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Supreme Court To Decide Whether Parents Must Use Attorneys In IDEA Cases

by Dave Reynolds (subscribe)

PARMA, OHIO--The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday that it would hear arguments to decide whether parents can act without an attorney to sue a school if they believe the school has failed to accommodate that child's disability under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The case involves Ohio parents Jeff and Sandee Winkelman, who say they cannot afford an attorney to represent them in their suit against Parma City School District. They want the district to pay for their son, Jacob, to attend a specialized private school that caters to students with autism, at an annual cost of $56,000.

The Supreme Court will not decide whether the school must pay the tuition. The Justices will focus on the parents' right to sue without an attorney. While the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Winkelmans had to hire a lawyer, other federal courts in other states have ruled differently.

The case, Jacob Winkelman v. Parma City School District, 05-983, will likely be heard early next year, with a decision by next summer.

Earlier this year, the Cleveland Bar Association came under sharp criticism when it announced it would fine another Ohio couple, Brian and Susan Woods, for illegally practicing law when they settled a lawsuit against the Akron School District over special education services for their son, Daniel, who has autism.

The lawyer's group made that threat after Parma School attorneys accused the Woodses of providing legal advice to the Winkelmans. The association later apologized to the couple and withdrew their threat.

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Nonlawyer Parents May Sue Under IDEA (Education Week)
Lawyer Association Accuses Parents Of Illegally Practicing Law May 2, 2006 (Inclusion Daily Express)

Copyright 2006 Inonit Publishing
Article reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express international disability rights news service. Please do not reprint, republish or forward without permission.