K.M. v. Tustin Unified Sch. Dist.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Disability Law
  • Date Filed: 08-06-2013
  • Case #: 11-56259; 12-56224
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Berzon for the Court; Circuit Judges Clifton and Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

A school district’s compliance with its obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act regarding accommodation for a deaf or hard-of-hearing child does not necessarily foreclose an Americans with Disabilities Act Title II claim grounded in the Title II effective communications regulation.

Two high school students with hearing disabilities asked their respective schools to provide a Communication Access Realtime Translation in order to help them follow classroom discussions. In both cases, the school district denied the request, so both filed suits in federal district court. In each case, the district court held that when a school district provides a “free appropriate public education” (“FAPE”) to a deaf or hard-of-hearing student in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), the plaintiff is automatically foreclosed from bringing claims grounded in the effective communications regulation under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The two cases were consolidated for oral argument on appeal, and both challenged the district courts’ grants of summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit rejected the district courts’ reasoning that: (1) a valid IDEA individualized education program (“IEP”) satisfied the FAPE requirement under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; (2) Section 504 was “substantially similar” to Title II; and (3) accordingly, a valid IDEA IEP satisfied the effective communications requirement under Title II. Instead, the panel held that compliance with the IDEA did not necessarily dictate the failure of all Section 504 claims. In light of the regulatory and statutory texts, the panel also determined that the IDEA FAPE requirement and the Title II communication requirements were materially different, requiring schools to provide different services for deaf or hard-of-hearing children in some, but not all, situations. Finally, the panel concluded that courts must analyze each claim separately under relevant statutory and regulatory framework. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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