In Anthony Porco IV v. Lewis Palmer School District 38, the Tenth Circuit, which is not binding in Illinois, addresses the exhaustion requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), on the heels of (but without reference to) the Supreme Court’s decision in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools. Specifically, the Court determined that the IDEA exhaustion requirements applied to a student who was expelled and then sued the District for violations of IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Section 504”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Additionally, the Court held that filing a complaint with the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), and requesting a manifest determination hearing were not sufficient to meet the exhaustion requirements of the IDEA.
LT is a student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) and impulse control disorder. In 2005, the District put in place an IEP and a 504 Plan to address concerns related to LT’s behavior and comprehension. In 2012, however, the District took LT off of the IEP because of his improved behaviors. Roughly around the same time, LT was starting middle school and claimed that he was being bullied. On several occasions, LT was disciplined for altercations with other students and threatening to “shoot up the school.” Throughout the bullying, LT’s parents allege that they were notifying the District but the District refused to address their concerns. After a final altercation with another student, LT was notified that he would be expelled. The parents subsequently requested for a manifest determination hearing. Upon conducting the hearing, the District was unable to determine whether the student’s conduct was a manifestation of his disabilities. The District continued with the hearing and expulsion of the student. LT’s parents subsequently filed a complaint with OCR, which resulted in a voluntary resolution agreement between the District and OCR. At no point did the parents follow the administrative procedures outlined in the IDEA. The parents subsequently brought suit against the District for violation of IDEA, Section 504, and ADA. The parents also alleged that the District violated FAPE because it removed the student’s IEP in 2012.
The Tenth Circuit rejected all of the parents’ claims and found that the proper remedy would be to exhaust the administrative procedures under the IDEA. The Court reasoned that all three of the alleged violations centered on the disruption of LT’s educational opportunities and LT’s right to a free appropriate public education. Therefore, the Court determined that the claims are subject to the IDEA exhaustion requirements. Further, the Court found that holding a manifestation determination hearing and having a resolution agreement with OCR cannot substitute the IDEA’s administrative requirements. With respect to the parents’ claims that the IEP was improperly revoked, the Court pointed out that there are proper administrative procedures under the IDEA which are designed to address those issues. Because the parents did not follow these administrative procedures before filing a lawsuit, the Court dismissed their claims.