Monday, October 31, 2011

Exception does not apply; Sixth Circuit affirms dismissal of parents' IDEA Complaint

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals this morning upheld a district court's dismissal of a lawsuit brought pursuant to IDEA because the parents refused to exhaust their administrative remedies.

In that case, the student had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder,
Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder. During the second half of the 2008-09 school year the student's performance began to decline and he developed anger issues and demonstrated explosive behavior.

As a result of these changes, the parents requested that a Multifactored Evaluation (MFE) be performed. The school district initially refused, and ultimately concluded that the child did not meet the definition of disabled under IDEA and was therefore not entitled to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). After additional information was submitted to the school district, and additional negotiations took place, the parents filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio alleging violations of, inter alia, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The district court then put on an agreed order that the school district would perform an MFE, which the district subsequently conducted.

The school district then filed a motion to dismiss the action, alleging the parents had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. Further, the parents filed a motion for attorney fees, alleging that they were the prevailing party because the school district agreed to perform an MFE.

Generally, before filing a lawsuit under IDEA, parents are required to exhaust state administrative remedies. This requirement does have an exception when it would be futile or inadequate to protect a plaintiff's rights.

Here, the Court found that the exception did not apply and that the trial court properly dismissed the complaint because the parents had not filed a request for an administrative hearing.