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Most courts have held that monetary damages are not available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) but
may be available under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Several courts of appeals have ruled that before bringing a damages case under Section 504 and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), parents must first exhaust their administrative remedies under the IDEA (see cases below). However, there have been a number of cases of children with IEPs where cases were brought without requesting a due process hearing and instead, using "artful pleading" and no mention of a violation of IDEA, cases have been filed in federal court without "exhausting" their administrative remedies.


Doe v. Withers was the first special education jury trial and the first special education dollar damages case; paved the way for subsequent special education damages cases, including W. B. v. Matula and Witte v. Clark County.

Key Issues in Witte v. Clark County Pete discusses the decision in Witte v. Clark County, the Nevada case about monetary damages on behalf of a disabled child who was physically abused by school staff.

Judge Finds School Official Liable for Denial of Special Ed -- Parents Gain Tool in Fight to Force Schools Meet Kids' Educational Needs. Federal judge rules that a Santa Barbara High School District administrator was personally liable for damages under the Civil Rights Act for violating a mother's right to get a "free appropriate public education" for her special-needs son, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Judge Allows Damages Against Hawaii. Judge rules that a family can sue to force the state to pay for therapy for their 6-year old autistic daughter and can seek punitive damages for the emotional distress suffered while trying to get services for their child.

Damages Available Due to "Deliberate Indifference" from School & State Judge rules that school and state showed "deliberate indifference" to needs of child with Down syndrome who attended public school for 16 years - allowed for an award of damages.

Jury Awards $600,000 Damages to Parents - In Whitehead v. Hillsborough, a Florida jury took less than 2 hours before deciding that the school system retaliated against the parents of a child with Downs Syndrome.

Whitehead Case: The Inside Story by Laura Whiteside, Esq. The famous $600,000 jury verdict against the Hillsborough Florida school district - what was this case really about? Laura Whiteside, attorney for Andrew Whitehead and his parents, tells the "inside story."

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When you read these damages cases, you will learn that the outcome of damages cases is varies in different parts of the country.

Baird v. Rose. Damages requested under the ADA for depressed child who was tormented and humiliated by her teacher; also discusses retaliation. U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled: "to establish a violation of the ADA, a plaintiff must show (1) that he has a disability; (2) that he is otherwise qualified for the benefit in question; and (3) that he was excluded from the benefit due to discrimination solely on the basis of the disability."

Covington v. Knox Co (TN) U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Decision in "Time-out Room" abuse case; creates exceptions to exhaustion requirement in damages cases. In html

Doe v. Withers (WV) Doe v. Withers was the first special education jury trial and the first special education dollar damages case. A jury awarded a teacher to pay damages after he repeatedly refused to implement a child's IEP. The article includes the Complaint and Jury Orders.

Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Public School District (N.D. GA 2008) Court denies motion by Atlanta Public Schools (“APS”) to dismiss Jarron’s civil rights claims for monetary damages under Section 504 after APS discriminated against him, harassed him, and retaliated against him and his family over a period of many years. (PDF)

Goleta Union Elementary School District v. Andrew Ordway (C.D. Cal., verdict Dec. 5, 2002). Judge rules that school administrator was personally liable for damages under the Civil Rights Act for violating a mother's right to get a "free appropriate public education" for her special-needs son, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (in pdf)

Polera v. Bd Ed. Newburgh City Sch. Dist, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In damages case under Section 504 and ADA, court rules that disabled child must first exhaust administrative remedies under IDEA. Decision includes extensive discussion of relief under statutes, compensatory and punitive damages, exhaustion requirement, and futility exception (2002).

Sellers v. Manassas. After parents requested compensatory and punitive damages under IDEA, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that damages are not available under the IDEA.

W.B. v. Matula, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Availability of damages under Section 504, IDEA, and Section 1983 when district refused to evaluate, classify and provide appropriate services to disabled child; exhaustion, qualified immunity, due process (1995).

Weiss v. Hillsborough. Parents of autistic child brought suit for monetary damages for district's failure to provide an appropriate education; U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that parents did not show that school failed to provide FAPE or that child discriminated against.

Witte v. Clark Co. Sch. Bd. School brutality case; damages sought under Section 504 and the ADA on behalf of child with disability. U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued pro-child decision; discussed exhaustion of remedies under the IDEA; appropriate damages for physical abuse and injury. Decision in pdf

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Last revised: 04/21/13

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