KSBA Federal & State Law Update to include analysis of Supreme Court decisions; online registration is now live

By Whitney Crowe, staff attorney, Legal Training Service

Registration is now open for KSBA’s 11th Annual Federal and State Law Update, June 8-9 at the Griffin Gate Marriott in Lexington.

While school law is never stagnant, the past year has brought about unprecedented legal and political changes at all levels. To ensure your district leaders are up-to-date on statutory and regulatory changes and to get an in-depth look at this year’s school board policy update, register for this event here.

The Update will cover many bills (including school accountability, religious freedom in schools and charter schools) passed by the 2017 General Assembly.

It also will share insights on pending and recently decided court cases. Three such education-related cases, which all were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, are previewed below.

Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 137 S. Ct. 743 (2017)

In Fry, the parents of a female child with cerebral palsy requested that the school district allow a service dog to accompany her to class in order to enhance her independence. The school district determined that an existing human aide was sufficiently meeting the child’s needs and denied the request. The parents, choosing not to engage in the dispute resolution process provided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, filed a federal lawsuit against the school district seeking monetary damages under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The trial court as well as the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed the case should be dismissed because the parents had failed to exhaust administrative remedies, namely those provided through the IDEA’s resolution procedures for special education disputes. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court (USSC), which decided IDEA exhaustion is unnecessary when the basis of the lawsuit is not a denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

The final outcome of this case is still pending, and the question remains: Will this decision undermine the collaborative process embedded in the IDEA?

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, 2017 W.L. 1066260

Endrew was initiated by the parents of a child with autism based on the argument that the school district failed to provide FAPE. Although the school district demonstrated “minimal progress” by the student and was successful in the 10th Circuit District Court and Court of Appeals, the USSC decided in favor of the parents and held that the Individual Education Plan had to be “appropriately ambitious” based on each student’s individual circumstances in order to constitute FAPE. Chief Justice John Roberts noted, “The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.”

Although significant to the 10th Circuit and others following a similar standard, Endrew will be less substantial in Kentucky and the rest of the 6th Circuit, which already follows a FAPE standard that is more aligned with the analysis done by the USSC. See Deal v. Hamilton County Bd. of Education, 392 F.3d 840 (6th Cir. 2004).

Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., 2017 WL 855755

The USSC was scheduled to hear Gloucester on appeal from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that requiring students to use restrooms consistent with birth sex amounted to gender identity discrimination in violation of Title IX. However, in February 2017, a joint letter was issued by the U.S. departments of Education and Justice withdrawing prior agency guidance that extended Title IX protections to gender identification. Subsequently, on March 6, the USSC sent Gloucester back to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration without issuing a decision or offering additional instructions.

With no further guidance expected from the federal government on the matter, the states will bear the responsibility of navigating this divisive and often litigious issue. Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia provide express legal protections for transgender students. Other legislatures, including Kentucky’s, have previously considered or are currently considering legislation that would prohibit transgender individuals from using bathrooms in alignment with gender identity.

Attendees of the Law Update can expect further analysis of these cases and more, as well as analysis of various other legal authority that impacts school operations. Stay current to stay compliant with the help of KSBA’s staff in Legal Services and Legal Training Services, Policy and eMeeting Services, and Governmental Relations. Register today.

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