Special education administrators in Pennsylvania are urging the Supreme Court to review an appeals court ruling from February on the so-called “Stay Put” ruling. The ruling that was given in E.R. et al v. Ridley School District made it possible for children with “special education disputes” to attend private schools at the expense of their local school system while their case is ongoing.
E.R. was a student who attended kindergarten and 1st grade in the Ridley School District beginning with the 2006-2007 school year. The child’s parents determined that her needs were not being properly met, and subsequently placed her in a private school. They also filed a lawsuit that alleged E.R. had been denied a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) under the law.
The legal battle raged on for several years, eventually making its way to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where judges ruled the school for the most part did provide a free appropriate education. In the meantime, the child’s parents sent the school a bill for private school tuition totaling more than $58,000. The parents were awarded compensation for the private school tuition for the 2008-2009 school year as well as the cost of transportation in an undisclosed amount.
The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), along with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) collectively filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on July 28, claiming that the new ruling puts an undue financial burden on school districts within the states. They also claim it encourages parents to draw out legal proceedings for a longer time, thereby increasing the financial strain a school faces even further.
Officials also argue that the latest ruling actually upsets the “stay put” rule. That’s because the stay put rule requires the student to remain in his or her current setting until a hearing has been conducted or the appropriate amount of time has elapsed, whichever comes first. Many believe school systems will now be confused, and will not know when it is appropriate to make a student stay put and when it isn’t.
Proponents of the ruling claim it is a major victory in the area of parental rights, and does a great deal to promote the rights of students with disabilities. Only time will tell whether or not the new ruling will stand or be overturned by our nation’s highest court.
To find out more about the rights of students with disabilities or to hire special education professionals for your school setting, please contact us.
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