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Case Number: 21-CV-1837
Judge: Patrick J. Schiltz
Court: United States District Court for the District of Minnesota (Hennepin County)
Defendant's Attorney: Alexander Robertson Sloan and Martha J. Casserly, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, for defendant.
Description: Minneapolis, Minnesota civil rights lawyers represented Plaintiffs who sued Defendant on an Individuals with Disabilities Act violation theory.
Under the IDEA, states must provide a “free appropriate public education” (“FAPE”) to students with disabilities beginning with their third birthday and continuing until their twenty-second birthday. 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1)(A); St. Johnsbury Acad. v. D.H., 240 F.3d 163, 169 (2d Cir. 2001) (finding that “IDEA eligibility . . . may continue until the day the claimant turns 22”). The IDEA provides one exception to this requirement: A state need not provide FAPE to students with disabilities until age 22 if doing so “would be inconsistent with State law or practice . . . respecting the provision of public education to children in those age ranges.” 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1)(B)(i). In other words, the IDEA requires a state to provide FAPE to students with disabilities until their twenty-second birthdays unless that state does not provide “public education” to students without disabilities until they reach age 22. The purpose of § 1412 “is to ensure equivalent educational opportunities for students with and without disabilities.” K.L. v. R.I. Bd. of Educ., 907 F.3d 639, 652 (1st Cir. 2018); see also id. at 642 (“[A] state's provision of ‘public education' for students from age 18 through age 21 triggers the IDEA's . . . FAPE mandate for students with disabilities in the same age range.”).
The State requires school districts to “provide special instruction and services . . . for all children with a disability . . . [from] ages three through 21 in conformity with an individualized education program that meets the requirements of the [IDEA].” Minn. Stat. § 125A.03(a) (emphasis added). But prior to July 1, 2023, the State provided special-education services only “until July 1 after the child with a disability becomes 21 years old.” Id. § 125A.03(b). Under prior law, then, a child with a disability who turned 21 on June 30 would not receive any special-education services during her twenty-first year, while a child with a disability who turned 21 on January 1 would receive only six months of special-education services during her twenty-first year. Only a child born on July 2 would receive special-education services during the entirety of her twenty-first year.
Outcome: 1. Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment [ECF No. 54] is GRANTED to the extent described in this order.
2. The Court DECLARES that the version of Minn. Stat. § 125A.03(b) that was in effect until July 1, 2023, violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (specifically, 20 U.S.C. § 1412) insofar as that version of Minn. Stat. § 125A.03(b) denied special education to students with disabilities who had not received high-school diplomas and who had not yet reached the age of 22.
3. The Court ORDERS defendant Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education of the State of Minnesota to provide compensatory education to class members who turned 21 years of age prior to July 1, 2022.
4. Defendant's motion for summary judgment [ECF No. 60] is DENIED.