In the case of Simpson-Vlach v. Mich. Dep’t of Educ., 6th Cir. No 22-1724 (May 10, 2023), a federal appellate court held that (1) a school district’s remote learning policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic did not violate a student’s established individualized education program (“IEP”) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) or deny a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”); and (2) a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) was inappropriate when the parents did not suffer a direct injury from the alleged conduct.
In this case, the parents argued that (1) the school district’s decision to move to remote learning due to COVID-19 violated the IDEA because this transition constituted a change in placement in violation of the students’ IEPs and (2) the school districts illegally used funds received under the IDEA intended for IEPs for protective equipment for all staff and students instead. In response, the school district argued that (1) the harm under IDEA was not ongoing or likely to happen again and the harm experienced was not specific to the parents of students with IEPs and (2) the complaint failed to allege causation of the individual actions to the injury that was caused. The federal appellate court agreed with the school district.
In support of its decision in favor of the school district, the federal appellate court explained that a claim for a violation of IDEA must show that a past injury presents continuing adverse effects or future injury has a substantial risk of occurring, neither of which were shown. The federal appellate court further explained that, even if wire fraud was committed, the entity who received the false assurances was the Department of Education, not the parents; the parents would have no right to assert a claim on behalf of the Department of Education.
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.