"Congress Intended to Open the Door to All Qualified Children"
March 3, 1999, the U. S. Supreme Court issued a favorable decision in
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.''
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.
Garret and his family are delighted with the decision. Garret's mother,
Charlene Frey, hoped that the justices 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 download the decision in Cedar
Rapids Community School District v. Garret F. from the Caselaw
Section of the Law Library.
Listen to the Oral Argument in the case (MP3 download)
Are Related Services?