remedy for your claim.

Miguel Luna Perez was a student who attended Michigan’s Sturgis Public School District between the ages of 9 and 20. Miguel and his family moved from Mexico to Sturgis, Michigan. Miguel is deaf, and his parents do not speak English. The school provided “interpreters” for Miguel, but they were not certified in American Sign Language or Spanish speaking. Sometimes, Miguel’s aids would be missing from the classroom for hours on end. The school district inflated Miguel’s grades and purported that he was progressing in school when in fact, he was not.

Based on his non-progress, an administrative complaint was filed, and a settlement was reached between the school and Miguel’s parents. When Miguel was of age to graduate, the school refused to permit him to do so. At that point, Miguel filed a complaint seeking compensatory damages under the ADA because the IDEA does not provide for compensatory damages.

The District Court dismissed his complaint indicating he needed to exhaust all remedies under the IDEA. Miguel appealed to the Sixth Circuit, who upheld the District Court’s decision for the same reason. Miguel appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, who took up the matter, and reversed the decision of the Sixth Circuit. In the opinion, the Court indicated that because the IDEA does not allow for compensatory damages, Miguel was able to file under another applicable law, in this case the ADA, to seek this remedy from the school district. The Court remanded to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with their decision.

What does this mean for you and your student?

At Purdy Law Office, we prefer a collaborative approach to obtaining services for your child because we want a swift response to whatever concerns you are having. Sometimes, negotiations and relationships break down between the parents and the schools, and litigation is necessary.

Based on the Court’s decision, if a remedy is provided by the IDEA, then you must file an administrative complaint. If the remedy is not provided by the IDEA, such as compensatory damages as in Miguel’s situation, you can file the complaint based on ADA law (or other applicable federal law) without first exhausting the remedies under the IDEA.

While we feel that best solution is to have our Education Advocate at Purdy Law Office be involved as early as possible in your child’s education, so there is not a need to litigate issues for years while your child remains in their current stagnant situation, we understand that not every issue can be resolved without court intervention.  Either way, we are here to help resolve your student’s education issues in the way that makes the most sense for you and your student.

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