Supreme Court: Oral Arguments in Forest Grove v. T. A. & Safford v. Redding

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Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court agreed to hear and decide several education cases this term.

In February, the Court issued a surprising unanimous decision in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable Sch. Committee, 555 U. S. ___ (2009). This decision on behalf of a young child who was sexually harassed by an older student clarified that parents may sue school officials under discrimination laws.

Forest Grove School District v. T. A., 08-305

Forest Grove School District v. T. A. is a case about tuition reimbursement for a child with ADHD, learning disabilities and depression. Despite these ongoing problems, the school district did not find him eligible for special education — so he did not receive special education services. More.

The question presented in Forest Grove v. T.A. is 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.

Oral argument in Forest Grove School District v. T. A. is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28, 2009.

Wrightslaw Update: U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case back to U.S. District Court, school prevailed, parents appealed again to Ninth Circuit, school prevailed.

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.

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 analysis page. (06/02/11 update by Pam Wright)

Safford Unified School District v. Redding (08-479)

In 2003, school officials in the Safford School District (AZ) strip-searched a 13-year-old girl on the basis of an uncorroborated “tip.” Another student claimed Savana had “prescription strength” ibuprofen on her person. Savana was an honor student who had no prior history of drug use or discipline problems. No drugs were found.

Oral argument in Safford v. Redding is scheduled for Tuesday, April 21, 2009.

The questions presented are:

1. Whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits public school officials from conducting a search of a student suspected of possessing and distributing a prescription drug on campus in violation of school policy.

2. Whether the Ninth Circuit departed from established principles of qualified immunity in holding that a public school administrator may be liable in a damages lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for conducting a search of a student whom they suspected of possessing and distributing a prescription drug on campus.

For more information about these cases, including links to the decisions, and the unanimous decision from the Supreme Court that allows parents to sue school officials for discrimination, read Supreme Court News at

  1. Does this supreme court ruling apply to children who have been denied FAPE by a distrct? How do you get district to pay for private school if they are not educating the child in public school?

  2. How can I go about possibly getting Debbie ‘s permission to quote her in that statement about the regs book. It is so simple and yet as you know so true.

  3. Administration Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Parents & Child in Forest Grove School District v. T.A.

    This week, the Obama Administration filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of T.A. and his parents in Forest Grove School District v. T.A. (Case No. 08-305).

    The Administration argues 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 asserts that: read more

  4. Many times parents do not understand the weight of these Supreme Court cases. Once parents comprehend that their children (and they) have actual RIGHTS in the process, they gain confidence. Confidence reduces the need to be confrontational. Calm, professional, confident behavior puts parents on the equal footing that is so essential to true collaboration at special education meetings.

    A principal once asked me why I brought the state regulation book to every meeting. I replied that they were the rock on which I stood. He asked how long I was going to stand alone on that rock. My answer was immediate. As long as there was a storm raging around my son’s special education needs, the safe and sure rock was where I would stay. My son just received an invitation to apply for National Honor Society membership.

    • Debbie: What a great story about bringing the state regs to every meeting, that they were “the rock on which you stood.” I’ll bet you knew how to find answers to your questions in the regulations too.

      Please congratulate Kevin and the rest of your family for us. Being invited to apply to the National Honor Society is a huge honor. I just checked our correspondence. Do you know you when you first contacted us? It was in July 1998! At that time, you were trying to get the school to provide a teacher who could teach him to read.

      For folks who are interested in Debbie and her son’s success story, with an occasional update, please read “How I Got the School to Change My Son’s Program & Placement

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