Sunday, October 18, 2009

Judge: Deaf school case may not belong in federal court

Source Link - Judge: Deaf school case may not belong in federal court

A dispute between the parents of hearing-impaired children and the operators of the South Dakota School for the Deaf probably does not belong in federal court, a judge said from the bench Thursday.

Five families filed a class-action lawsuit in July against the Board of Regents, arguing a reduction of services at the deaf school violates the state constitution and the children’s educational rights.

The Sioux Falls school was down to six on-campus students at the start of this school year after administrators moved the auditory-oral program to a Brandon Valley school and put more money into statewide outreach services. The plaintiffs say outreach is not meeting students’ needs.

Lawyers for the state say the families should complain to the Department of Education before going before a judge. Susan Brunick Simons said a special-education expert with the Office of Hearing Examiners considers appeals from parents who disagree with a decision about their child’s special-education needs.

The plaintiffs must exhaust all other legal remedies before bringing the controversy to U.S. District Court, she said.

Steve Sanford, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, argued there are systemic problems with deaf education in South Dakota, which can only properly be addressed in federal court. The state complaint system addresses only decisions about individual students’ education.