The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
November 5, 1998

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Issue - 16

ISSN: 1538-3202

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The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special education legal issues, cases, tactics and strategy, educational methods that work, and Internet links.

We publish this newsletter occasionally, when time permits. Back issues of The Special Ed Advocate are archived at our web site -


As a subscriber to The Special Ed Advocate, you will receive announcements and "alerts" about new cases and other events. Contact, copyright, and subscription information can be found at the end of this newsletter.

(1) NEWS FLASH! U. S. Supreme Court hears Oral Argument in Cedar Rapids v. Garret F. (November 5, 1998).

(2) Additions to the Advocate’s Bookstore

(1) NEWS FLASH! U. S. Supreme Court hears Oral Argument in Cedar Rapids v. Garret F. (November 5, 1998).

When Garret was four, he was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. His mental abilities were unaffected. His spinal cord injury left him paralyzed from the neck down. He depends on a ventilator to breathe.

When he attends school, Garret needs occasional nursing services – help eating and drinking, positioning of his wheelchair, and catheterization. Garret needs some of these services once or twice a day. For most of the day, "all he needs is someone within earshot," says Douglas Oelschaeger, Garret’s attorney,

On Wednesday, November 5, the Supreme Court debated how much nursing care schools must provide to children with disabilities. Susan L. Seitz, attorney for Cedar Rapids School District, argued that the district should not have to provide (pay) for the child’s care.

"A nurse just for you? Certainly there can be a line drawn there to say that’s medical" – and the school shouldn’t have to provide (pay) for it, she claimed.

Some of the Justices expressed frustration with the school district lawyer’s assertion that the school should not have to pay for Garret’s care, even if the school does provide some of his health care functions.

"That is a very hard line to draw," said Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. "I don’t think that’s going to work. Do you have a fallback position?"

Later, Justice Antonin Scalia told Seitz, "I hate multi-factor tests. Can you give us any other clearer line?"

Garret’s mother asked the school to pay the cost of providing an attendant for him. She believes that the district must provide this for Garret under the Individuals with Disabilities Act. The IDEA provides that all children with disabilities are to receive a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE). School districts are required to provide
"special education and related services."

The federal trial judge and the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled for Garret and against the school district. The appeals court decided that because the care Garret receives is not provided by a doctor, it is not exempt as a medical service.

We will advise subscribers to the Special Ed Advocate when the Supreme Court issues their decision in Garret’s case.

In the meantime, you can read the Eighth Circuit decision in our Law Library.


This decision is also reported in Volume 25 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Law Reporter at page 439, cited as 25 IDELR 439, and at 106 F. 3d 822 (8th Cir. 1997).

The decision is also available at the FindLaw web site:



Interested in mediation? Want to find a good guide that will help you with legal research? Looking for help to make your way through the "Special Ed Maze?"

Within the last few days, we have added several books to the Law Section of the Advocate’s Bookstore. Check them out – and let us know your suggestions.



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Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board
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