Monday, August 16, 2004

Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

In Oliver v. Dallas Independent School District, 2004 WL 1800878 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 11, 2004), a child with a mathematical learning disability called discalculia sought relief for violation of IDEA, alleging that the school district's failure to identify and address her disability had denied her the education to which she was entitled and hampered her ability to complete her colleged degree in a timely manner. Her case was dismissed because of her failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

The plaintiff argued that she had never been notified of her rights by the school district. The Court, however, held that the school had not been aware of her disability. Although her mother had expressed concern about her difficulties in mathematics, the Court held that that was not the equivalent of requesting an evaluation. Nor did the student's single failing grade in a math class (which she was able to pass over the summer) and difficulty in passing the math section of a standardized test (which she passed, having been given certain non-IDEA acommodations) trigger a notice requirement on the part of the school. Hence, the school district had no reason to provide the student with notice of her rights under IDEA. Also, the Court found that the student's mother was a 30-year veteran of special education teaching and was fully aware of her child's rights under IDEA.

The plaintiff also had not shown that resort to the administrative process would have been futile. The student had graduated from high school and was seeking monetary damages. As to monetary damages, the Court held that the unavailability of such relief does not relieve the student from the exhausting the administrative process. Nor did her graduation excuse her failure to go through the administrative process. The record suggested that the mother was aware of the learning disability as early as the student's sophomore year. The Court held that a student cannot sit on her rights, and then seek damages after graduation. The student could have obtained complete relief through IDEA in the form of changes to her individualized evaluation program, additional educational services and remedial education.

Unfortunately, this case is not on-line except through pay services, at least to the best of my knowledge.


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