Wrightslaw l No Child Left Behind l IDEA 2004 l Fetaweb l Yellow Pages for Kids l Harbor House Law Press

 Home > Law Articles > Supreme Court Issues Decision in Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v. T.A. by Peter Wright & Pamela Wright


The Special Ed Advocate
It's Unique ... and Free!

Enter your email address below:

 

2014 - 2015 Training Programs

Oct 23 - Wilton, CT

Oct 25 - Olympia, WA

Oct 30 - Phoenix, AZ

Nov. 1 - Grand Rapids, MI

Nov 6 - McAllen, TX

Nov 18 - DesMoines, IA

Nov 21 - Temecula, CA

Dec 4 - OKC, OK

Full Schedule

Be a Hero ...

 Jason at Ft. Benning
... to a Hero
Learn more

Wrightslaw

Home
Topics from A-Z
Free Newsletter
Seminars & Training
Consultations
Yellow Pages for Kids
Press Room
FAQs
Sitemap

Books & Training

Wrightslaw Books & DVDs
Wrightslaw Storesecure store lock
  Advocate's Store
  Student Bookstore
  Exam Copies
Training Center
Bulk Discounts
New! Military Discounts
Mail & Fax Orders

Advocacy Library

Articles
Doing Your Homework
Ask the Advocate
FAQs
Newsletter Archives
Summer School Series
Success Stories
Tips

Law Library

Articles
Caselaw
IDEA 2004
No Child Left Behind
McKinney-Vento Homeless
FERPA
Section 504
Fed Court Complaints

Topics

Advocacy
ADD/ADHD
Allergy/Anaphylaxis
Assistive Technology
Autism Spectrum
Behavior & Discipline
Bullying
College/Continuing Ed
Damages
Discrimination
Due Process
Early Intervention (Part C)
Eligibility
ESY
Evaluations
FAPE
Flyers
Future Planning
Harassment
High-Stakes Tests
Homeless Children
IDEA 2004
Identification & Child Find
IEPs
ISEA
Juvenile Justice
Law School & Clinics
Letters & Paper Trails
LRE/Inclusion
Mediation
Military / DOD
No Child Left Behind
NCLB Directories
NCLB Law & Regs
Parental Protections
PE and Adapted PE
Privacy & Records
Procedural Safeguards
Progress Monitoring
Reading
Related Services
Research Based Instruction
Response to Intervention (RTI)
Restraints/Abuse
Retention
Retaliation
School Report Cards
Section 504
Self-Advocacy
Teachers & Principals
Transition
Twice Exceptional (2e)
VA Special Education

Resources & Directories

Advocate's Bookstore
Advocacy Resources
Directories
  Disability Groups
  International
  State DOEs
  State PTIs
Free Flyers
Free Pubs
Free Newsletters
Legal & Advocacy
Glossaries
   Legal Terms
   Assessment Terms
Best School Websites

 

Supreme Court Issues Pro-Child Decision in Forest Grove School District v. T.A.
by Peter Wright, Esq. and Pamela Wright, MA, MSW

Print this page

Wrightslaw Update: Remanded.

In their June 2009 decision, the Supreme Court remanded T.A.'s case back to the District Court with orders to reconsider the case in light of the factors set out in their decision. On remand, the District Court held that T.A.'s parents were not entitled to reimbursement because they placed their son in the private school "solely because of his drug abuse and behavioral problems." To support its ruling, the District Court relied upon the parent's answer to one question on an 18 page admissions document and ignored all evidence that T.A. suffered from ADHD and depression, and that his parents enrolled their son in the private program because of disability-related problems and non-disability related problems. The U. S. District Court, using a legal basis other than 20 USC 1412(a)(10)(C), held that the ?equities do not support reimbursement? to the parents while referencing the $5,200 monthly cost of the private school.

The parents appealed to the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. On April 27, 2011, in a split decision, the 9th Circuit upheld the District Court's ruling. In a strong dissent, Judge Susan Graber faulted the majority on several grounds. Quoting directly from the 9th Circuit's original decision, she noted that it was undisputed that T.A.'s parents placed him in the private program for reasons related to and unrelated to his disabilities. The District Court's decision was not supported by the record.

"T.A.’s parents are to be commended, not punished, for seeking to treat all of T.A.’s special needs. They also should be commended, not punished, for responding honestly and accurately to the questions on the application form ..."

"Everyone agrees that the School District denied T.A. a free appropriate public education; everyone agrees that T.A.’s placement at Mount Bachelor Academy was proper; and everyone agrees, as the district court found, that many equitable factors support reimbursement ... Because the district court’s analysis of that factor is clearly incorrect, no equitable factors support the complete denial of reimbursement. T.A.’s parents are entitled to reimbursement. The majority’s sanctioning of the contrary result under the guise of deferential review is deeply disappointing."

The full text of the second decision by the 9th Circuit in Forest Grove v. T.A. is here: http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/caselaw/11/9th.forest.grove.ta-2.pdf

What next? We don't know. If there is more news about this case - if, for example, the 9th Circuit agrees to hear the case en banc - we will post updates on this page. (06/02/11 update by Pam Wright)

On June 22, 2009, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Forest Grove School District v. T.A., a case about tuition reimbursement for a child who was never found eligible and never received special education services from the public school.

The question presented in Forest Grove v. T.A. was whether parents who unilaterally enroll their disabled child in a private school are entitled to tuition reimbursement if the child never received special education from the district.

There was a split among circuits on this question: “whether 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(10)(C) creates a categorical bar to reimbursement of private school tuition for students who have not ‘previously received special education and related services.’” [Note: This statute is located on page 76 of Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Ed.]

School District's Position "Borders on the Irrational"

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that:

This dispute "... differs from Burlington and Carter in that it concerns not the adequacy of a proposed IEP but the School District's failure to provide an IEP at all . . . moreover, when a child requires special education services, a school district's failure to propose an IEP of any kind is at least as serious a violation of it's responsibilities under IDEA as a failure to provide an adequate IEP."

"The District's position similarly conflicts with IDEA's 'Child find' requirement . . . [requiring States] .. to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities' to ensure that they receive needed special education services."

"Indeed, by immunizing a school district's refusal to find a child eligible for special education services no matter how compelling the child's need, the School District's interpretation [of the statute] would produce a rule bordering on the irrational."

This would "leave parents without relief in the more egregious situation in which the school district unreasonably denies a child access to such services altogether."

". . . this case vividly demonstrates the problem of delay, as respondent's parents first sought a due process hearing in April 2003, and the District Court issued its decision in May 2005 -- almost a year after respondent graduated from high school."

". . . we conclude that IDEA authorizes [tuition] reimbursement for the cost of private special education services when a school district fails to provide a FAPE and the private-school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school."

The full text of this decision, including a 3 page Syllabus, 17 page Opinion, 2 page Appendix to the Opinion, and 12 page Dissent by Justice Souter (joined by Justices Scalia and Thomas) is posted on Wrightslaw at:
http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/caselaw/ussupct.forest.grove.ta.pdf

Background of the Case

Despite a long history of ADHD, severe depression, substance abuse problems, and failing grades, Forest Grove School District determined that T. A. was not eligible for special education services under IDEA, nor for protections under Section 504.

After a due process hearing, the hearing officer found that T. A.'s ADHD and learning disabilities adversely affected his educational performance, and that the school district failed to provide him with a free appropriate public education. He ordered the district to reimburse the parents for the cost of the private school tuition.

The school district appealed to federal court where the Judge set aside the reimbursement award, based on the belief that IDEA 97 barred reimbursement for students who did not previously receive special education from the public school district.

The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Ninth Circuit held that:

"... a student who never received special education and related services from a school district nevertheless may recover reimbursement for the costs of private school education. We conclude that such a student is not barred as a matter of law from receiving reimbursement. In the IDEA, Congress conferred broad discretion on the courts to provide appropriate equitable relief, including reimbursement for attendance at a private school."

The Ninth Circuit decision is here:
http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/caselaw/08/9th.forest.grove.ta.htm

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case to resolve a split among Circuits on this issue.

In April, the Obama Administration filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of T.A. and his parents. The Administration argued that private school tuition reimbursement may be awarded to the parents of a child who has not previously received special education when the child was denied a free appropriate public education.

In support of this position, the Administration asserted that:

A. The plain text of IDEA provides for reimbursement of private-school tuition when a school district fails to provide a free appropriate public education.

B. Petitioner’s interpretation produces perverse consequences.

C. The legislative history does not support petitioner’s interpretation.

D. The formal position of the agency charged with implementing IDEA is entitled to deference.

E. The Spending Clause does not require a different result.

You can read the Administration’s Amicus Brief here: http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/pleadings/forestgrove.ta.usa.amicus.pdf

Oral argument before the Supreme Court was held on April 28, 2009.

The decision was issued less than two months later.

Click here to read the transcript of the Oral Argument.

Listen to the Oral Argument (MP3 download)

Listen to Justice John Paul Stevens read the decision.

What happens next?

The case will be remanded back to the U. S. District Court. (Note from Wrightslaw: The case was remanded back to the District Court. The District Court ruled that the parents to the distric

In making decisions about reimbursement, the District Court has guidance from this decision. In deciding if the parents will be reimbursed for some or all the costs of T. A.'s special education, the Court is directed to "... consider all relevant factors, including the notice provided by the parents and the school district's opportunities for evaluating the child ... "

This case and future implications of the decision will be discussed in future Wrightslaw training programs. The conference schedule is at http://www.wrightslaw.com/speak/schedule.htm

Law School Exam

The issue in this case was a question on the Final Exam for our law students at the William and Mary School of Law. To see or take the Final Exam, click here. http://www.wrightslaw.com/lawschool/finalexam.pdf

To Top

Created: 06/22/09

Revised: 06/02/11


Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon The Special Ed Advocate: It's Free!

 

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright
About the Book

Wrightslaw: All About IEPs
About the Book

Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments
About the Book

Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board
About the DVD Video

 

Copyright 1998-2014, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved.

Contact Us | Press Mission l Our Awards l Privacy Policy l Disclaimer l Site Map

What's New!

Now Shipping!

Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments
About the Book

Check it out!

Wrightslaw Store

The Advocate's Store

Get Help!

Blog the Wrightslaw

Wrightslaw on Facebook

Find us on Facebook

Wrightslaw Books

Student Discounts

Military Discounts


Wrightslaw: All About IEPs

About the Book
To Order

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright
About the Book
To Order


About the Book

To Order


Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board

About the DVD Video
To Order


To Order


Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind

About the Book
To Order

Wrightslaw Multimedia Training


Understanding Your Child's
Test Scores (1.5 hrs)

Understanding Your Child's Test Scores

Learn More
To Order
Retail Price: $
24.95
Wrightslaw Special: $14.95

Special Education Law & Advocacy Training
(6.5 hrs)


Wrightslaw WebEx Special Education Law & Training Program (6.5 hrs)


Learn More
To Order
Retail Price: $99.95
Wrightslaw Special: $49.95