Ask the Lawyer

Education Law

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Q: My school district in Nassau County, where my special needs child attends school, wants to move him to a different type of classroom situation that I think is inappropriate.  Can I keep him in his current placement, and, if so, how long can I keep him there?

A: Parents of special education students can and should invoke “pendency,” sometimes known as “stay-put,” during their dispute with a school district over a special education student’s IEP.  When a parent invokes “stay-put,” a child with an IEP stays in his or her last agreed upon placement, preventing a school district from imposing a different (and, to the parent, unacceptable) placement on that student. But, once invoked, how long does “stay-put” last?

The United States Supreme Court answered that question this week, when on May 18, 2015, it denied certiorari, thereby refusing to hear the case of Ridley School District v. M.R., 744 F.3d 112 (3d Cir. 2014). In Ridley, the federal appeals court for the Third Circuit held that “stay-put” remains in effect “through the final resolution of the dispute,” which not only includes the period when an administrative proceeding is pending against the School District (that is, from the time a parent makes a demand for an impartial hearing, sometimes known “due process,” through any appeal to the State’s highest education officer) but also through any civil action in federal court brought after the administrative remedies have been exhausted –including all appeals. By reason of the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari in Ridley, the Third Circuit’s decision stands, giving parents the comfort that “stay put” really means what it says.

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