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Federal Supreme Court May Hear Special Education Case

We frequently write about the legal protections and opportunities afforded to students with special educational needs by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It is important to note however that certain provisions of IDEA remain controversial, even among parents of children who benefit from this important special education law.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court officially asked the Obama administration for its opinion on whether or not it should hear arguments in a case focused on a particular provision of IDEA. The provision is commonly referred to as the "stay put" provision. This provision essentially insists that students should remain in their current placements until legal and administrative proceedings concerning any disputed education plans have been completed.

The specific question in the case, which may or may not be heard by the Court, concerns when such proceedings may be considered "finalized." Are proceedings final when all court appeals have been tried and exhausted, or are proceedings final when a federal trial court rules on a dispute and issues a final judgment? The practical consequences of this question are significant for parents, students and public school districts alike.

Many students are required to stay in private school placements paid for by public school districts while a dispute is pending. Children and parents often want to be back in the public system before all appellate options are exhausted. Hopefully the Court will consider the case and concretely answer this question so that all concerned parties know what to expect when a dispute begins.

Source: Education Week, "Supreme Court Seeks U.S. Views in Special Education Case," Mark Walsh, Oct. 6, 2014

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