If you have a case involving discrimination under the ADA, contact one of our attorneys at (203) 221-3100.

Bringing ADA Claims Against School Districts

Earlier last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that parents of students with disabilities, suing for disability discrimination under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), are not obligated to exhaust their remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) before pursuing monetary damages. The case, Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, centered around a deaf student whose parents alleged that the school district misrepresented his aide’s proficiency in American Sign Language. As a result, they claimed his communication skills suffered permanently, impeding his academic progress for years.

The school district argued in court that under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(l), parents seeking relief available under the IDEA must first exhaust its administrative procedures. Essentially, they contended that the ADA claim, which prohibits disability discrimination, required prior adherence to the IDEA’s educational provisions, including the provision of a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) to eligible disabled children.

In response, the Supreme Court unanimously determined that ADA claims for monetary damages can proceed without exhausting IDEA remedies because such damages are not available under the IDEA itself. This decision extends principles established in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools (2017), where the Court clarified that IDEA’s exhaustion requirement applies if the essence of a non-IDEA federal claim involves a denial of FAPE. In Sturgis, the Court further restricts IDEA’s exhaustion requirement to cases where the sought relief aligns with remedies available under the IDEA, even if the claim involves FAPE denial.

While the ruling allows parents to skip IDEA’s exhaustion requirement when pursuing ADA-based monetary damages, they must still substantiate claims of intentional discrimination. This necessitates demonstrating that the school district acted with deliberate indifference, bad faith, or gross misjudgment to succeed in court.

Maya Murphy P.C. has proudly been included in the 2024 Edition of Best Law Firms®, ranked among the top firms in the nation. In addition, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for his work in Employment Law and Education Law in Connecticut. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is awarded to firms and attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the industry and is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Our firm in Westport, Connecticut serves clients with legal assistance all over the state, including the towns of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Darien, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Haven, Newton, North Branford, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Seymour, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Weston, Westport, Wilton, and Woodbridge. In addition to assisting clients in Connecticut, our firm handles education law matters in New York as well.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a legal matter, please contact Joseph C. Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or to schedule a free initial consultation today.