March 24, 2023
In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed with the plaintiff Miguel Perez in a case entitled Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, that Miguel Perez could pursue his lawsuit seeking compensatory damages against his local school district, as provided the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), without first exhausting Due Process administrative remedies required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal special education law. The Supreme Court stated that the administrative remedies provided by the IDEA do not apply to lawsuits arising solely under the ADA. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “. In proceedings below, the courts held that §1415(l) [IDEA] precluded Mr. Perez’s ADA lawsuit. We clarify that nothing in that provision bars his way. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
This is an important victory of parents of children with disabilities who receive special education services and elect to pursue lawsuits arising under the ADA, since they are not required to exhaust IDEA administrative remedies as a condition precedent to filing a lawsuit under the ADA. The facts of this case were egregious. Miguel was a student with a hearing impairment who was receiving special education. The school district supposedly provided Miguel with trained educational assistants and interpreters to translate the curriculum into sign language. His parents were advised that school staff were qualified, present within his classroom, and he was making satisfactory progress. He was advanced from grade to grade. Shortly prior to his anticipated high school graduation, Miguel and his parents were advised that he was not eligible to receive a high school diploma. The Parents also learned that Miguel’s aides and sign language interpreters were not at all qualified or trained to translated the curriculum into sign language and/or the staff were absent from Miguel’s classroom. Miguel’s parents settled Miguel’s denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) claims arising under the IDEA, but subsequently filed a lawsuit against their school district seeking compensatory damages under the ADA. In 2009, their lawsuit was dismissed by the lower federal court. This appeal continued until today, when Miguel was finally provided with an opportunity to seek his quest for justice.
Congratulations to Miguel Perez and his family and to the attorneys who assisted him along the way, including the United States Office of the Solicitor General who supported Miguel’s claims.