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In Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, the United States Supreme Court ruled that parents of children with disabilities who allege that their child’s school discriminated against them because of their disabilities can seek compensatory monetary damages pursuant to federal laws that prohibit such discrimination without exhausting the administrative process of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This seemingly innocuous decision, based on two obscure procedural provisions of the IDEA, overturned decades of circuit court decisions that ruled otherwise.

Perez has already had a profound effect, opening the courthouse doors for children with disabilities. In all twenty-five post-Perez decisions in which courts have considered motions to dismiss ADA or Section 504 complaints for failing to exhaust the IDEA’s administrative process, courts have, with one exception, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. In doing so, they vacated pre-Perez decisions that dismissed ADA/504 claims for failure to exhaust, changed how they would have ruled because Perez was issued while motions to dismiss were pending, and recognized that Perez changed the law in their jurisdictions.

Ripples from Perez are likely to open more doors. The exhaustion requirement is frequently an obstacle to plaintiffs who bring claims alleging race discrimination against children with disabilities under Title VI or the Equal Protection Clause. The logic of Perez should eliminate this obstacle. Courts also frequently dismiss for failure to exhaust class action lawsuits seeking to address systemic IDEA violations. Perez might have already changed this trend; citing Perez, one court allowed a class action alleging disability discrimination to proceed, denying a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust.


11 Belmont L. Rev. 201 (2024)