Court Rules in Favor of Haddon Heights Board of Education


Opinion Filed: August 18, 2016

In a precedent-setting ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, William S. Donio, Esquire of Cooper Levenson successfully defended the Haddon Heights Board of Education when the Court affirmed a District Court’s dismissal of a lawsuit claiming that the Board discriminated against a disabled student. In S.D. v. Haddon Heights Board of Education, both the District Court and the Third Circuit agreed with the Board that the student and his parents could not file the lawsuit because they failed to first exhaust the administrative process under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

According to the Court’s written opinion, “claims that a board of education discriminated against a student and/or the student’s parents based on his disability, and retaliated against them for enforcing the child’s rights under a non-IDEA statute, are subject to the IDEA exhaustion requirement.” The Court agreed with the Board that if alleged student’s “injuries are educational in nature and implicate services within the purview of [the] IDEA, the claims must be exhausted under the IDEA.”

“When parents seek educational remedies in addition to other relief, the IDEA process is not only implicated, its essential” said Donio who is a partner and chair of the Education Law Practice Group at Cooper Levenson. According to Donio, “whether or not a school is providing a free appropriate public education, is best addressed by educational professionals and the administrative process, and the parents and school district should have a fully developed and informed record before making a ‘federal case’ out of any dispute.”

Cooper Levenson is a full service law firm since 1957, with 75 attorneys and New Jersey offices in Atlantic City and Cherry Hill. The firm has regional offices in Bear, Del., and Las Vegas, Nev.