Bacote v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

Filed: January 24, 2023

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit

Overview: Amicus brief explaining that people with disabilities have the right to individually sue executive agencies for discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Excerpt: “The need for a private right of action to secure nondiscriminatory treatment from our Federal government goes far beyond Mr. Bacote’s individual experiences. People with disabilities participate in myriad Federal programs…A contrary decision would close the courthouse doors to disabled people seeking to ensure access to National Parks, accessibly-formatted information from government agencies, effective communication in veterans and other healthcare facilities, and reasonable accommodations in Federal prisons.”

Case Documents

Amicus Brief

C.W. v. Denver County School District No. 1

State: Colorado

Filed: May 7, 2020

Court: Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals

Overview: The brief supports parents of a student with disabilities arguing that exhaustion is not required where plaintiff complains of the denial of a free appropriate public education, but the specific remedy requested–here, money damages for emotional distress available under the ADA and Section 504, but not the IDEA–is not one that an IDEA hearing officer may award.

Excerpt: “The IDEA cannot provide IDEA relief (e.g. educational placement and services or reimbursement for educationally related expenses) if no IDEA claim has been made. IDEA hearing officers also cannot provide non-IDEA relief (e.g. monetary damages to remedy discrimination) in IDEA proceedings. This, then, is precisely the type of situation the Fry Court envisioned: whether exhaustion would be required where a student sought non-IDEA relief in a case where the District both denied FAPE under the IDEA and discriminated under Section 504 and the ADA. While conceding that the student had put forth all of the evidence necessary to demonstrate the IDEA denial (which facts also demonstrate the discrimination the student would allege under Section 504 and the ADA), the District Court erroneously dismissed C.W.’s antidiscrimination claims on the grounds that the student failed to argue the legal theories relating to Section 504 and the ADA before the IDEA hearing officer.”

Case Documents

Amicus Brief

Cropp v. Larimer County

State: Colorado

Filed: December 18, 2019

Court: Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals

Overview: The amicus brief supported Mr. Cropp’s petition for a rehearing en banc. Mr. Cropp is an individual with Alzheimer’s who was arrested after police found him wandering in his neighborhood and tackled him to the ground when he would not answer their questions. His wife came to visit him in jail and asked for an accommodation to be able to sit next to him and explain the release form he was required to fill out in order to leave the jail. Despite knowledge of Mr. Cropp’s disability, the County denied these accommodation requests without making an individualized inquiry or analysis of his communications needs. The district court granted the County’s motion for summary judgement and the Tenth Circuit affirmed.

Excerpt: “The majority’s decision undermines the requirements of Title II in two ways…First, Title II requires that public entities provide communication with disabled people that is “as effective as” communication with nondisabled people. In contrast, the majority would require disabled people to show that communication offered by a public entity was ‘wholly ineffective.’ Second, Title II requires that governmental entities give “primary consideration” to the requests of disabled people in determining the appropriate method of communication with them.”

Case Documents

Amicus Brief

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1

State: Colorado

Filed: 2016, 2017

Court: U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

Overview: The brief before the U.S. Supreme Court argued that Congress’ move to standards-based education and the IDEA amendments make the Tenth Circuit Court’s bare-bones “merely more than de-minimis” standard for educational benefit untenable. The brief—in support of Drew, a child with autism who was not making progress under his IEP—argued that the IDEA requires school districts to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to meet the standards the district applies to all children and that any deviation from that universal standard must be tied to the unique needs of each child. In 2017, the Court issued a unanimous decision definitively rejecting the “merely more than de minimis” standard and holding that the “IDEA demands more.” In 2017, another amicus brief before the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado asked the court to find that the IEP at issue was not “appropriately ambitious” in light of the “markedly more demanding” standard outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Excerpt: “In the years since Rowley, Congress has not been silent. To the contrary, it has repeatedly amended the IDEA. Where the Rowley Court found that Congress had not adopted language providing a ‘substantive standard prescribing the level of education to be accorded handicapped children,’ the post-Rowley amendments have progressively expanded States’ substantive obligations under the statute. These amendments make clear that a school district’s educational interventions must provide a child with a disability an equal opportunity to meet the standards the district applies to all children. Any deviation from that universal standard must be tied to the unique needs of the child. The Tenth Circuit’s merely-more-than-de-minimis test therefore falls far short of the requirements that Congress has imposed since Rowley.”

Status: In 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado held that the school district did not provide an adequate education and must reimburse the family for private school tuition, noting that the IEP “was not appropriately ambitious” under the new standard articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court since it did not provide the plaintiff with a chance “to meet challenging objectives under his particular circumstances.”

Case Documents

U.S. Supreme Court Brief

U.S. Supreme Court Opinion

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Brief

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Opinion

Related Media

The Arc Blog, “The Arc Applauds U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Special Education Case: ‘The IDEA Demands More’”

New York Times, “Supreme Court Rejects Education Minimum Applied by Gorsuch