Apr. 03, 2017

Court of Appeals Sidesteps Issue Whether School Districts Can Pursue Article 78 Review of IDEA Violation Determinations

In Matter of East Ramapo Cent. Sch. Dist. v King (No. 21), previewed here, the Court of Appeals sidestepped the issue of whether school districts have the right to judicial review under CPLR Article 78 of New York State Department of Education determinations enforcing the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In East Ramapo Cent. Sch. Dist., the public school district sought to challenge a NYSED determination that it violated the IDEA by routinely placing students with disabilities in private schools and the Kiryas Joel Union Free School District to accommodate parental demands that the students be placed in Yiddish bilingual educational programs.

After the Appellate Division, Third Department held that the school district had no right of action to challenge NYSED’s IDEA enforcement action, the Court of Appeals affirmed, but on different grounds. Instead of addressing the merits of the case, the Court held that the school district was not harmed by the NYSED enforcement action, and there was no final determination subject to judicial review, because the State had not yet made a determination to withhold federal funds from the school district as a result of the IDEA violations. Thus, the Court held, in the absence of a final determination to withhold the federal IDEA funds, the school district was not harmed and lacked standing to pursue judicial review of the initial IDEA violations determination, and had not shown that it had exhausted administrative remedies from a final determination to withhold any funds.

The Court’s opinion, therefore, leaves open the question of whether school districts may pursue Article 78 review of a NYSED IDEA enforcement determination. This is an important issue to school districts across the State, and so the Court should address it in the near future. The Court has made clear, however, that it won’t do so until the NYSED actually decides to withhold funds from a school district as a result of IDEA violations.

The Court of Appeals’ opinion can be found here.