MONICA REYES, as next friend of E.M. Plaintiffs - Appellants
MANOR INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant-Appellee
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Texas
DAVIS, CLEMENT, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.
COSTA, Circuit Judge.
mother of E.M. brought this suit alleging that the Manor
Independent School District violated E.M.'s rights under
the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act
(IDEA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 20 U.S.C.
§§ 1400 et seq.; 29 U.S.C. § 794. The
district court held that the majority of E.M.'s IDEA
claims are barred by the one-year statute of limitations
period and that E.M. failed to administratively exhaust his
Rehabilitation Act 504 claims. We agree and therefore AFFIRM.
IDEA was enacted to ensure that children with disabilities
receive a "free appropriate public education that
emphasizes special education and related services designed to
meet their unique needs." 20 U.S.C. §
1400(d)(1)(A). To that end, a child's education
"must be tailored to each disabled child's needs
through an 'individualized education program'."
El Paso Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Richard R., 567
F.Supp.2d 918, 925 (W.D. Tex. 2008). Parents are given the
authority to enforce their child's IDEA rights, but that
authority transfers to the child when he turns 18. Tex. Educ.
Code. § 29.017(a); 34 C.F.R. § 300.520(a)(1)(ii).
a child's rights flow from the federal statute, states
are given authority to set up the enforcement procedures for
achieving the IDEA's goals. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(a).
That includes the ability to set the statute of limitations
for IDEA claims. Id. § 1415(b)(6)(B). In Texas,
a child's parent-or the child if he is over 18-may
initiate a due process hearing if the parent believes the
child's rights under the IDEA are being violated. 19 Tex.
Admin. Code § 89.1151(a). That hearing must be brought
within one year of the date that the parent knew or should
have known about the alleged action that serves as the basis
for the complaint. Id. § 89.1151(c). That time
limit may be tolled if the parent can show that the delay was
caused by: "(1) specific misrepresentations by the
public education agency that it had resolved the problem
forming the basis of the due process complaint; or (2) the
public education agency's withholding of information from
the parent that was required by [federal regulations] to be
provided to the parent." Id. § 89.1151(d).
was a student at Manor Independent School District, which he
started attending about a week before he turned 18 on August
18, 2010. E.M. has severe intellectual disabilities and
autism, with psychiatric evaluations placing his
developmental age at around three years old. This made him
eligible for special education under federal law, 20 U.S.C.
§§ 1400 et seq., and he was placed in a
special education program in the District.
attending school in the District, E.M. was aggressive towards
staff and harmed himself. In response, the District
repeatedly met with E.M.'s parents to collaborate on ways
to help E.M. improve. Following the last of these meetings in
May 2012, however, E.M.'s parents notified the District
that E.M. would be transferring to a specialized school for
severely impaired students.
February 2013, E.M.'s mother requested a due process
hearing. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(6). The
District challenged her authority to bring the due process
complaint, pointing out that she did not have the capacity to
file suit on behalf of her son who had turned 18 in 2010. As
with other legal claims, rights under the IDEA must be
asserted by the individual possessing those rights once the
person has reached the age of majority unless another party
has been appointed to legally assert those rights. Tex. Educ.
Code. § 29.017(a); 20 U.S.C. § 1415(m)(2).
E.M.'s parents corrected this defect by April 2013, when
they obtained a state court order finding E.M. incompetent
and appointing them to be his guardian.
allowed the hearing to proceed. The administrative complaint
alleged a number of IDEA violations against the District,
including physical abuse by the staff and failure to provide
E.M. with appropriate education services. Although that
complaint initially included claims under section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act, the prehearing request for relief did not
mention those claims. 29 U.S.C. § 794. In her decision,
the Special Education hearing officer thus did not discuss
the Rehabilitation Act claims. As to the IDEA claims, the
hearing officer found that most of them were barred by the
one-year statute of limitations for seeking due process
hearings. 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 89.1151(c). But in a
ruling favorable to E.M., she considered the operative date
of the hearing request to be the February 2013 date on which
his mother filed the complaint even though she was not
appointed as his guardian until two months later. Even with
that determination allowing the claim to reach back to
February 2012, the complaint covered only three months when
E.M. was a student at the District. Limiting her review to
that time period, the hearing officer found that the District
did not violate E.M.'s IDEA rights.
mother then filed this suit on his behalf. The complaint
alleges a number of procedural and substantive causes of
action under the IDEA and Rehabilitation Act. 20 U.S.C.
§ 1415(i)(2). The District filed a motion for judgment
on the administrative record, which the district court
granted. E.M. appeals, arguing: 1) that the district court
erred in holding that the majority of his claims were barred
by the statute of limitations, and 2) that the district court
erred in holding that his Rehabilitation Act claims were not
exhausted. We review de novo these questions of ...