Note: I will be updating these pages and adding new content. - Dave Thompson, Sept. 25, 2005
True opinions can prevail only if the facts to which they refer are known; if they are not known, false ideas are just as effective as true ones, if not a little more effective. (Walter Lippman)
Individual care called schools' job
Court: Schools Must Pay Nurses
The New York Times ON THE WEB, March 3, 1999
Article leads with:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal law requires public school districts to pay for one-on-one nursing services for some disabled students throughout the school day, the Supreme Court said today in a ruling that may strain educational budgets across the nation.
Garret F. represents an affirmation of the Court's 1984 decision in Tatro. (Irving Independent School District v. Tatro, Decided July 5, 1984, 468 U.S. 883)
In Tatro the Court said: "Without [medical procedure] available during the school day, respondents' child cannot attend school ... Such services are no less related to the effort to educate than are services that enable a child to reach, enter, or exit a school."
In Garret F. the Court says: "It is undisputed that the services at issue must be provided if Garret is to remain in school."
The central issue is revealed in both cases when the Court notes that absent the assistance the child needs during the school day, the child could not attend public school. In my opinion, this is the desired effect the schools and the NSBA (National School Boards Association) are seeking: to exclude disabled children from public schools, and for those currently in school, to drive them out.
Once again - as happens so often - we see the schools and their lobbyists pursuing an expensive legal strategy against a single child and the child's parents even in the face of the clear intent of the Congress that our children are not to be excluded from public schools.
The course of events in Garret (as detailed in the text of the Supreme Court opinion):
1) Initially Garret's parents paid for a licensed practical nurse to attend Garret using "settlement proceeds they received after the accident [When Garret was four years old, his spinal column was severed in a motorcycle accident], their insurance, and other resources."
2) After four years, the parents asked the school district to "accept the financial responsibility for the health care services that Garret requires during the school day."
3) The district refused.
4) In a hearing before the Iowa Department of Education heard by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the ALJ concluded that, "IDEA required the District to bear financial responsibility for all the services in dispute."
4) "The District then challenged the ALJ's decision in Federal District Court, but that Court approved the ALJ's IDEA ruling."
5) The District then appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, (106 F.3d 822), which ruled in the parent's favor once again: "The Court of Appeals succinctly answered both questions [at issue] in Garret's favor."
6) The District then filed a petition before the U.S. Supreme Court, once again seeking to deny the responsibility of providing the very services that the child requires on a daily basis in order to attend school.
While the headlines cite costs and burdens, in the final analysis we find that cost was no object to the Cedar Rapids Community School District. While the legal expenses of the Cedar Rapids CSD are unlikely to be revealed, it seems possible - even likely - that these expenses were significant.
My guess is that their expenses in pursuing an attempt to exclude Garret F. from public school in America, would have more than covered the expense of providing assistance to Garret all the way through high school graduation.
Attempts continue to demean and devalue the lives and humanity of our disabled children. Fortunately, in this case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of the child.
But was this six-year ordeal for Garret and his family necessary? What is it about school districts that complain about "burdens and costs" for helping disabled children, yet districts can find millions of dollars for artificial turf for their high football stadiums? What is it about costs that lead a school district to deny a $30 educational toy for the classroom use of a disabled child, while supporting a high school golf team with color coordinated golf bags and uniforms?
Dave Thompson - March 4, 1999