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Monday, May 14, 2007

Federal Jurisdiction. An interesting question of federal jurisdiction arose in a recent Second Circuit case. A student's IEP (individualized education program) provided that the student was entitled to a 1:1 paraprofessional, but only at the public school. The student attended a parochial school, and the parents asked for a due process hearing, seeking to have the services of the paraprofessional be provided to him at his private school. The hearing officer ruled in favor of the parents. The school district appealed to the New York Education Department's State Review Officer, who agreed with the hearing officer, except held that there was no obligation to provide the paraprofessional under IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). He did, however, find such an obligation under the New York State Education Law. The school district filed an action in the federal court, challenging the determination of the State Review Officer. The District Court upheld the decision of State Review Officer.

On appeal, the Second Circuit held that because there was no right to the relief under federal law, the Court lacked jurisdiction. Even if IDEA incorporates certain state standards relevant to this case (an issue not decided), this does not provide an independent federal question that would sustain a federal court's jurisdiction. Nor does the provision of IDEA that allows an aggrieved party from an administrative decision in a special education action to bring an action in federal court, allow such a party to bring an action where there was no federal question. To hold that the court had jurisdiction in such a circumstance would allow jurisdiction insonsistent with Article III. The Court decided that the case should be brought in state court and dismissed the action.

The decision in Bay Shore Union Free School District v. Kain can be found here.

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