FAPE Advocates Take Note: Court May Require Exhaustion of Remedies Under the IDEA Statute

When parents sue for relief under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 20 U.S. C. §§ 1400, et seq.), are they required to first exhaust remedies under the statute by engaging in the impartial due process hearing procedure designed to create an appropriate Individualized Educational Plan (IEP)? The answer is: it depends on the type of relief being sought in the litigation. If the parents seek relief for injuries that could have been addressed in the IEP process, exhaustion is required. But if the relief is not tied to an IEP and but involves issues of abuse that is not related to any legitimate educational purpose, the exhaustion requirement may not be imposed. As the Ninth Circuit has succinctly noted with respect to the question of whether the issues in a case are related to educational issues: “If the answer to that question is either yes or unclear, exhaustion is required.” The case providing this analytical framework is Payne v. Peninsula School District, and a copy of the court’s opinion is attached. Slote & Links regularly advises school districts, school administrators, private schools and parents regarding Education Law issues.

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