The Third Circuit Court of Appeals Holds That the IDEA’s Statute of Limitations Applies to Filing Only, Not to Remedies Available to a Child

On September 22, 2015 The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in G.L.  v. Ligonier Valley School District that the IDEA has a two year statute of limitations, which applies to filing of IDEA Due Process Hearing Complaints, but also ruled that this limitations period does not apply to the child’s remedy.

By way of background, prior to 2004, the IDEA did not include a statute of limitations. When the IDEA was reauthorized in 2004, Congress added a statute of limitations. In doing so, however, Congress included two confusing provisions regarding the statute of limitations. Both of these provisions turn on a date–when a parent or agency knew or should have known about that action forming the basis of the complaint. The first provision, Section 1415(f)(3)(C), essentially states that a complaint must be filed within two years of the knew or should have known date. The second provision, section 1415(b)(6)(B), seemingly added that complaints could include violations that occurred up to two years before that same knew or should have known date. When viewed together, many believed that the provisions established what was referred to as a “2+2” situation, or potential recovery period of four years.

But, the Court held that the poorly penned 1415(b)(6)(B) provision was intended to be a synopsis of the 1415(f)(3)(C), which, quite simply, created the two year statute of limitations. So, the IDEA does contain a two year statute of limitations, and that period begins from the date that parent or agency knew or should have known about that action forming the basis of the complaint.

Although the Court clarified that the IDEA does include a two year limitations period, it also noted that these provisions impose a deadline on filing claims only—two years once they are reasonably discovered. The Court ruled that there is no cap on a child’s remedy for timely-filed claims that happen to date back more than two years before the complaint is filed. In other words, the provisions act as a filing deadline, but if a complaint is timely filed, and liability is found, the entire period of the violation would be remedied, returning a child to the place he/she would have been had he/she received an appropriate education in the first place.

Since the scope of parents’ claims will hinge on the timeliness of their filing, it is imperative that parents are vigilant in timely presenting any claims that they may have.

Call Hollie John  and Steve Jacobson at 215-340-7500.

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