Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments in Fry v. Napoleon Community School District. The issue the court is trying to resolve is whether petitioners must first exhaust the special education administrative process before filing a federal complaint.
E.F. was born with cerebral palsy. At the age of 5 she obtained a service dog, Wonder, as prescribed by her pediatrician. E.F. requested the Napoleon Community School District (“The District”) allow her to take Wonder to school. The school denied her request. Stacy and Brent Fry, E.F.’s parents, filed an administrative claim with the Office of Civil Rights, arguing that the school district violated two federal civil rights laws – the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act – when they barred Wonder from E.F.’s school. OCR ruled in E.F.’s favor. The District ultimately agreed to permit E.F. to attend school with Wonder but E.F. had already moved her to a different school. E.F.’s parents were seeking compensatory damages for emotional damages suffered during the period the school denied E.F. the ability to bring Wonder to school.
The arguments which were made to the justices can be found here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2016/15-497_4g15.pdf.
Chief Justices Roberts and Breyer seemed to be concerned that agreeing to allow parents to go straight to court may “gut” the procedural system in place. However, they agree that it would be futile to make the plaintiff go through an administrative process if the administrative remedies would be futile.
The justices will decide the case during their conference on Friday. A decision is expected next June.
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