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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Interesting case regarding mootness and jurisdiction

District of Columbia v. Doe (D.C. Cir. 2010): This case has been litigated for years. It is ostensibly about the suspension and alternative placement of a 6th grader, but the events occurred in 2004. The issue that survived was whether an IDEA hearing officer has the authority to revise district imposed discipline upon finding that an infraction is not a manifestation of a disability. The case went up and down the court system a few times over the years. Not surprisingly, the issue of mootness was raised. The Circuit Court held that the case was not moot, because it was capable of repetition while evading review. What makes this interesting is that the analysis was done without regard to the particular student in this case. The Court concluded that the District was almost certain to encounter the issue again and that it would evade review as the student seeking review of disciplinary matters is often done with school or otherwise ineligible for IDEA protections by the time the review process is concluded.

The Court recognized that a school has an obligation to provide the disciplined child with a FAPE and then concluded that an IDEA hearing officer has the authority to determine whether the District has in fact provided the disciplined child, even one for whom manifestation is not found, with a FAPE.

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