This week, The Arc of the United States joined eleven national disability rights organizations in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court. The amici are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect students with disabilities and ensure that families of these students are able to pursue the full range of civil rights remedies directly in federal court. The case, Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, is scheduled to be heard on January 18, 2023.
“Students with disabilities already face inordinate obstacles in getting the education they need to build their future,” said Shira Wakschlag, Senior Director of Legal Advocacy and General Counsel at The Arc. “From inadequate accommodations and low expectations to restraint, seclusion and poor support, parents and children are too often forced to become experts in self-advocacy and the law in order to obtain services and supports they are entitled to. If the lower court decision is allowed to stand, it will cause further harm to students with disabilities who already experience segregation and discrimination in school and will burden parents by forcing them to jump through futile and unnecessary hoops in order to pursue non-IDEA civil rights claims in federal court.”
In Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, the plaintiff Miguel Perez, a deaf individual, was denied a sign language interpreter for 12 years while attending Sturgis Public Schools, which ultimately impacted his ability to read, write, and graduate. The Perez family filed a due process complaint alleging violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the parties settled the IDEA claims. The ADA claims were dismissed since these claims cannot be heard in administrative proceedings, so the family brought the ADA claims in federal court and sought compensatory damages. The lower court held that Perez gave up his right to sue under the ADA in federal court when he settled the IDEA claims because settlement does not constitute exhaustion of administrative remedies. Yet both claims are vital in his fight against years of discrimination and neglect – the IDEA claim addressed the school’s failure to provide the education and services he needed to learn, and the ADA claim addresses his unequal access to education and compensatory damages for his emotional distress resulting from that discrimination. If the U.S. Supreme Court does not rule in favor of the plaintiff, students with disabilities and their families will have to turn down full IDEA settlements, forgoing their ability to immediately receive a ‘free appropriate public education,’ in order to preserve their distinct non-IDEA claims.
About The Arc: The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Down syndrome, autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of nearly 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.
Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym. Always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.
Media Contact: Jackie Dilworth, Director of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org