Supreme Court Rules No Lawyer Required in Education Case
The United States Supreme Court ruled on Monday that parents need not hire a lawyer to sue public school districts over their children’s special education needs.
The decision came in the case of an autistic boy from Ohio, whose parents argued they were effectively denied access to the courts because they could not afford a lawyer. The court sided with Jeff and Sandee Winkelman and their son, Jacob, in their fight against the Parma, Ohio school district.
Court: Parents don’t need lawyer to sue school
By Bill Mears
May 21, 2007
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sandee Winkelman calls her experience with her Ohio school district “horrific” and accuses officials of “bullying” her over who should pay for the special education their autistic son receives.
But Winkelman and her husband, Jeff, won a round Monday when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in their favor regarding a legal sticking point in their lawsuit against their local school board.
The justices concluded federal law includes an exception permitting the Winkelmans to represent themselves without a lawyer in their ongoing lawsuit. They had argued they could not afford a lawyer and better understand their child’s special needs.
“The parents enjoy enforceable rights at the administrative stage,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, “and it would be inconsistent with the statutory scheme to bar them from continuing to assert those rights in federal court.” He added the parents can sue for their child’s needs “on their own behalf.”
The Winkelmans say their son, Jacob, was subject to emotional “meltdowns” because of his autism. In 2003 they enrolled him in the private Monarch School, which specializes in educating the autistic through intensive one-on-one interaction. He continues to attend that school.
For the previous two years, they boy had attended another private facility that both his parents and the school district had agreed was appropriate. The school district paid the tuition. But county officials then said they believed Jacob could get the speech and occupational therapy he needed at Pleasant Valley Elementary School.
The Winkelmans objected to the school district’s proposed individualized education program for Jacob in a public school setting and filed a due process claim, without benefit of legal assistance. They also wanted taxpayers to continue paying the $56,000 yearly tuition at Monarch.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act allows every child access to a “free appropriate public education” — but for some disabled children that can be at an accredited private school. But the question of who should pay was not at issue before the justices Monday, only the right to go to federal court without an attorney.
The Winkelmans’ administrative request for relief was denied, and further appeals followed. The couple then filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court, which required a lawyer to argue on their behalf. A federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled against them.
The Bush administration and a dozen Democratic members of Congress supported the Winkelmans. Their victory will make it easier for parents who either cannot afford or refuse to get legal help the legal venue to challenge IEP plans.
The U.S. Department of Education did not have clear statistics on the number of special needs children who could be affected by this ruling.
There was no immediate reaction from the parents in this case, or their lawyer, but in an interview the CNN in February, Sandee Winkelman urged parents in a similar situation to continue fighting.
“Every day you’re working toward a goal,” she said. “And it’s frustrating when you don’t see that happening in a timely fashion. It’s scary, because with my children, the opportunity for learning is so short.”
Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since before Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid.
ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.
The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work.
What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates’ opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.
The ‘cure’ for Autistics not born yet is the prevention of birth.
The ‘cure’ is a choice to terminate a pregnancy based on ‘autism risk.’ The cure is abortion. This is the same ‘cure’ society has for Down Syndrome.
This is eugenics 2021. Instead of killing Autistics and disabled children in gas chambers or ‘mercy killings’ like in Aktion T4, it’ll happen at the doctor’s office, quietly, one Autistic baby at a time. Different approaches yes, but still eugenics and the extinction of an entire minority group of people.
Fact: You can’t cure Autistics from being Autistic.
Fact: You can’t recover an Autistic from being Autistic.
Fact: You can groom an Autistic to mask and hide their traits. Somewhat. … however, this comes at the expense of the Autistic child, promotes Autistic Burnout (this should not be confused with typical burnout, Autistic Burnout can kill Autistics), and places the Autistic child at high risk for PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions.
[Note: Autism is NOT a disease, but a neurodevelopmental difference and disability.]
Fact: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.