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Florence County School District IV v. Shannon Carter


Shannon Carter has dyslexia and ADHD. When she entered high school, she was functionally illiterate. Her reading skills were at the 5th grade level. She was depressed and felt hopeless.

After finding Shannon eligible for special education, the school district offered an IEP. According to this IEP, Shannon would progress from the 5.4 to the 5.8 grade level in reading and from the 6.4 to 6.8 grade level in Math - she would make four months of progress after a year of special education.

This IEP guaranteed that Shannon would fall even further behind her peer group.

Shannon's parents advised the school that this IEP was inadequate to meet Shannon's needs. Mr. and Mrs. Carter asked Florence County to provide a more intensive program so Shannon would learn to read and be reading on a high school level when she graduated from high school.

Florence County refused so Shannon's parents placed her in Trident Academy, a private school that specializes in educating children with language learning disabilities like dyslexia. The parents requested a special education due process. They lost. They requested a review - and lost again. When Shannon's case went to federal court, the tide turned. Eventually, Shannon's case was heard by the U. S. Supreme Court who ruled 9-0 in her favor.

On this page, you will find links to the decisions in Shannon Carter's case, the "Untold Story of Carter," articles about Shannon's case, and resources about the U. S. Supreme Court.

Carter Decisions

U. S. District Court

After Shannon's parents lost at Due Process and Review, they placed Shannon into Trident Academy and sued for tuition in Federal Court. Judge Houck appointed his own expert, charted out Shannon's educational test data.

Judge Houck concluded that Florence County's IEP that would have Shannon progress from the 4.4 reading grade level to the 4.8 grade level (after one year of special education) was wholly inadequate. U. S. District Court Decision, Shannon Carter v. Florence County

Florence County Appeals to U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

When Florence County School District IV appealed to the Fourth Circuit, they argued that four months of progress in reading was appropriate. They also argued that because Trident Academy was not on the state's non-existent "approved" list of schools, Shannon's parents could not be reimbursed for her tuition at the private school. In a unanimous decision for Shannon, the Fourth Circuit discussed "least restrictive environment" issues, and a contrary Second Circuit case. This ruling in Shannon's favor created a "split" among circuits that opened the door to a further appeal. U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court, Decision, Florence County v. Shannon Carter.

Oral Argument Before the U. S. Supreme Court

On October 6, 1993, the U. S. Supreme Court heard Oral Arguments in the Carter case. The transcript is available in three formats.

Transcript of Oral Argument before the U. S. Supreme Court.

In pdf: http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/caselaw/Carter_Oral_Argument.pdf


In MP3 Audio

Listen to the Oral Argument (MP3 download)

U. S. Supreme Court Issues Unanimous Decision

On November 9, 34 days after oral argument, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous 9-0 decision for Shannon.

Listen to Oral  Argument in Florence County School District IV v. Shannon Carter by Pete Wright in sync with written transcript.

The justices held that if public school defaults and the child receives an appropriate education in a private placement, the parents are entitled to be reimbursed for the education that should have been provided by the School District. The case is "styled" Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter, 510 U.S. 7, (1993).

More Information about Shannon Carter's case & the U. S. Supreme Court

How Shannon Carter Changed Special Education. Article by Brent Staples of The New York Times with links to decisions in Shannon's landmark case, articles, reading research, and more.

Three Generations at the Supreme Court. On October 6, 1993, Shannon Carter and Roger Saunders traveled to Washington, DC to hear Pete's oral argument before the U. S. Supreme Court. This article discusses the impact of the Orton Dyslexia Society members (now International Dyslexia Association) Helene Dubrow, Diana Hanbury King, Roger Saunders, and Linda Summer.

Florence County School District IV v. Shannon Carter: The Untold Story.
The story behind the story and Pete's involvement in the case and preparation for argument before the Fourth Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court is in our "Advocacy Library" and known as "The Untold Story."

The U. S. Supreme Court

Here are some links about the U. S. Supreme Court.

Legal Information Institute from Cornell University: Supreme Court Collection

U. S. Supreme Court Newsletter
Subscribers receive an e-mail bulletin containing summary and analysis of important patent appeals decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit within days after they have been handed down and placed on the Internet, along with instructions on how to access those decisions in full text.

For subscription instructions, go to


The Pritzker Legal Research Center, Northwestern Law

Take a "Virtual Tour" of the Supreme Court.

Legal Resources From Wrightslaw Cover of  Wrightslaw: Special Education Law by Peter Wright and Pamela Wright

Wrightslaw Law Library. Includes cases, pleadings, special education statute and regulations, articles about tactics and strategy.

The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
Free newsletter about legal and advocacy issues from Wrightslaw.

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law
Includes the full text of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and implementing regulations; decisions in landmark special education cases by the U. S. Supreme Court.

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