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Honig v. Doe - 484 U.S. 305, 108 S. Ct. 592 (1988)

Rule:

As a condition of federal financial assistance, the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA) requires states to ensure a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) for all disabled children within their jurisdictions. In aid of this goal, the EHA establishes a comprehensive system of procedural safeguards designed to ensure parental participation in decisions concerning the education of their disabled children and to provide administrative and judicial review of any decisions with which those parents disagree. Among these safeguards is the so-called "stay-put" provision, which directs that a disabled child shall remain in his or her then current educational placement pending completion of any review proceedings, unless the parents and state or local educational agencies otherwise agree.

Facts:

The Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA) 84 Stat. 175, as amended, 20 U.S.C.S. §§ 1400 et seq., which provided federal financial assistance to states that provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) for all disabled children, required that the parents or guardians of a disabled child be given an opportunity for an impartial hearing with respect to any complaints they may have concerning the child's educational placement, and the right to seek administrative review of any decisions they think inappropriate. If that review proved unsatisfactory, either the parents or the local school authorities may file a civil action in any state court of competent jurisdiction or in a Federal District Court. A "stay-put" provision, 20 U.S.C.S. § 1415(e)(3), directed that the child shall remain in his or her then current educational placement pending completion of any review proceedings unless the parents and state or local education agencies otherwise agree. In 1980, two emotionally disturbed students were suspended indefinitely from San Francisco public schools for violent and disruptive conduct related to their disabilities, pending the completion of expulsion proceedings. After unsuccessfully protesting the action, one of the students brought suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking injunctive relief against local school officials and the state superintendent of public instruction. The other student obtained leave to intervene in the suit. The District Court found that the suspensions and proposed expulsions deprived the students of their rights under the EHA. The District Court permanently enjoined the school district from taking any disciplinary action other than a 2-day or 5-day suspension against any disabled child for disability-related misconduct, or from effecting any other change in the educational placement of any such child without parental consent pending completion of any EHA proceedings. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed with slight modifications, holding that an indefinite suspension in aid of expulsion constituted a prohibited "change in placement" under 20 U.S.C.S. § 1415(e)(3), but that fixed suspension of up to 30 school days did not fall within the reach of § 1415(e)(3). Honig, the California Superintendent of Education petitioned for certiorari review.

Issue:

Could disabled students be excluded from classroom during the pendency of proceedings to review decisions concerning their education?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

TheUnited States Supreme Court held that under § 1415(e)(3) of the EHA, state or local school authorities could not exclude disabled students from the classroom during the pendency of proceedings to review decisions concerning their education, for dangerous or disruptive conduct that grew out of the students' disabilities. Moreover, the Court held that a court had power to order the state to provide services if the local school could or would not. Finally, the Court averred that  a suspension greater than 10 days constituted a "change in placement" prohibited by § 1415(e)(3).

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