Speed Reads

a bad IDEA?

How a Supreme Court ruling could make it harder for disabled students to resolve problems

The Supreme Court is hearing a case that could affect the lives of disabled students all over the country. Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools (2023) concerns whether a student seeking to sue under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) would need to "exhaust administrative proceedings" for one of the laws before pursuing the other. 

The case surrounds 23-year-old deaf student Miguel Perez, who attended a Michigan public school where he was not given a qualified sign-language interpreter. Come time for graduation, the school informed him that he only qualified for a certificate of completion and not a diploma, The Associated Press reports.

In response, Perez sued the school district under IDEA, which guarantees free accommodations from public schools for students with disabilities. The district settled and agreed to pay for extra schooling and sign language classes. Then, the Perez family tried to sue the district in federal court under the ADA seeking monetary damages, which the lower court ruled they couldn't do since he already settled the IDEA and the second lawsuit asks for the same relief.

The Biden administration has urged the court to side with the Perez family. Former education officials have also supported Perez saying that the lower court's ruling would make students "forgo speedy relief and waste time, money, and administrative resources." Essentially students would have to decide whether they wanted immediate settlement through IDEA or monetary damages through the ADA. 

"[IDEA] clearly wants to get kids like Miguel educational relief as quickly as possible," argues Perez's lawyer Roman Martinez. "That means that when the school district offers you everything you want under the statute, you should be allowed to say yes, without giving up other claims under other statutes."