For best results, consult your special education administrator

The 2024 Title IX rules were finally released. As you may recall, the Department of Education had proposed a new provision in the rules to require the Title IX Coordinator to consult with the IEP or Section 504 team throughout the implementation of the grievance procedures and specifically with respect to the implementation of supportive measures when a party in the grievance process is a student with a disability. While the intersection of Title IX, the IDEA, and Section 504 is complicated and sometimes an IEP or 504 meeting is warranted, the proposed requirements would have been burdensome and unworkable. A coalition of districts across the country worked with Thompson & Horton to submit comments to the Department flagging this concern.

“You only get one shot.” Or sometimes more… The Fifth Circuit finds an ADA FAPE claim may be viable despite an IDEA FAPE finding

The intersection and interplay of the IDEA, ADA, and Section 504 can be complicated and confusing. All three laws provide protections to students with disabilities in public schools. But how are their requirements different? And when can families go to court versus when must they exhaust administrative remedies? What remedies are available under each? A year ago, the Supreme Court decided Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, weighing in on when administrative exhaustion is required. That decision altered the paradigm of IDEA exhaustion and the interaction of these laws protecting students with disabilities.   

The Fifth Circuit recently joined the fray on this developing intersection of laws in Lartigue v. Northside Independent School District. The Fifth Circuit held that even though a hearing officer found that the district provided the student FAPE under the IDEA (and the student did not appeal that finding), the student might still be able to prove a violation of the ADA related to her accommodations. The decision scraps the previous understanding that the provision of IDEA FAPE was a defense to FAPE claims under Section 504 and the ADA. The school district has requested that the Fifth Circuit rehear the case en banc.

The Supreme Court Finds IDEA Exhaustion Not Required When Parents Seek Money Damages Under ADA and Section 504

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held today that plaintiffs may file federal lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 seeking money damages without first exhausting the IDEA administrative procedures, even when the underlying dispute is the student’s special education programming. As we previewed in a post following the oral argument, this decision is a departure from current Fifth Circuit law and opens the door to parents filing federal lawsuits seeking monetary relief in special education disputes without filing for due process under the IDEA. As explained below, whether this path is truly advantageous for parents is uncertain.

U.S. DOE Emphasizes Obligations to Protect High-Risk Students as Pandemic Improves  

On March 24, 2020, Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education, wrote a letter to educators and parents emphasizing the Biden Administration’s continued commitment to providing services and supports to allow students with disabilities to learn safely alongside their peers during the pandemic.  This letter provides strategies for educators, Districts, and families to enable students with disabilities to participate in in-person instruction and to receive a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in the least restrictive environment.  

Secretary Cardona first encourages IEP teams to leverage IEP and Section 504 processes to provide protections for in-person learning.  IEP teams (ARD Committees in Texas) and Section 504 committees must address school-related health needs of students with disabilities at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in IEPs and Section 504 plans and place students in the least restrictive environment that meets those needs. IEP teams and Section 504 committees should also consider whether students at a heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19 require a health plan to address preventative and risk-reducing strategies, such as proper sanitizing or physical distancing. When health plans are included in the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan, these documents must be provided to each individual responsible for implementing the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan.