The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
March 3, 1999

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Issue - 28

ISSN: 1538-3202

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The Special Ed Advocate is our 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! U.S. Supreme Court Issues Decision In Cedar Rapids V. Garret F.

"Congress Intended to Open the Door of Public Education to All Qualified Children"

On March 3, 1999, the U. S. Supreme Court issued a favorable decision for Garret in Garret F. v. Cedar Rapids. In the 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to provide nursing services if such services are necessary for the disabled child to receive an education.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "Respondent Garret F. is a friendly, creative, and intelligent young man. When Garret was four years old, his spinal column was severed in a motorcycle accident. Though paralyzed from the neck down, his mental capacities were unaffected. He is able to speak, to control his motorized wheelchair through use of a puff and suck straw, and to operate a computer with a device that responds to head movements. Garret is currently a student in the Cedar Rapids Community School District (District), he attends regular classes in a typical school program, and his academic performance has been a success. Garret is, however, ventilator dependent, and therefore requires a responsible individual nearby to attend to certain physical needs while he is in school."

"This case is about whether meaningful access to the public schools will be assured, not the level of education that a school must finance once access is attained. It is undisputed that the services at issue must be provided if Garret is to remain in school."

"Under the statute, our precedent and the purposes of the IDEA, the district must fund such related services to help guarantee that students like Garret are integrated into the public schools."

"Congress intended to open the door of public education to all qualified children and required participating states to educate handicapped children with non-handicapped children whenever possible.''

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer joined Justice Stevens in the decision for Garret.

Two Justices, Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy, dissented. The dissenting opinion was written by Justice Thomas. The dissenting Justices expressed the opinion that an earlier Supreme Court decision (Alamo Heights v. Tatro) was erroneous.

Garret and his family are delighted with the decision. Garret's mother, Charlene Frey, felt that the justice system would hold that all students with disabilities can and should have access to public school.

When the school district appealed the lower courts' decisions, she said, "We are going to stick with this, not only because we feel strongly about this issue, but so that no other child or family ever has to go through the stress and emotional toil we have endured fighting the school system on disability access."

You can read the Supreme Court's decision in Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F. in the Wrightslaw Law Library.

2. U.S. Department of Education Holds Teleconference About the Final IDEA Regs

Today, the U. S. Department of Education held the FIRST satellite teleconference about the Final IDEA regulations. They scheduled a SECOND telecast for March 10 and a THIRD for March 18, 1999.

At the end of today's teleconference, we thought we heard that today's conference would be rebroadcast on March 10. If this is correct, it is suggests that the Final Regs may not be released on Friday, despite strong rumors and indications. Has the publication date been pushed back again - to between March 10 and March 18?

We understand that some members of Congress have expressed concerns and/or objections to the Final Regs. The delays may be an attempt to negotiate compromises.

Compromises often lead to vague language. Vague language often causes litigation which attempts to force the courts to interpret what was meant.

Newsletter subscribers will receive an Alert when the Regs are released. The transcript and video of today's teleconference will be available at



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