On Tuesday, March 21, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision on Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, unanimously ruling 9-0 that families will not have to exhaust the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) administrative process before pursuing damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The case was brought by Miguel Luna Perez, a deaf student of Sturgis Public Schools, who alleged that the school district failed to provide him with adequate assistance for years and lied to his parents about his progress. It was these alleged actions and inactions that the Perez family believes stunted Miguel’s ability to communicate.
Perez’s family filed claims with IDEA and the ADA over the alleged actions of Sturgis Public Schools. The family settled their claim with IDEA and was barred by lower courts, citing language in IDEA, from pursuing a claim with ADA. In the court opinion, which was in favor of Perez, Justice Gorsuch writes, “We clarify that nothing in that provision bars his way.” This decision did not speak to whether potential claimants could circumvent the IDEA requirement to exhaust its administrative process in instances where doing so would be a “futile” endeavor.
Disability rights advocates have seen this decision as an important win for students with both IDEA and ADA claims. While IDEA claims could provide students with funding for educational support to retroactively help affected students, it cannot provide personal monetary damages to students. Successful ADA claims have the potential to provide students with personal monetary damages.
OMLO will continue to monitor these developments carefully. This article is for informational purposes only and only provides an overview of specific developments. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation. For actual legal advice and specifics pertaining to your governmental entity, please contact your OMLO attorney for assistance.