Supreme Court Stays Silent on Stay Put: High Court Refuses to Hear Special Education Due Process Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will not take up a case

involving an important interpretation of federal special education law.

In Ridley School District v. D.R. (No. 13-1547), a special education student’s

parents claimed that her IEP was not appropriate and enrolled the

student in a private school. The school won on the question of whether

the IEP provided the student with a free, appropriate public education

and the parents appealed. The parents claimed that the school was obligated

to pay for the student’s private school placement as part of

“stay put” while the parents appealed the case. Thus, the question in Ridley was

whether the stay-put requirement ends when a state or federal

trial court issues a final judgment in a dispute, or whether the provision continues

until all court appeals are exhausted. The federal courts of appeals are

divided over that issue, with school districts in some places facing higher bills for

private schooling of students where the stay-put provision has been ruled to

stay in force during what are often lengthy appeals.

The Supreme Court had asked the Obama administration for its input

on whether to grant the school’s request that the court answer this question.

The administration’s response urged the Court not to hear the case and, in a

brief, one-sentence order, the Court took that advice.

The result of this decision is that the courts remain divided on how

long a “stay put” obligation continues after a school district has prevailed in

a due process case. In some jurisdictions this will mean that parents will

have the incentive to prolong the appeals process to continue the school’s

obligation to pay for the parents’ preferred educational services.

With any special education issue, it is always better to find out the

answer before you take action. Feel free to contact Karen, Steve or Bobby

or your school district's attorney if you have questions about stay put or

more generally about the IDEA and Rule 51 of the Nebraska Department of