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Supreme Court opts not to hear “stay put” provision case

Special needs students have various rights under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Sometimes, disputes arise over what exactly a given student is entitled to under these rights. Among the things such disputes can be over is what a particular term included in these rights means, as applied to a given situation.

Recently, some news came up regarding such a legal battle.

The case centered on a term in IDEA’s “stay put” provision. This provision regards situations in which a special needs child’s parent and a school district are in disputes related to the placement of the child. Under this provision, while such a dispute is underway, the child has a right to stay in their current educational placement.

In the matter, the parents of a child with an IEP objected to what placement their child was assigned under the IEP. A disagreement arose between the parents and the school district over what the child’s current placement was for the sake of the child’s rights under the “stay put” provision.

The placement the student was assigned in the IEP was a self-contained classroom. Reportedly, the child never attended this classroom. The school district argued that this classroom was the child’s current placement, given that this was the placement stated in the IEP. The parents, meanwhile, contested this argument.

The Ninth Circuit appeals court ruled in favor of the school district’s argument regarding what the child’s current placement was. The child’s family then made an appeal request to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The recent news on this case is that the Supreme Court has decided that it will not be hearing the family’s appeal. So, the appeals court decision will hold.

One wonders if the Supreme Court will someday opt to weigh in on the issue of what a “current educational placement” is under IDEA’s “stay put” provision. If it does, one wonders what clarification it will decide to add on the matter.

As this case illustrates, disputes over what exact rights a given special needs student has can be quite complex, sometimes involving complicated questions over what specific terms in federal special education law mean. How such disputes are resolved can have major impacts on the education situation of a special needs child. So, when disputes arise regarding their child’s education rights, parents of special needs children may want knowledgeable legal guidance as they attempt to navigate them.

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