Special Education Decisions

Victories for Our Communities


  • Rowley: seminal special education case in which the Supreme Court addressed the extent of a school district's obligation to provide special education services

  • Burlington: analysis of the parent right to reimbursement for the cost of a private placement

  • Carter: parent right to reimbursement for the cost of a placement in a private school not approved by the state

  • Cedar Rapids v. Garrett F.

  • Buckhannon: rejection of catalyst theory

  • Schaffer v. Weast: parent has burden of persuasion

  • Arlington v. Murphy: expert fees not recoverable under the IDEA

  • Winkelman v. Parma City School District: parents have independently enforceable rights under the IDEA. Parent can prosecute IDEA claims on their own behalf without representation by an attorney

  • Board of Ed. of NYC v. Tom F.: in 4-4 split decision, Supreme Court affirmed the Second Circuit decision awarding private school reimbursement to the parent of child who had never attended the public school system.


  • Murphy, Schutz, Mackey: these cases stand for the proposition that a child's pendency placement shifts to the private school at public expense when the State Review Office holds that a parent is entitled to reimbursement for the private placement.

  • Frank G. v. Hyde Park: Court rejects district argument that reimbursement is permitted only when a child has previously received special education services in the public schools. The district appealed to the Supreme Court which just decided the identical issue in Tom F. The Supreme Court denied cert leaving in place the 2nd Circuit decision. 

  • Somoza v. NYC: This case is on its face a statute of limitations case, but it is vitally important for the proposition that a parent retains due process rights even when the district is ostensibly giving the child what the parent seeks. See article discussing this important case.


  • M.V. v. Shenendehowa(1/2/08): In this Carter type reimbursement case, the hearing officer ruled in favor of the parent and awarded reimbursement for one year at an out of state residential school. The SRO(05-116), despite agreeing that the district failed to provide the child with a FAPE and that the parent placement was appropriate, reversed the IHO decision finding that the parent failed to cooperate with the intake process at the residential schools recommended by the district. In a strongly worded decision, Judge Kahn of the Northern District of New York reinstated the reimbursement award(with interest) finding that the SRO had mischaracterized the evidence and that "it would be inequitable to reward the District for its admitted failure to comply with the IDEA."


  • SRO 07-070: in a case handled by the Marcus Firm, the SRO agreed that parent who had rejected the home district IEP and placed her child into a special education program in a neighboring public school district could make a claim for reimbursement of the costs of the placement. IHO had ruled that the law only provided for the right to make a claim for reimbursement for a private school placement, not a public school placement. District has appealed to federal court and the case is pending.

  • SRO 07-086: in a case handled by the Marcus Firm, the SRO reversed an extraordinarily poorly reasoned hearing officer decision denying eligibility to a severely school phobic child suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome triggered by episodes of bullying by classmates. The SRO ordered that the child be classified as emotionally disturbed. Most importantly, the SRO found that the district "erred by inadequately considering the student's non-academic limitations in determining eligibility for special education services." The district has appealed this decision to federal court. Remarkably, the district has asserted a claim for attorney fees against the parent despite the fact that the parent prevailed at SRO. The case is pending.


  • JJ v. Olean: hearing officer awards reimbursement to parents who hired private reading expert to provide intensive reading services to their daughter; State Review Office finds that the district services were not appropriate and that the private services obtained by the parents were appropriate, but reverses the hearing officer on the equities and denies reimbursement to the parents(see SRO 06-080). Parents appealed to federal court.

  • KJ v. Alden: hearing officer orders district to provide additional services in the home to child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. District had refused to provide services in the home; parent, following the direction of her daughter's therapist, had refused services elsewhere.