ALERT! Third Circuit Court of Appeals decided on September 22, 2015 in the G.L. case that remedies are expanded in due process for a District’s failure to provide FAPE in special education cases.

After attending a parochial school, G.L. entered high school in the Ligonier Valley District in 2008. At an open house shortly after he started, G.L.’s teacher told his father that G.L. seemed distracted and lacked organizational skills. G.L.’s father orally requested that the District evaluate G.L. for special education needs. No evaluation was conducted and, following a car accident in which G.L. lost his sister, the District purportedly investigated whether G.L. lived within its boundaries. That investigation confirmed the District’s obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to provide G.L. a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Little was done to deal with G.L.’s struggles or alleged bullying, while the District repeatedly investigated residency. His parents withdrew G.L. from the school in March 2010. Within two years (the limitations period set forth in 20 U.S.C. 1415(f)(3)(C)), G.L.’s parents filed a due process complaint (January 9, 2012), alleging that the District denied him a FAPE and requesting compensatory education for September 2008 through March 2010. A hearing officer adopted a two-year remedy cap, compensating only injuries that occurred within two years of the filing date (January 9, 2010 through January 9, 2012), regardless of whether filing occurred within two years of reasonably discovering older injuries. The District Court disagreed and remanded, concluding that section §1415(b)(6)(B) is simply an inartful attempt to mirror the two-year statute of limitations. In other words, as long as parents file the claim within two (2) years of the date the parents Knew Or Should Have Known (KOSHK) of the failure of the District to provide FAPE, compensatory education can be awarded for the period of time that FAPE was denied to a child, that time period may be longer than two (2) years.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s interpretation of the §1415(b)(b)(B) on September 22, 2015.   G.L.’s claim was filed within two years of the date his parents knew or reasonably should have known (KOSHK) of his injury, and his right to compensatory education upon proof of a violation was not curtailed by the IDEA’s statute of limitations. Therefore, when the claim is filed timely a child is entitled to be made whole with nothing less than a “complete” remedy.

G.L. Third Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion