What is case law?
“Case law” refers to the collection of court rulings interpreting a particular statute. Federal laws like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADA) can’t address every aspect of special education disputes that may arise between a district and the parent of a child with a disability. That’s where the courts come in. Federal judges decide how the statutory requirements should apply in a particular case, and other judges look to that decision when deciding cases that have similar facts. This collection of case law helps predict how a court would resolve a similar dispute. “Case law” does not mean state due process decisions or Letters of Finding from the Office of Civil Rights.
What does “exhaustion of administrative remedies” mean?
“Exhaustion of administrative remedies” (often called “exhaustion”) is a requirement under the IDEA. The general rule is that parents seeking relief for an alleged denial of FAPE can’t simply go to court and sue the district. Instead, parents must file a due process complaint, participate in an impartial hearing before an independent hearing officer, and receive a final decision on the merits of the case. Once a parent has done everything they can to obtain relief in a due process proceeding, they have exhausted their rights before a hearing officer, they may bring a lawsuit in court to appeal any unfavorable component of the decision. This exhaustion requirement applies to all IDEA claims, as well as Section 504 and ADA claims that allege a denial of FAPE.