In the case of Wirtz v. Medina City School Dist. Bd. of Edn., N.D.Ohio No. 1:21-cv-1730 (July 8, 2022), a federal district court held that (1) a non-attorney parent cannot bring a suit pro se on behalf of the parent’s children and (2) the parent failed to provide any support of why the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would allow the parent to bring a suit, on a parental right grounds, to protect the health and safety of the children in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this case, the parent argued that (1) the parent could bring the pro se claims on behalf of the children and (2) the Ninth Amendment gave the parent the right to protect the health and safety of the children. In response, the school board argued that (1) non-attorney parents – such as this parent – cannot appear pro se on behalf of their minor children in lawsuits in federal and (2) the Ninth Amendment does not contain parental rights but, in any event, this parent already exercised the right to protect the health and safety of the children from COVID-19 by homeschooling the children. The federal district court agreed with the school board.
In support of its decision in favor of the school board, the federal district court explained that “[i]t is well-established that non-attorney parents cannot appear pro se on behalf of their minor children in lawsuits in federal court.” Opinion and Order at 4. The federal district court further explained that the Ninth Amendment does not grant parental rights but, in any event, this parent already exercised the right to protect the health and safety of the children from COVID-19 by homeschooling the children.
NOTE: In the case of Winkelman v. Parma City School Dist., 550 U.S. 516, the U.S. Supreme Court did not address whether the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) entitles parents to litigate their child’s claims pro se as the IDEA grants parents independent, enforceable rights, which are not limited to certain procedural and reimbursement-related matters but encompass the entitlement to a free appropriate public education for the parents’ child. In any event, the Wirtz case does not involve the IDEA.
To read this case, click here.
Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.
Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.