Court missed opportunity to relieve financial and educational burdens on public schools

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected review of the lower court’s decision in M.R. v. Ridley School District earlier this week. At issue in the case is whether school districts must continue paying for a student’s private placement once a court finds the school district provided the child with a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  Under the “stay-put” requirement in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), school districts must pay for a disabled child’s current educational placement while legal proceedings continue to resolve a dispute between parents and schools.

“We urged the Court to review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit extending the stay-put obligation through completion of all appeals,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA), referencing the amicus brief NSBA filed last July with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. “We are disappointed that the Court did not accept this opportunity to reaffirm the IDEA’s collaborative framework for developing appropriate education plans for student with disabilities and resolving disagreements quickly."

By leaving the Third Circuit's decision intact, the Court failed to alleviate the risk of increased school district liability for private school tuition and prolonged litigation that drains schools’ limited financial and educational resources away from serving all children. The denial of a review is especially concerning given the existing split among federal circuit courts of appeal, one reason NSBA and school district lawyers met late last year with the U.S. Solicitor General, urging the administration to encourage the Supreme Court to hear the case even if it disagreed on the merits.

"IDEA requires school districts to provide a child with disabilities a free appropriate public education, not to unilateral private placement," said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., Associate Executive Director and General Counsel, NSBA. "Once a district court determines that a school district has provided FAPE, its obligation to pay for the stay-put placement should end."

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