E. D., a Minor, by and through his Parents and Next Friends Anthony Dougherty and Katherine D. Dougherty; Anthony Dougherty, individually and as Parent of E.D.; Katherine D. Dougherty, individually and as Parent of E.D. Plaintiffs - Appellants
Palmyra R-I School District Defendant-Appellee
Submitted: September 26, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Missouri - Hannibal
SMITH, Chief Judge, MELLOY and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
issue here is what parents must do if they decide to sue a
school district after refusing special-education services for
their child under the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act ("IDEA"). Even if they bring a lawsuit under a
different disability-discrimination law, we conclude that
they still must exhaust their administrative remedies if the
relief they seek is "also available" under the
IDEA. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(l). Accordingly, we
affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to
Palmyra R-I School District.
has Down Syndrome. Before he began kindergarten at Palmyra
Elementary School, his mother informed the school that she
was seeking accommodations for his disability. E.D.'s
parents had some specific accommodations in mind, though, and
made clear that they wanted E.D. placed in a regular
classroom without special-education instruction.
sought what they referred to as a "section 504
plan"-after section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act-which
would have provided E.D. with some of the educational
accommodations otherwise available under the IDEA but without
the specialized classes. All they wanted was for E.D. to be
able to use an iPad "to compensate for his speech and
fine motor delays" and for his teachers to integrate his
iPad into their lessons.
negotiations between E.D.'s parents and the school lasted
for approximately a year. Twice the school offered an IDEA
plan-more commonly known as an Individualized Education
Program or "IEP"-instead of the section 504 plan
his parents envisioned. The IEPs would have provided all the
iPad-related accommodations his parents sought but would have
required him to attend special-education classes. E.D.'s
parents rejected both IEPs. The second time, they reiterated
their desire for a section 504 plan. Palmyra again refused,
and with no resolution in sight, E.D.'s parents pulled
him out of school just two weeks after he started first
long thereafter, the dispute landed in court. E.D.'s
parents sued and alleged that Palmyra had violated section
504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title II of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution. At the heart of their lawsuit was the
claim that, by failing to provide educational accommodations,
Palmyra had denied E.D. "access to a free public
their complaint, E.D.'s parents sought what they had all
along: for E.D. to use an iPad to complete his classroom
assignments and for his teachers to adapt their teaching
methods to incorporate it. They also requested additional
accommodations, including a change to the school's
testing formats to account for E.D.'s "speech [and]
fine motor issues" and more time for him to complete his
"assignments, tests[, ] and homework."
moved for summary judgment on the theory that E.D.'s
parents had failed to exhaust the IDEA's administrative
procedures. Even though E.D.'s parents had neither sued
nor accepted services under the IDEA, Palmyra claimed that
they were still required to exhaust their administrative
remedies because they were seeking "relief that is also
available under [the IDEA]." 20 U.S.C. §
1415(l). E.D.'s parents viewed their refusal to
accept services as a total opt-out, excusing any failure to
comply with the IDEA's procedural requirements. The
district court disagreed and granted summary judgment to
Palmyra. We now review de novo whether E.D.'s parents had
to exhaust their administrative remedies before suing.
Nelson v. Charles City Cmty. Sch. Dist., 900 F.3d
587, 591 (8th Cir. 2018).
IDEA requires schools receiving federal funds to provide a
"free appropriate public education" to all children
who have qualifying disabilities. 20 U.S.C. §
1412(a)(1)(A). Because parents and schools do not always
agree about the best way to provide a child with a free
appropriate public education, "the IDEA establishes
formal procedures for resolving disputes." Fry v.
Napoleon Cmty. Schs., 137 S.Ct. 743, 749 (2017).
Included among them are a "due process hearing"
before an impartial official and, in certain circumstances,
an appeal to a state agency. 20 U.S.C. § ...