WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with a deaf student who sought to sue his school for damages over profound lapses in his education.
The case, Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, involved the interplay between two federal laws, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. At issue was whether students may sue a school for damages under the ADA when they haven’t finished the administrative process required by the IDEA.
The decision may help parents and schools clarify one piece of a byzantine puzzle of laws that govern the nation’s 7.2 million special education students. Experts have predicted it may also give parents more leverage in their negotiation with schools.
In the case, Miguel Perez’s parents discovered their son was assigned an aide who didn’t know sign language. After 12 years in school in his southern Michigan district, and with no other disability, Perez was reading at a 3rd-grade level.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Perez didn’t exhaust the requirements of the IDEA process before filing a lawsuit for damages under the ADA. The decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, allows Perez’s case to continue.