Document Type


Publication Date



Disability Rights, Education law

Subject Category

Constitutional Law


Congress guaranteed the right of disabled children to a Free Appropriate Public Education through legislation. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides a mechanism for receiving redress when those educational services are denied. Before suing, representatives of disabled children must exhaust their claims administratively according to the procedures set by the states. However, how exactly to tell which kinds of wrongs are the denial of an education and subject to exhaustion has been a subject of much confusion. The Supreme Court in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools tried to set up a framework for when exhaustion is required versus when litigants can sue under other antidiscrimination statutes by suggesting two “clues” to apply to a complaint. Yet, the circuits have split in application, creating inconsistencies in results and a lack of predictability. This note argues that the Court should clarify the Fry framework first by stating the “clues” as a firm legal test. It should also require this test be applied to complaints as a whole and settle that when plaintiffs seek relief unavailable under IDEA, they are not subject to exhaustion requirements. Children with disabilities are only in school for a limited time, so it is of paramount importance that the procedures designed to give them relief actually work to provide the education to which they are entitled.