Last Updated on August 4, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Lake Washington School District v. Office of Superintendent upheld parent and student rights in special education filings and limited a school district’s power to force action. This 2011 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (“Court”) decision was significant for California parents.
The Basics of the Lake Washington Case
Lake Washington was filed after a parent’s attorney was granted a postponement of a special education hearing. The school district, rather than be patient, filed in court to try to force the case to move forward and pressure the parents.
District Shot Down by Court
This student-supportive decision shut down the Lake Washington School District’s hope of pursuing a court trial under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The Ninth Circuit determined that the school district was not granted “standing” (ability to sue) under IDEA. The Ninth Circuit thus stopped the school district’s attempt to limit parent postponements of special education hearings (aka due process hearings).
Who Holds the Right to Pursue IDEA Actions?
The Lake Washington decision includes an important discussion regarding just WHO has a right of action under IDEA and the scope of such actions. The bottom line, according to Judge Sidney Thomas, is that the IDEA was written for students and parents, and so parents and students are the ones who are granted rights to file civil matters under IDEA. This right does not extend to school districts.
School District Limited by Parent’s Issues
The Court also stated that IF a student or parent files a request for a special education due process hearing, a school district must limit its response to the issues raised by the parent and student in their filing. The school district cannot bring up new issues.
A Great Lake Washington Quote
My favorite part of this student-supportive case is as follows where Judge Thomas states:
In sum, we join our sister circuits in holding that a school district or other local educational agency has no express or implied private right of civil action under the IDEA to litigate any question aside from the issues raised in the complaint filed by the parents on behalf of their child. In this case, the school district lacks statutory standing to challenge the State of Washington’s compliance with the IDEA’s procedural protections. The district court correctly dismissed its complaint with prejudice.
Another victory for special education students and parents.
Special education student lawyer Michelle Ball helps resolve special education issues, attends IEPs, 504s and becomes involved in other special education disputes. As a special needs attorney in Sacramento California, Michelle can help across California, in Fair Oaks, Napa, Vallejo, Fairfield, Modesto, Galt, Auburn, Meadow Vista, Weimar, Roseville, Granite Bay, the Bay Area and many other locations.