Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Third Circuit Issues Important Opinion Reinstating Ability to Recover for Continuing Violation

COPAA joined in, and contributed to, the Amicus brief in the G.L et al., v. Ligonier Valley case in the Third Circuit last year. Jenny Rosen Valverde of the Education and Health Law Clinic at Rutgers University drafted and filed the brief on behalf of the Clinic, COPAA, Disability Rights New Jersey, the Education Law Center of New Jersey, Innisfree Foundation, the New Jersey Special Education Practitioners and Statewide Parent Advocacy Network.
In a Third Circuit precedential decision issued today the court adopted Amici's position (with a footnote thanking Amici for their assistance) and reinstated the ability to recover for a continuing violation in the Third Circuit, if you file within 2 years of the date the parents knew or should have known of the violation.  Amici reasoned that the issue before the court was one of statutory interpretation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), and arose in the context of a request for compensatory education by Appellee-G.L. and his parents.  Appellant-School District, in effect, asked the court to articulate the retrospective temporal scope of redressable injury under the IDEA.  Amici defined this term as the retrospective period of time that a child was deprived of a free and appropriate public education (“FAPE”) for which a court may grant compensatory education in the adjudication of an IDEA claim (hereinafter the “scope of redressable injury”). 
Some notable quotes from the opinion:
            Thus, the IDEA “needs common sense revision,” Morgan, 466 F.3d at 279, reflecting congressional intent that a due process complaint must be presented “within 2 years” of a parent’s reasonable discovery date, not that remedies be limited to injuries that        occurred “not more than 2 years before” that date.
            This is a profound responsibility, with the power to change the trajectory of a child’s life. Thus, the corollary to D.K. is that when a school district has failed in that responsibility and parents have taken appropriate and timely action under the IDEA, then that child is entitled to be made whole with nothing less than a “complete” remedy. Forest Grove, 557    U.S. at 244. Compensatory education is crucial to achieve that goal, and the courts, in the exercise of their broad discretion, may award it to whatever extent necessary to make up for the child’s lost progress and to restore the child to the educational path he or she would have traveled but for the deprivation. See D.F., 694 F.3d at 498-99. In this way,the courts too have an essential function in fulfilling Congress’s mandate in the IDEA and enabling each child with special needs to reach his or her full potential.
And finally:
            For these reasons, we hold today that, absent one of the two statutory exceptions found in § 1415(f)(3)(D), parents have two years from the date they knew or should have known of the violation to request a due process hearing through the filing of an administrative complaint and that, assuming parents timely file that complaint and liability is proven, Congress did not abrogate our longstanding precedent that “a disabled child is entitled to compensatory education for a period equal to the period of deprivation, but excluding the time reasonably required for the school district to rectify the problem.” D.F., 694 F.3d at 499 (quoting M.C., 81 F.3d at 397).
            G.L.’s claim was filed within two years of the date his parents knew or reasonably should have known of his injury, and thus his right to compensatory education upon proof of a violation was not curtailed by the IDEA’s statute of limitations. Accordingly, we will affirm the District Court’s decision that his claims for remedy prior to March 2010 were not time-barred and will remand to the District Court for proceedings consistent with this Opinion. 

Read opinion here.
Original Brief Gl v. Ligonier Valley SD, 3rc Cir, 2014

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