Mixed Messages: An Analysis of the Conflicting Standards Used by the United States Circuit Courts of Appeals when Awarding the Compensatory Education for a Violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
With the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) of 1975, now titled the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA or the Act), each child with a disability was guaranteed the right to a free and appropriate public education. It fell to the public schools to provide that free and appropriate education to students with disabilities, many of whom had been denied access to public schools prior to that time. It was inevitable that parents would disagree with their local school district, or the state educational agency, as to whether their child was being provided the kind of education that the law requires. Since the Act's passage, courts have been asked to resolve those disputes, and in doing so, they have struggled both with defining just what an “appropriate” education is and with determining whether it has been provided. Despite this uncertainty, the courts and Congress have crafted a variety of forms of relief for students and parents when it has been determined that schools or state agencies have not met their responsibilities under the Act. One of those forms of relief, compensatory education, is the topic of this Comment. This Comment concludes that the inconsistency among the circuits, coupled with the inappropriately broad expansion of the rationale for awarding compensatory education recently embraced by the Third Circuit, warrants a review of the issue by the Supreme Court. The Court has historically been hesitant to take up questions related to the interpretation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Without such clarification, however, courts, parents, students, school districts, and state educational agencies will be left with confusing and inconsistent guidelines regarding compensatory education as a form of relief under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
James C. Schwellenbach,
Mixed Messages: An Analysis of the Conflicting Standards Used by the United States Circuit Courts of Appeals when Awarding the Compensatory Education for a Violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol53/iss1/23