Recent Decisions- SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

Article excerpt

Final Decision

DOCKET NO.: 05-983

NAME: Winkelman v. Panama City School District

DATE: May 21st, 2007

Parents sued the Panama City School District under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), claiming that the individualized education program (IEP) that was created for their son was deficient. The parents lost in an administrative hearing and proceeded (without counsel) to file a complaint in federal district court. The district court ruled in favor of the school district, and on appeal to the sixth circuit the court dismissed the appeal, ruling that the plaintiffs needed to obtain a lawyer. The court ruled that the rights granted under IDEA (to a free and appropriate public education) belong to the child and not the parent. Under the jurisprudence of the sixth circuit, nonlawyer parents cannot litigate IDEA claims on behalf of their child because IDEA does not abrogate the common-law rule prohibiting nonlawyer parents from representing minor children. Held: The Supreme Court ruled that the rights under IDEA are not exclusive to the child. The Supreme Court held that when looking at the statutory scheme of IDEA as a whole, it is clear that parents have independent enforceable rights under the statute. IDEA allows parents to be involved in the creation of a child's IEP, as well as providing parents with independent enforcement rights at the administrative level. As parents clearly have rights under IDEA separate from their children, the Supreme Court ruled that disallowing the enforcement of these rights and those of their children at the federal level would be inconsistent with the purpose of IDEA. Winkelman v. Panama City School District, 127 S.Ct. 1994 (2007).

DOCKET NO.: 06-427

NAME: Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association v. Brentwood Academy

DATE: June 21st, 2007

Respondent school brought suit against Athletic Association claiming that enforcement of its anti-recruitment rules was the equivalent of state action in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) is a not-for-profit membership corporation organized to regulate interscholastic sports amongst its members. Brentwood Academy is a private school who has voluntarily joined the TSSAA. The football coach at Brentwood sent recruiting letters to certain middle school students who had not yet enrolled at Brentwood. These letters were found to violate the TSSAA anti-recruitment rules and thus after proceeding through two layers of internal TSSAA administrative review Brentwood was sanctioned by the TSSAA. Brentwood claimed that the TSSAA actions was tantamount to state action and thus violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The lower courts agreed, ruling that the anti-recruiting rule was a content based regulation of speech that was not narrowly tailored to serve its permissible purposes. Held: The Supreme Court ruled that the TSSAA's regulations were narrowly tailored to enforce the goals of the organization and thus did not violate the First Amendment. The Supreme Court held that Brentwood Academy chose to join the TSSAA, whose goals are to prevent the exploitation of children, to ensure that high school atiiletics remain secondary to academics, and to promote fair competition amongst its members. TSSAA argued that these goals adequately support the enforcement against its member schools of a rule prohibiting coaches from trying to recruit impressionable middle school athletes. The Supreme Court agreed with this reasoning, holding that the First Amendment was not violated by these rules, as they are narrowly tailored to uphold the goals of the voluntary organization. The TSSAA allows for many alternate ways of promoting itself by a member school, including the sending of brochures, posting of billboards, and otherwise advertising their athletic programs. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association v. Brentwood Academy, 127 S. …