Dowler v. Clover Park School District

This court case is completed

ACLU-WA wrote an amicus brief in the state Supreme Court in support of several parents of 10 disabled children who sued the Clover Park School District over various forms of discrimination and mistreatment of their children. The school district repeatedly argued in the lower courts that the parents needed to “exhaust administrative remedies,” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). That is, they argued that, as required by the provisions of IDEA, the parents needed to go through extensive organizational steps before filing a lawsuit in court, such as a number of meetings with school officials and a due process hearing with an administrative law judge. The trial court agreed with this ruling and dismissed the case twice. The first time, they initially ruled that the parents needed to go through the proper administrative procedures before filing a lawsuit. The second time, the parents had properly filed complaints through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. OSPI found that the case should be decided by a court of law, yet the trial court dismissed the case again, ruling that the parents still had not exhausted all their administrative remedies before filing suit. ACLU-WA believes that students with disabilities should not be discriminated against in education, and they should be entitled to hearing their discrimination claim in a court of law without jumping through multiple administrative hoops. The bureaucratic processes of IDEA undermine the goals of the Washington Law Against Discrimination, which protects the disabled children from discrimination in their school. ACLU-WA asked the Supreme Court to reverse the trial court’s decision and filed their amicus brief on April 18, 2011. ACLU-WA staff attorneys Sarah Dunne and Nancy Talner co-authored the brief. On August 25, 2011, The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the trial court’s decision, finding that the parents’ discrimination claims should not have been subject to the stringent barriers of IDEA.
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