The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday gave a unanimous, but for now partial, victory to the family that sued a Michigan school district under federal disabilities laws after the district barred a service dog for a child with cerebral palsy.
In Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools (Case No. 15-497), the high court held that a student or family suing a school district over a disability-related issue does not always have to go through, or “exhaust,” all the procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act before going to court.
The court held that IDEA procedures need not be exhausted when the essence, or “gravamen,” of a lawsuit centers on a violation of other federal disabilities law rather than the special education law’s core guarantee of a “free, appropriate special education.”
“If, in a suit brought under a different statute, the remedy sought is not for the denial of a FAPE, then exhaustion of the IDEA’s procedures is not required,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in an opinion for the court.