Noteworthy special education 

court cases

Supreme Court Cases

1. Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927)

The Supreme Court affirmed the forced sterilization of a disabled woman with a history of disability in her family, stating that “three generations of imbeciles are enough.”


2. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (1954) 

Landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. 


3. Board of Ed. of Hendrick Hudson Central School Dist. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982)

First decision in a special education case by the U. S. Supreme Court. The case defined free appropriate public education.


4. Irving Independent Sch. Dist. v. Amber Tatro, 468 U.S. 883 (1984)

The Supreme Court found that a medical treatment, such as clean intermittent catheterization, is a related service and the school is required to provide it. 


5. Burlington Sch. Committee v. Mass. Bd. of Ed., 471 U. S. 359 (1985)

Decision clarifies procedural safeguards, parent role in educational decision-making, tuition reimbursement for private placement, child's placement during dispute about FAPE. 


6. Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr. 473 U.S. 432 (1985)

In this case, Justice Thurgood Marshall reflected on the history of discrimination against people with disabilities and noted its similarities to our nation’s ugly history of discrimination against racial minorities: “[People with disabilities] have been subject to a ‘lengthy and tragic history’…of segregation and discrimination that can only be called grotesque….A regime of state-mandated segregation and degradation…in its virulence and bigotry rivaled, and indeed paralleled, the worst excesses of Jim Crow.”


7. Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305 (1988)

The Supreme Court ruled that the "stay-put" provision prohibits state or local school authorities from unilaterally excluding disabled children from the classroom for dangerous or disruptive conduct growing out of their disabilities. Schools still have a responsibility to the student during the time of suspension. Schools cannot expel children for behaviors related to their handicaps.


8. Florence Co. Sch Dist Four v. Shannon Carter, 510 U.S. 7 (1993) 

The Supreme Court found that if the public school fails to provide an appropriate education and the child receives an appropriate education in a private placement, the parents are entitled to be reimbursed for the child's education, even if the private school does not comply with state standards. 


9. Cedar Rapids v. Garret F., 526 U.S. 66 (1999)

Court held that the related services provision in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) required the provision of certain supportive services for a ventilator-dependent child despite arguments from the school district concerning the costs of the services. 


10. Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49 (2005)

Supreme Court held that the burden of proof in a due process hearing that challenges an IEP is placed upon the party seeking relief. 


11. Arlington Central Sch. Dist. Bd of Ed. v. Pearl and Theodore Murphy, 548 U.S. 291 (2006) 

The Supreme Court ruled that IDEA does not authorize the payment of the experts' fees of the prevailing parents. 


12. Winkelman v. Parma City School District (No. 05-983) (2007)

The Supreme Court decided parents, although not licensed attorneys may pursue IDEA claims on their own behalf.  These rights are independent of their child’s rights.


13. Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Comm., 504 F. 3d 165 (2009)

United States Supreme Court held that parents could sue a school committee under grounds of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


14. Forest Grove School District v. T.A., 129 S.Ct. 2484 (2009)  

The United States Supreme Court held that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) authorizes reimbursement for private special education services when a public school fails to provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) and the private school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education services through the public school.


15. Safford Unified School District v. Redding, 557 U.S. 364 (2009)

The Supreme Court held that a strip search of a middle schooler violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution where the school lacked reasons to suspect either that the drugs (Ibuprofen) presented a danger or that they were concealed in her underwear. The court also held, however, that because this was not clearly established law prior to the court's decision, the officials involved were shielded from liability by qualified immunity.


16. J. D. B. v. North Carolina, No. 09-11121 (2011)

The Supreme Court of the United States held that age is relevant when determining police custodyfor Miranda purposes.


9th Circuit Court of Appeals Cases

1. Sacramento City Unified School Dist. v. Rachel H. (9th Cir. 1994) 14 F.3d 1398

Under Rachel H., the courts have considered the following factors in determining whether a proposed placement satisfies LRE requirements: 1) Educational benefit available to the student in a regular classroom setting, supplemented with appropriate aids and services, compared to educational benefits of a special education classroom; 2) Nonacademic benefits to the disabled child of interaction with non-disabled children; 3) The effect of the presence of the disabled child on the teacher and other children in the regular education classroom; and 4) The costs of supplemental aids and services necessary to mainstream a disabled student in a regular classroom setting.


2. Seattle Sch. Dist., No. 1 v. B.S., 82 F.3d 1493 (9th Cir. 1996)

The 9th Circuit ruled that a student’s unique educational needs are to be broadly construed to include academic, social, health, emotional, communicative, physical and vocational needs.


3. Eason and Witte v. Clark County School District, 303 F.3d 1137 (9th Cir. 2002) 

The 9th Circuit ruled that the Clark County School District is not an "arm of the state" and therefore does not enjoy Eleventh Amendment immunity. Plaintiffs do not appeal the dismissal of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims against the individual defendants.


4. Vinson v. Thomas, 288 F.3d 1145 (9th Cir. May 3, 2002)

The 9th Circuit held that a government official cannot be sued in individual capacity under Section 1983 for violations of ADA or Rehabilitation Act.


5. Blanchard v. Morton Sch. Dist., 509 F3d 934, 938 (9th Cir. 2007)

The 9th Circuit ruled that Section 1983 is not a remedy for violations of IDEA; A parent can assert rights and enforce expenses incurred on child’s behalf. A parent is not entitled to lost profits for acting as own attorney.


6. A.M. v. Monrovia Unified School Dist., 627 F.3d 773 (9th Cir. 2010)

The Ninth Circuit held that the term “previously approved IEP” in Education Code section 56325, subdivision (a)(1) refers to the last IEP that was actually implemented.


7. Doug C. v. Hawaii Department of Education, 720 F.3d 1038 (9th Cir. 2013) 

The 9th Circuit held that the Hawaii Department of Education violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by holding a student’s annual individualized education program meeting without the participation of a parent, even though the parent did not affirmatively refuse to attend, but rather actively sought to reschedule the meeting in order to participate.​


8. K.M. v. Tustin Unified School District, 725 F.3d 1088 (9th Cir. 2013) 

The 9th Circuit held that compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not foreclose all claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Action of 1973. And, there are material differences between Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 


9. M.M. v. Lafayette School District, 681 F.3d 1082 (9th Cir. 2014)  

In this appeal, among other matters, the 9th Circuit considered whether a school district's failure to provide educational testing data to parents violated the procedural requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C.  1415 § 1400-1487 ("IDEA" or "Act"). The 9th Circuit concluded that it did.



Call us for a free phone consultation:


Weekends and evenings with an appointment


Or send us an email:

980 9th Street, 16th Floor, Sacramento, CA 


3017 Douglas Blvd., Suite 300, Roseville, CA


Or meet with us at

1901 Harrison Street, Suite 1100

Oakland, CA  


  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Yelp Social Icon
  • RSS Social Icon
  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Google+ Social Icon
  • Odnoklassniki Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Blogger Social Icon

Serving families in Roseville, Sacramento, Auburn, Placerville, Yuba City, Marysville, Chico, Redding, Fairfield, Davis, Citrus Heights, Grass Valley, Vacaville, Stockton, Oakland, Alameda, San Francisco, San Jose, Hayward, Red Bluff, Truckee, Vallejo, San Rafael, Modesto, Santa Rosa, Palo Alto, Susanville, Oroville, Eureka, Ukiah, Fort Bragg, Elk Grove, Los Altos, Santa Cruz, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Fresno, Folsom, Concord, Walnut Creek, El Dorado, Nevada City.