SCOTUS seeks Obama Administration’s opinion in special education case

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This is a photograph of an angled view of the front of Supreme Court building which includes two bushes.

Supreme Court seeks guidance in IDEA case

On the first day of its new term, the U.S. Supreme Court formally requested input from the U.S. Solicitor General on the question of whether it should review a recent controversial special education ruling.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, parents challenging a school district’s special education services for their children have the option of placing their children in private schools. Under the IDEA’s “stay-put provision,” school districts must reimburse parents for the costs of the private placement for the duration of legal proceedings.

While it is undisputed that a school district must reimburse parents until the case is resolved by a federal district court, the question that arises in Ridley School District v. M.R.is whether school districts must continue to cover the costs of the child’s private school placement if the parents seek an appeal.

In May 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, ruled against the Ridley School District, located outside Philadelphia, in the above scenario.

In June 2014, the Ridley School District filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to review the decision.

The next month, the National School Boards Association, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education filed an amicus brief on the Ridley School District’s behalf.

One of the strongest indicators of whether the Supreme Court will review an appellate court decision is whether the Circuit Courts have come to different conclusions on the issue, in what is commonly referred to as a circuit split.

According to SCOTUSblog, the Ninth Circuit previously came to the same conclusion as the Third Circuit in its interpretation of the stay-put provision, while the D.C. Circuit and the Sixth Circuit have previously come to the contrary conclusion.