Supreme Court rules for deaf student who sued Michigan school district

Patrick Semansky
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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of a student in Michigan seeking to hold his local school district accountable for, he alleges, failing to adequately meet his educational needs.

In the unanimous ruling, the court said Miguel Luna Perez could pursue claims against Sturgis Public School District under the American with Disabilities Act.

The brief decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, was about a technical issue: whether Perez was barred from bringing a claim under the ADA because he was already seeking relief under a different federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.

Perez and his family allege that the school district failed to provide qualified aides who could adequately translate into sign language.

The school also indicated that Perez was advancing normally and was on course to graduate from high school. The family were shocked when they were told Perez would not receive a diploma.

The school settled Perez’s IDEA complaint, promising to provide education at the Michigan School for the Deaf.

Perez then sued under the ADA, seeking compensatory damages.

The school district claimed that lawsuit could not proceed because of the IDEA lawsuit, but the Supreme Court disagreed in Tuesday’s decision.

While lower courts had found that a provision of the IDEA prevented Perez’s ADA lawsuit, “we clarify that nothing in that provision bars his way,” Gorsuch wrote.

The case will return to lower courts to determine whether Perez can win the damages he seeks.

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