Though I practice in Kentucky and Ohio, it seems like I am always reading hot new school law cases from California, Florida, New York, and New Jersey. Those states are great. For school law cases, they’ve got a lot going on and, for innovative issues, I’m downright grateful for them because they’ve got relevant case authority. The Sixth Circuit isn’t as populous and tends not to be as innovative, but still why should the Second and Ninth Circuits have all the fun?
I say they shouldn’t. In some areas of school law, the Sixth Circuit’s middle of the road approach actually predicted subsequent Supreme Court precedent. For example, while some circuits, like the Tenth, were rocked by the Supreme Court’s Endrew F. decision relating to the standard of FAPE under the IDEA last year, the Sixth Circuit had already adopted a similar standard years prior in Hamilton County v. Deal when it required “meaningful educational benefit” to show a provision of FAPE. Thus, the Sixth Circuit’s precedents are certainly worth knowing. In addition, lawyers, parents, and school officials in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee may appreciate analysis of the precedents that affect them most directly.
As a school board attorney who practices in Kentucky and Ohio, I want to create a space where legal issues specifically in the Sixth Circuit can be discussed, explored, and shared. While it is not every day that a Sixth Circuit case will come down the pike and rock the school law boat, new cases frequently emerge which can help or hurt the interests of schools, parents, or litigants. I hope this blog is a resource to help you stay on top of those developments.
This summer the Sixth Circuit has been pretty active in the area of school law, including at least 2 attempts to make sense of another new Supreme Court IDEA decision relating to administrative exhaustion which was issued last term: Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools. I’ll explain the first of these decisions, Sophie G. v. Wilson County Schools, next time. Stay tuned.