California Special Education Law

Advocacy Resources, Hearing & Appeal Decisions, Statistics and More for Parents

Lawsuit Before Due Process

Can I bring a lawsuit against a district without first going through a due process hearing?

No. In two cases the parents tried to bring suits for money damages against a district in federal court without first going through a due process hearing. In both cases, the court held that a student cannot avoid going through a due process hearing before bringing an IDEA complaint in federal court by limiting the relief sought to money damages. This means that even if the parent is only seeking money damages from the federal court, he must request a due process hearing for the IDEA violations before he can sue the district in federal court.

Fliess v. Washoe County Sch. Dist. 90 Fed. Appx. 240 (9th Cir. 2003); Robb v. Bethel Sch. Dist. #403, 308 F.3d 1047 (9th Cir. 2002)

However, a parent does not need to go through any process other than a due process hearing before filing a claim in federal court. In another case, the court held that the parents and their child were not required to exhaust their administrative remedies under the IDEA on the grounds that it would be futile. This means that parents who prevail at due process under the IDEA are not further required to proceed through the state’s complaint resolution process before filing a court action.

Porter v. Board of Trustees of Manhattan Beach Unified Sch. Dist., 307 F.3d 1064 (9th Cir. 2002)