Legal Issues In Autism

Parents don’t need a lawyer
A Supreme Court decison in May ruled that a family can continue legal action against a school district while representing themselves—without a lawyer. The parents had been sending their autistic child to a private school and the school district had been paying the tuition (using taxpayer money of course), because there was no suitable program in any of the public schools. However, once one of the schools developed a program that district decided was acceptable they stopped paying the tuition and the parents sued.

What this means for teachers
This creates a huge issue for teachers, in that parents now can pursue legal action against districts and potentially teacher without a lawyer. Very often there are frivolous lawsuits based on accusations that a school or teacher did not meet the goals for a student listed on an IEP. Given what others have shared about making accommodations, this ruling would allow many more parents to sue without the barrier of legal fees or counsel. While often times these fees create barriers for parents with legitimate grievances, it also at least acts as some effort to prevent the unnecessary suit, a good lawyer will tell parents they don’t have a case to make or will not take them on as clients. However, without that intermediary, it would seem that parents can much more easily tie up schools in legal battles. Given the already tenuous situation of special education, allowing more litigious parents access seems problematic.

Aaron Seligman.