Parents Don't Need Lawyers To Sue Schools, Appeals Court
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 9, 2003
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that parents do not need a lawyer to sue school districts in order to get an appropriate public education for their children.
The three-judge panel made its ruling in a New Hampshire case in which the parents of a boy with disabilities had sued two separate school districts over his individualized education plan (IEP).
The appeals court noted that it is customary for parents to seek the help of a qualified attorney when bringing suits under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. However, the court said, it is unlikely Congress intended for parents to be stopped if they decided to represent their children on their own.
The court also acknowledged schools districts' concerns that allowing parents to sue without a lawyer would cause more "meritless" lawsuits to be filed under the IDEA.
"The concern is real," the court wrote in its ruling. "Our view is that Congress . . . thought that risk an acceptable price to pay'' to make sure students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education.