NAMI E-News Supreme Court Ruling on IDEA (fwd) 
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 NAMI E-News Supreme Court Ruling on IDEA (fwd)

so what are the consequences for us who are no longer of school age?

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:34:05 -0500

Subject: NAMI E-News   Supreme Court Ruling on IDEA  

NAMI E-News              March 18, 1999            Vol. 99-98


In a decision applauded by the disability community, the U.S Supreme Court
recently ruled that disabled students are entitled under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to necessary "non-medical" services,
irrespective of cost to the school district.  The landmark decision pushed
forward the education rights of all students who are disabled, regardless of the
nature of the disability.  

The case focused on a school-aged boy, Garret Frey, who is quadriplegic, and
needs a trained aide to provide him with extensive assistance with personal
needs while he is in school.  Garret breathes only with the help of a
ventilator.   Before his case reached the Supreme Court, lower courts in Iowa,
where Garret lives, ruled that the school district was in fact required to
provide a trained aide.  

The attorneys for Garret Frey argued that the school district must provide
Garrett with a full time aide under IDEA, because IDEA guarantees a  "free
appropriate public education" to students with disabilities. The Act also states
that in addition to special education, school districts, must pay for "related
services."  In order for Garret to get the "free, appropriate public education"
he is entitled to under the law, they argued, he needs the "related services" of
a full-time aide.  

The school district where Garret attends school argued that because the services
that he needs are medical in nature, payment for the services are the sole
responsibility of Garrets parents.   They based their argument on the language
of IDEA.  The law states that school districts have to pay for related services,
however it further states that school districts  "need not pay for medical
services."    The school district claimed that the services Garret required
would be considered "medical services" and would not therefore be covered under

The decision in this case hinged upon the definition of a "medical service."  If
a full time aide is considered a medical service, then Garret would have no
recourse under IDEA.  The school district wanted to use a "multifactor test" to
decide if providing the aide would be a medical service.  They argued that any
services a student needs should be considered in terms of a variety of factors,
including expense, rather than in terms of who was providing that service.  
Under this standard, the more expensive the service, the more likely it would be
viewed as "medical," even if it is not provided by a medical professional.   The
school district also pointed out that providing a full time aide is a large
financial burden and that many smaller school districts would have a hard time
meeting these financial obligations.

On March 3, 1999, the Supreme Court by a 7 to 2 vote ruled that as long as a
students physical needs can be met by someone who is not a doctor, the required
services do not fall within the excluded "medical services" category.

In reaching this conclusion, Justice Stevens relied on a 1984 ruling that laid
out a two-part standard for deciding what is a "related service" under IDEA.  
Under this standard, it was up to the parent of the child with a disability to
further show that the care was necessary to enable their child to attend class,
and to further show that the care could be provided by someone other than a
doctor.  Justice Stevens felt that Garrett Frey met this standard and therefore
the school district was responsible for paying for the cost of the aid under

Judith E. Heumann, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative
Services, reacting to the opinion stated, " we believe students like Garrett
should receive the services necessary to ensure access to an appropriate
education.  Thats what the law guarantees, and now the courts have made that

Taking into account that without the services of the aide, Garret Frey would not
be able to attend school, Justice Stevens said:  "This case is about whether
meaningful access to the public schools will be assured."  The Court felt their
role in the case was to interpret existing law without regard to whether that
law presented the school district with a legitimate financial concern. The Court
decided that those with disabilities should have access to the school system
regardless of the financial burden on the school districts.

This case represents a milestone for children with mental and physical
disabilities.  The decision has great meaning for any child that requires
special education and more importantly has opened the door to those who have had
major barriers to overcome in order to receive a quality education.  Many
children with mental illness have been denied educational opportunities by
school districts reticent to address or pay for the multiple services they
require.  With this decision, it will be more difficult for school systems to
deny services to children with severe mental illnesses and other severe

There are concerns however that the Supreme Courts decision could result in
legislative proposals in Congress to amend IDEA by limiting the obligations of
school districts to pay for "related services" under IDEA.   NAMI will closely
monitor developments on Capitol Hill and inform you about any pending
legislative proposals.

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Mon, 03 Sep 2001 03:00:00 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

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