ADA Claim Does Not Require Administrative Exhaustion Where it Does Not Arise From Special Education Services.
Student brought an action against school district alleging denial of equal access to public education in violation of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Student’s complaint included allegations that he was subject to bullying due to his disabilities, excluded from participation in school activities, and sought but was refused reasonable accommodations of a one-on-one behavioral aide. The trial court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Reversed. The Ninth Circuit distinguished between a claim alleging a violation of the equal access requirements of the ADA from a FAPE challenge to the adequacy of special education services. The court held that a claim under the ADA that is separate and irrespective of the IDEA’s FAPE obligation is not subject to the IDEA’s administrative exhaustion requirement. In this case, the court found that the student had a cognizable claim under the ADA because his complaint addressed his exclusion from the classroom and school program rather than his specific learning needs. The court held that this demonstrated the independence of the student’s ADA claim from IDEA, and the ADA claim was dismissed in error.