Important Special Education Cases

Interested in reading special education cases? Here is a timeline of some of the more important cases.
Think back to your high school civics class. We have three branches of federal government.The Legislative Branch known as Congress (Senate and House of Representatives). The US Congress passed IDEA 2004. Then there is the Executive Branch. That’s the President and the 5 million people who work for him/her. In the Executive Branch, we find the US Department of Education. They must enforce the law that Congress passed. The also promulgate regulations that are consistent with the law.  The third branch is the Judicial Branch. It includes the US Supreme Court that has 9 Justices. They interpret laws according to the Constitution. The federal judicial system also has lower courts located in each state to hear cases involving federal issues. These special education cases have been decided by courts, based on the law that Congress passed.

Special Education Legal Cases

Cases decided in the US Supreme Court:

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954): Although this case was not specifically focused on special education, it set the stage for future legal battles by striking down the “separate but equal” doctrine in public education.

Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982): This case established that schools must provide a “basic floor of opportunity” to students with disabilities, but that they are not required to maximize a student’s potential. Case was clarified by Endrew F in 2017. Endrew F clarified the standard for determining FAPE and educational benefit.

Irving Independent School District v. Amber Tatro, 468 U.S. 883 (1984): This case established that schools must provide medical services that are necessary for a student with a disability to attend school, even if those services are considered medical in nature. Court’s first attempt to define the distinction between “school health services” and “medical services.” Related services include health services that do not require a licensed physician.

Burlington School Committee v. Mass Board of Education, 471 U.S. 359 (1985): The parents of a child with a learning disability sought reimbursement for the cost of private school tuition, arguing that the school district had failed to provide the child with a FAPE. The Supreme Court held that the school district had indeed failed to provide a FAPE, and ordered the district to reimburse the parents for the cost of the private school tuition. Additionally, the Court held that the school district must provide compensatory education to the child to make up for the educational services that were denied in the past. The Court noted that compensatory education is a remedy available under the IDEA to address the denial of a FAPE, and that it is intended to ensure that students with disabilities receive the educational services they need to make meaningful progress. Parents cannot be forced to waive their right to reimbursement if they place their child in an alternative school from the one recommended in the IEP. Parents who unilaterally change their child’s placement do so at their own financial risk, but they may be reimbursed if the placement is deemed to be an appropriate available option.

Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305 (1988): The “stay-put” provision of the Education of the Handicapped Act prohibited state or local school authorities from excluding disabled children from the classroom even for dangerous or disruptive conduct resulting from their disabilities.

Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter, 510 U.S. 7 (1993): the parents of a child with a learning disability enrolled her in a private school after becoming dissatisfied with the special education services provided by the public school district. The parents then sought reimbursement for the cost of the private school tuition from the school district, arguing that the district had failed to provide the child with a FAPE. The Supreme Court held that the school district was liable for the cost of the private school tuition, since the district had failed to provide the child with a FAPE. The Court noted that under the IDEA, parents have the right to seek reimbursement for private school tuition if the school district fails to provide a FAPE and the private school placement is appropriate to meet the child’s needs.

Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District 509 U.S. 1 (1993):  The Establishment Clause does not prevent respondent from furnishing a disabled child enrolled in a sectarian school with a signlanguage interpreter in order to facilitate his education. Government programs that neutrally provide benefits to a broad class of citizens defined without reference to religion are not readily subject to an Establishment Clause challenge just because sectarian institutions may also receive an attenuated financial benefit.

Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F., 526 U.S. 66 (1999): This case held that schools must provide services, such as nursing care, that are necessary for a student with a disability to attend school.

Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001): A prevailing party that is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees and costs must be a party that has received a judgment on the merits or a court-ordered consent decree.

Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49 (2005): This case established that in IDEA cases, the party challenging a school’s decision has the burden of proof.

Arlington Cent. School Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Murphy, 548 U.S. 291 (2006): IDEA does not authorize the payment of the expert witnesses’ fees of the prevailing parents. This case held that parents can recover attorneys’ fees in IDEA cases only if they are “prevailing parties.” Arlington effectively eliminated special education advocate fees.

Board of Ed. of City School Dist. of New York v. Tom F., 552 U.S. 1 (2007): This case affirmed that students with disabilities have a right to a FAPE and that parents can seek reimbursement for private school tuition if a public school fails to provide an appropriate education.

Winkelman v. Parma City School Dist., 550 U.S. 516 (2007): In a lawsuit under IDEA, a non-lawyer parent of a disabled child can argue in federal court either on his own behalf (“pro se”) and on behalf of his child.

Safford Unified School Dist. #1 v. Redding, 557 U.S. 364 (2009): The Supreme Court held that 13-year-old Savanna’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when school officials searched her underwear for non-prescription painkillers.

Forest Grove School District v. T. A., 557 U.S. 230 (2009): Held that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act did not categorically bar reimbursement of private education tuition if a child had not previously received special education and related services through the school. You do NOT have to try the public school before you get reimbursed for private school.

Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 580 U.S. ___ (2017): This case clarified the scope of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and held that parents can pursue claims against schools for discrimination under other laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE–1, 580 U.S. ___ (2017): In this case, the parents of a student with autism challenged the adequacy of their son’s individualized education program (IEP) developed by the public school district. This case clarifies the standards under the IDEA for determining whether a student has received a FAPE. It emphasizes the importance of the IEP and the requirement that schools provide students with disabilities with an education that is reasonably calculated to enable them to make progress appropriate in light of their unique needs. See the Endrew F. Worksheet here by

Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, 598 U.S. ___ (2023): The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s requirement of exhaustion of administrative remedies does not apply to a suit seeking compensatory damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thanks to the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc  for their Brief amici curiae in this case and dozens more.  COPAA’s mission is to protect and enforce the legal and civil rights of students with disabilities and their families. Our primary goal is to secure high quality educational services and to promote excellence in advocacy.

1st Circuit:

Timothy W. v. Rochester, New Hampshire, School District, 875 F.2d 954 (1st Cir. 1989): School boards are required to provide special-education services to any student regardless of the severity of his or her disabilities. Zero rejection – a core principal of IDEA, must be adhered to. Read here how Education Week reported on this. 

C.G. v. Five Town Community School District 513 F.3d 279 (1st Cir. 2008): Affirming district court’s upholding of hearing officer’s denial of parents’ reimbursement claim because “parents’ single-minded refusal to consider any placement other than” their preferred choice “disrupted the IEP process, stalling its consummation and preventing the development of a final IEP.”

2nd Circuit:

Armstrong v. Kline, 476 F. Supp. 583 (E.D. Pa. 1979) – US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:Students with disabilities may be entitled to extended school year. The 180 day rule deprives plaintiffs and the class they represent of an “appropriate education” and violates the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.

Bartlett v. New York Law Examiners, 156 F.3d 321 (2nd Cir. 1998):  ADA Requires Bar Examiners to Provide Accommodations for Applicant with Learning Disability.

T.P. & S.P. ex rel. S.P. v. Mamaroneck Union Free School District, 554 F.3d 247 (2d Cir. 2009): The initial procedural inquiry in an IDEA case “is no mere formality,” as “ ‘adequate compliance with the procedures prescribed would in most cases assure much if not all of what Congress wished in the way of substantive content in an IEP.’ In considering whether Mamaroneck satisfied the procedural requirements of the IDEA, “we focus on whether the parents had an adequate opportunity to participate in the development of the IEP.” IDEA regulations allow school districts to engage in “preparatory activities ․ to develop a proposal or response to a parent proposal that will be discussed at a later meeting” without affording the parents an opportunity to participate. A school district fulfills its substantive obligations under the IDEA if it provides an IEP that is likely to produce progress, not regression, and if the IEP affords the student with an opportunity greater than mere trivial advancement.” School districts are not required to “furnish every special service necessary to maximize each handicapped child’s potential.

M.H. v. New York City Department of Education, 712 F. Supp. 2d 125 (S.D.N.Y. 2010): The denial of an FBA did not amount to a denial of a FAPE where “the IEP sets forth the specific problematic behaviors in which [the child] engaged and concludes that those behaviors did not rise to the level of interfering with his learning.” The court found an IDEA violation where the IEP failed to include evaluative procedures for the majority of the objectives.

T.K. v. New York City Department of Education, 779 F. Supp. 2d 289, 270 Ed. Law Rep. 593 (E.D.N.Y. 2011):  FAPE denied when School refuses to discuss bullying. Attorney Gary Mayerson who represented the L.K. and her parents stated “The Second Circuit’s courageous decision affirming Judge Weinstein’s Judgment stands for the proposition that every student has the right to attend school free from physical or psychological abuse and every parent has the right to expect that when they communicate concerns about bullying, those concerns will be timely addressed and acted upon.”

T.M. v. Cornwall Cent. Sch. Dist., 752 F.3d 145 (2d Cir. 2014):  The court held that Congress’ “least restrictive environment” mandate applies to Extended School Year (ESY) placements and school districts must consider the “full continuum” of placements.

A.M. v. N.Y.C. Department of Education, No. 15-4076 (2d Cir. 2017): Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and her autistic son, filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., against the DOE, seeking tuition reimbursement and claiming procedural and substantive violations of the IDEA. The district court affirmed the denial of relief. The court concluded that there were no procedural violations of the IDEA. However, the court concluded that plaintiff’s son was denied a free and appropriate education (FAPE) because there were significant deficiencies rendering the individualized education program (IEP) inadequate.

3rd Circuit:

PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1971): A landmark case decided in 1971, established that children with intellectual disabilities had a constitutional right to a free and appropriate public education. The case found that the state’s failure to provide such education to children with intellectual disabilities violated their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1972): Following the PARC 1971 case, this subsequent case specifically addressed the rights of children with intellectual disabilities. This case resulted in a consent decree that required Pennsylvania to provide a free and appropriate public education to all children with intellectual disabilities in the state. The decree also established specific guidelines for identifying, evaluating, and educating children with intellectual disabilities, as well as providing for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of educational programs.

Oberti v. Clementon School District, 995 F.2d 1204 (1993): Oberti established inclusion with supplementary aids and services as the presumption because it is “a fundamental value of the right to public education for children with disabilities.” This case established that if placement outside the classroom is necessary, the school district must then include the child in as many school programs with children who do not have disabilities “to the maximum extent appropriate.”

S.H. v. State-Operated School District of the City of Newark 336 F.3d 260 (3d Cir. 2003): Central to this case is the appropriate standard of review a District Court should employ when reviewing state administrative proceedings under the Individuals with Disabilities Act. The Appellate Court held that the appropriate standard is modified de novo review.

Ridley School District v. M.R. and J.R. ex rel. E.R.” (2012): The case is the first circuit court case in which the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act requirement that special education services be based on peer-reviewed research (PRR) was at issue. Recommendations for teachers and administrators working to meet the PRR requirement when developing intervention plans for students with disabilities are discussed.

R. v. Ridley School District, No. 16-2465 (3d Cir. 2017): A fee award is available to parents who, after unsuccessfully challenging a school district’s proposed educational placement for their child, later obtain a court order requiring the district to reimburse them for the costs of the child’s “stay put” placement—the “then-current educational placement” in which the Act permitted the child to remain while administrative and judicial proceedings were pending.

William Penn School District et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Education et al. (2023): A landmark decision of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on funding for public education by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The Court ruled that the underfunding of rural and underprivileged school districts violated the Pennsylvania Constitution.

4th Circuit:

Reusch v. Fountain, (U.S. MD 1994): While this is an older case and it hails from Maryland, it is widely used by states as the standard for determining eligibility for ESY – including my state of Connecticut. The court listed six factors the IEP team should consider in deciding if the child is eligible for ESY:

  1. Regression and recoupment – is the child likely to lose critical skills or fail to recover these skills within in a reasonable time
  2. Degree of progress toward IEP goals and objectives
  3. Emerging skills/breakthrough opportunities – Will a lengthy summer break cause significant problems for a child who is learning a key skill, like reading
  4. Interfering Behavior – does the child’s behavior interfere with his or her ability to benefit from special education
  5. Nature and/or severity of disability
  6. Special circumstances that interfere with child’s ability to benefit from special education 

Baird v. Rose, 192 F.3D 462 (4th Cir. 1999): Teacher ridiculed Student to point of suicide. Baird brought this action on behalf of her daughter under the ADA and also intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

A.K., a minor by his Parents and Next Friends J.K. and E.S., v. Alexandria City School Bd. (4th Cir. 2007): “Here, we hold as a matter of law that because it failed to identify a particular school, the IEP was not reasonably calculated to enable A.K. to receive educational benefits..” “certainly in a case in which the parents express doubt concerning the existence of a particular school that can satisfactorily provide the level of services that the IEP describes, the IEP must identify such a school to offer a FAPE.”

HH v. Moffett & Chesterfield School Bd (4th 2009): This case concerns the treatment of a severely disabled little girl, whose special education teacher and assistant kept her restrained in her wheelchair for hours at a time during the school day, while they ignored her, verbally abused her, and schemed to deprive her of educational services. Court ruled that the teacher and assistant’s conduct violated student’s clearly established right to freedom from undue restraint under the Fourteenth Amendment, and they are not entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law.

Sumter County School District v Hefferman (2011):  The court held that the district’s failure to implement a significant portion of the student’s IEP amounted to a denial of FAPE. IEP called for 15 hrs. per week of ABA therapy but the school only provided 7.5 of those hours.

5th Circuit:

Daniel R.R. v. State Board of Education 874 F.2d 1036 (5th Cir. 1989): In Daniel R.R., the Fifth Circuit set out a two-pronged approach to determine whether a school district has offered to educate a child in the least restrictive environment. First, the court should consider “whether education in the regular classroom, with the use of supplemental aids and services, can be achieved satisfactorily for a given child,” and, if not, then “whether the school has mainstreamed the child to the maximum extent appropriate.” The court also put forth a non-exhaustive list of factors that may be considered in conjunction with the first prong of the test. First, the court should examine whether the state has taken steps to accommodate the handicapped child in regular education. Second, the court should examine whether the child will receive an educational benefit from regular education. Next, the court should examine the child’s overall educational experience in the mainstreamed environment, balancing the benefits of regular and special education for each individual child. Finally, the court should ask what effect the handicapped child’s presence has on the regular classroom environment and, thus, on the education that the other students are receiving.

6th Circuit:

Roncker, 700 F.2d 1058 (6th Cir. 1983): The Roncker approach holds that “[i]n a case where the segregated facility is considered superior, the court should determine whether the services which make that placement superior could be feasibly provided in a non-segregated setting. If they can, the placement in the segregated school would be inappropriate under the [IDEA].” Under this approach, there are three factors for determining when the mainstreaming requirement may be overcome: (1) whether the disabled student would benefit from inclusion from general education, (2) whether such benefits would be outweighed by benefits that are not provided in an inclusive setting, and (3) whether the disabled child disrupts the general education setting. See here how Education Week reported this case.

Burilovich v. Board of Education of Lincoln Consolidated Schools, 208 F.3d 560 (2000):  Holding that oral proposal by school district about what could be offered is not an IEP. Parents were not denied meaningful parental participation in the IEP process because they were not invited to two staff meetings.  Court rejected the contention that if a particular teaching method is preferred by the parents then an outside expert in that method must be a member of the IEP team. The district was not required to conduct a required comprehensive evaluation of the student before making a significant change in his placement.

Deal v. Hamilton County Department of Education, No. 1:01-cv-295 (E.D. Tenn. Apr. 3, 2006): District pays over 2 million in legal fees to lose this case due to fundamental IDEA violations. They pre-decided not to offer Zachary intensive ABA services regardless of any evidence concerning Zachary’s individual needs and the effectiveness of his private program. There was a policy not to offer 1:1 ABA. Predetermination amounted to a procedural violation of the IDEA as it denies the parents of meaningful participation in the IEP process, the predetermination caused substantive harm and therefore deprived Zachary of a FAPE.

A.C. v. Shelby County (711 F.3d 687 (6th Cir. 2013): 504 retaliation decision in which a principal filed false child abuse allegations against child’s parents soon after the parents made a request for classroom glucose testing for their daughter.

H. v. Memphis City Schools, No. 13-6323 (6th Cir. 2014): A parent of a student with a disability, filed a lawsuit against the Memphis City Schools district under Section 1983 for failing to protect her son from verbal, physical, and sexual abuse by his aides at school. The school district later entered into a settlement agreement with the parent, but then refused to honor the agreement. The Sixth Circuit held that Section 1983 claims do not require exhaustion under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and that the settlement agreement was enforceable in court. A settlement agreement written between school and parent, if not honored by school, is a breach of contract that is enforceable by the courts.

7th Circuit:

DOE v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF OAK PARK 115 F.3d 1273 (7th Cir. 1997): When a child’s misbehavior does not result from his handicapping condition, there is simply no justification for exempting him from the rules, including those regarding expulsion, applicable to other children.

8th Circuit:

Miener v. Missouri (800 F.2d 749 (8th Cir. 1986): Reversing denial of compensatory education for a child who spent three years in mental health ward of a state hospital after district failed to provide any educational services notwithstanding its own evaluation recommending such services.

Timothy H. v. Cedar Rapids Community School District 178 F.3d 968 (8th Cir. 1999): Concluding that the failure to accommodate a request for deviation from a facially neutral transportation policy for a disabled student did not violate the Rehabilitation Act because the request was based on the parents’ noneducational preferences.

Rogich v. Clark County School District, (Nevada, 2021): Parents claim the district discriminated against their daughter with dyslexia by repeatedly refusing to implement a widely-accepted learning method, Orton-Gillingham, into her individualized education program. See how the Nevada newspapers reported the story.

9th Circuit:

Diana vs State Board of Ed. (1970): An English-only speaking psychologist tested Spanish speakers in English and used this data to place students in special education classes. Assessments must be non-biased and given in student’s native language. Please note that the term MR is offensive and we now use the term ID (Intellectual Disability). See how Disability Rights California discusses the story.

Dept. of Educ., State of Haw. v. Katherine D, 727 F.2d 809 (9th Cir. 1983): “Congressional preference for educating handicapped children in classrooms with their peers is made unmistakably clear.” Please note that the term handicapped children is outdated and we now use the term child with a disability.

Larry P. v. Riles, 793 F.2d 969 (1984): Case filed in the Federal District in 1971, which was settled in 1979 and upheld on appeal in 1984. The case has been described as “arguably the most well-known legal decision related to cognitive assessment”. The District was prohibited from using IQ tests to identify or place African-American students in EMR-type classes. Please note that the term MR is offensive and we now use the term ID (Intellectual Disability).

Sacramento City Unified School District v. Rachel H., 14 F.3d 1398 (9th Cir. 1994): Court identified 4 factors to consider when determining whether placement in the general education classroom is appropriate for a child with a disability: (1) the educational benefits available in the regular classroom; (2) the non-academic benefits of interaction between a student with disabilities and those without disabilities; (3) the impact of the student with disabilities on the teacher and other children in the regular classroom; and (4) the cost of supplementary aids and services required for mainstreaming the student. Applying these factors, the judge affirmed that the general education classroom was the appropriate placement for Rachel. He highlighted the social benefit of inclusion, noting that that the proposed special education program “would mark Rachel as an outsider,” and gave great weight to the testimony of Rachel’s general education teachers who said she was a “full member of the second grade class.” Thank you to DREDF for this landmark case!

Eason v. Clark County School District (NV). (9th Cir. 2002): Shawn Witte and Derrick Eason appeal the dismissal of their actions alleging severe abuse and excessive corporal punishment inflicted by educators at Variety School, a public school attended exclusively by students with disabilities, Court rules that school personnel do not have immunity.

Shapiro v. Paradise Valley Unified School District No, 317 F. 3d 1072 (2003): The court held that the parents of a deaf student were entitled to tuition reimbursement for an out of state private school. The School District (Paradise Valley) did not provide FAPE and made procedural violations by holding an IEP meeting without the parents or a teacher from the out of district school.  The opinion states, “Procedural flaws do not automatically require a finding of a denial of a FAPE. However, procedural inadequacies that result in the loss of educational opportunity, or seriously infringe the parents’ opportunity to participate in the IEP formulation process, clearly result in the denial of a FAPE.”

M.L. v. Federal Way School District (2004): The FWSD’s failure to ensure the participation of a regular education teacher on the IEP team when there was a possibility that M.L. would be placed in an integrated classroom was a significant violation of the structural requirements of the IDEA’s procedures.

Settlegoode v. Portland Public Schools, 371 F.3d 503 (9th Cir. 2004): 504 case. Dr. Pamela Settlegoode an adaptive PE teacher who was fired for advocating for her special education students. She complained that her students were not freely allowed to participate in sports; there were inaccessible facilities; and there were altered IEPs.  Jury gave her 1 million dollars.

N.B. v. Hellgate Elementary, 541 F.3d 1202 (9th Cir. 2008): Without evaluative information that CB has ASD, it was not possible for the IEP team to develop a plan reasonably calculated to provide CV with meaningful educational benefit. Case also has much discussion on ESY.

Payne v. Peninsula School District, 653 F.3d 863 (9th Cir. 2011): Court found that parent’s non-IDEA federal and state law claims are not subject to the IDEA’s exhaustion requirement.

Doug C. v. Hawaii (9th Cir. 2013): Important decision about parental participation at IEP meetings. If a parent was not included in the IEP meeting, then procedural process under IDEA was violated, and the IEP is invalid. Read the Wrightslaw analysis at

Timothy O. v. Paso Robles Unified School District, 822 F.3d 1105 (2016): the District violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by failing to conduct a formal assessment of a student in his “suspected disability” of autism when they had notice that this was a potential area of need.  Accordingly, the student’s IEP failed to address his unique needs, and deprived him of FAPE, entitling the parents to an appropriate remedy.

S.C. v. Lincoln Cnty. Sch. Dist., Civ. 6:20-cv-02277-MC (D. Or. May. 18, 2022) :An ALJ concluded that the school district had failed to provide the student, who has Prader-Willi Syndrome, with a free appropriate public education because she required “total food security” to obtain a meaningful educational benefit at school. The ALJ ordered the student’s placement at the educational center, which treats students with Prader-Willi Syndrome and provides total food security at the district’s expense. After the district failed either to appeal or to comply with the order, the student’s parent sought a stay-put order. The District Court denied parent’s request for “stay put”.

Federal regulations require that the educational placement must be treated as an agreement between the parents and the state if the hearing officer agrees with the parents that a change is appropriate for purposes of “stay-put.” As such, S.C. must be placed at a residential facility and remain there until the school provides a FAPE.

10th Circuit:

Anchorage School District v. M.P., 689 F.3d 1047 (9th Cir. 2012): Vindication for Parents. M.P. In a strongly worded opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that school districts cannot blame parents when they fail to provide children with disabilities a free appropriate public education. The district court reasoned that the 2006 IEP was obsolete and outdated, but the failure to develop an updated IEP was mostly attributable to the litigious approach of M.P.’s parents. The court noted that the IDEA expressly mandates that public educational agencies review and revise annually an eligible child’s IEP, but pointed out that the IDEA does not condition this duty on parental cooperation or acquiescence in the agency‘s preferred course of action. Thanks to Attorney Sonia Kerr, esteemed member of Also thanks to the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA (PILCOP) who brought forward many landmark cases including PARC and Oberti.

11th Circuit:

Greer v. Rome City School Dist., 762 F. Supp. 936 (N.D. Ga. 1990): The district court determined that the school district, with the appropriate use of supplemental aids and services, could adequately educate Christy in the regular kindergarten classroom. The school district’s claim that Christy would receive more benefit from education in a self-contained classroom was overturned because school officials failed to consider what benefit she would receive from being in a regular classroom with appropriate supplemental aids and services. Their claim that Christy could not make any progress in the regular classroom was undermined by the evidence presented at trial that Christy did make academic progress in kindergarten, especially after the school district began to provide her with speech therapy to supplement her regular classroom education.

Draper v. Atlanta Independent School System, 518 F.3d 1275 (2008): The broader legal significance of this decision is the holding that a District court can order a private education remedy even if a public school claims it is willing and able to provide it,” said David Monde, a Partner in the Atlanta Office who represented Draper at both the trial and appellate level on a pro bono basis. “Parents who can afford it can have long been able to place children with special needs in private schools unilaterally and then seek to recover reimbursement. This case really stands for the proposition that families of limited means should not have fewer educational options than the wealthy.” Draper did not have to prove that it was impossible to receive a compensatory education from the school that had already failed him significantly before enrolling in a private school and receiving compensation for the cost of that private school placement. See Pam and Pete Wright’s article “A Lesser Spirit Would Have Been Crushed Long Ago” at

Phyllene W. v. Huntsville City Board of Education, No. 15-10123 (11th Cir. 2015):

“[T]he Board violated . . . IDEA by failing to evaluate M.W. when faced with evidence that she suffered from a suspected hearing impairment. As a result of its failure to obtain necessary medical information regarding M.W.’s hearing, the Board further failed to provide her with a FAPE. The lack of medical information rendered the accomplishment of the IDEA’s goals impossible because no meaningful IEP was developed, and the IEPs put into place lacked necessary elements with respect to the services that M.W. should have been provided. In short, the Board’s failure to evaluate M.W. with respect to her hearing loss deprived M.W. of the opportunity to benefit educationally from an appropriate IEP.”

District of Columbia Circuit:

Hobson v. Hansen, 269 F. Supp. 401 (D.D.C. 1967): Case charged that the current educational system deprived Black people and the poor of their right to equal educational opportunities relative to their white and affluent counterparts, on account of race and socioeconomic status. IQ tests used to track students were culturally biased because they were standardized on a white, middle-class sample. It is unconstitutional as it discriminates against low income or African American students.

Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia, 348 F.Supp. 866 (1972): Mills expanded the impact of the P.A.R.C. case beyond children with developmental disabilities. Must provide services regardless of district’s ability to pay. Read analysis from Disability Justice at

Johnson ex rel. Johnson v. District of Columbia (190 F. Supp. 2d 34 (D.D.C. 2002): Holding in Buckhannon does not apply in the context of the IDEA because to do so would undermine the purposes of the IDEA, in particular by forcing parents who cannot afford legal representation to choose “between legal representation and their child’s interests in an expeditious settlement”

Reid ex rel. Reid v. District of Columbia 401 F.3d 516 (D.C. Cir. 2005): Rejecting an hour-for-hour compensatory-education award in favor of a more flexible approach because some students may need only “short, intensive compensatory programs” while others may need extended programs that would exceed “hour-for-hour replacement of time spent without FAPE”

Blackman v. District of Columbia, 454 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2006): A class action originally filed in 1997 to challenge the city public school system’s failure to comply with requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that guarantees children with disabilities the right to a free and appropriate public education.

For more cases with excellent analysis, check Wrightslaw at

Information on the 13 circuits of the federal court system in the United States:

  • First Circuit: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island
  • Second Circuit: Connecticut, New York, Vermont
  • Third Circuit: Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virgin Islands
  • Fourth Circuit: Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia
  • Fifth Circuit: Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas
  • Sixth Circuit: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee
  • Seventh Circuit: Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin
  • Eighth Circuit: Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota
  • Ninth Circuit: Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Washington
  • Tenth Circuit: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming
  • Eleventh Circuit: Alabama, Florida, Georgia
  • District of Columbia Circuit: District of Columbia
  • Federal Circuit: nationwide jurisdiction over specialized cases such as patent law

Cases compiled by Attorney Anne I. Treimanis