Supreme Court Petition for Writ Filed on Burden of Proof in Special Ed Cases

Filed today is a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking the Justices take up a case involving burden of proof in a special education case when a school district or public agency seeks to change the placement of a child with a disability.  The question presented is:

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, parents of a child with a disability, who previously received special education and related services from a public agency, may unilaterally enroll their student in a private school and thereafter seek reimbursement for such private placement from the public school. 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(10)(C)(ii). In Florence County School District Four v. Carter, this Court held that parents initially seeking such relief carry the burden of proving “(1) that the public placement violated IDEA, and (2) that the private school placement was proper under the act.” 510 U.S. 7, 15 (1993).

This Court again addressed the issue of burden of proof in an initial private placement IDEA case in Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49 (2005), holding that the “burden of persuasion lies where it usually falls, upon the party seeking relief.” Id. at 58. Yet, nearly fifteen years on from Schaffer, the circuits are desperately divided on the burden of proof when a school district proposes to change the placement of a child with a disability. In this case, the Ninth Circuit, applying the minority position, held that because the parents initiated the administrative proceedings, they bore the burden of proof.

1. Whether the burden of proof shifts when the public agency seeks to change the educational placement of a child with a disability.

Below is a link to the Petition and Appendix filed today with the Court:



2 thoughts on “Supreme Court Petition for Writ Filed on Burden of Proof in Special Ed Cases”

  1. So is this saying if a parent wants a change of placement, ot is then the parents responsibility to pay for change of placement?

    If so what happens when the public institution does not have the resources to educate, commit crimes of violence in restraint and isolations, cause trauma, it is still thr parents to pay for change of placement because the school caused harm and violated FAPE?

    It is hard to sue for damages. Nobody wants to take on school districts for harm.

    1. No. This case is about when a parent has successfully privately placed their child at the school’s expense, who must prove that changing the placement of the child back to the public school complies with IDEA. In this case, Hawaii and the 9th Circuit have said it is the parents who have that burden of proof because they filed the due process complaint. My argument is that the school should have the burden because it is the party seeking to change the placement or, said another way, the party seeking relief from paying the private tuition. You should read the brief linked here as it gives more detail. As to the other things you say, please be careful because you don’t ever want to post something on social media that can get you in trouble.

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