Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Supreme Court Takes Up Case of Parents of Boy With Autism

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of an Ohio family who sought to sue their school district over services to their autistic son without hiring a lawyer. The Associated Press has a summary of the case on The New York Times website. The Supreme Court explains here that the issue before the justices is whether, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the family can represent themselves without hiring a lawyer. (The question of whether the services that the Parma, Ohio, school district is offering is not something the Supreme Court will decide.)

Jeff and Sandee Winkelman have been fighting this case for some time and have won some points in lower courts. School officials have argued during these battles that the Winkelmans are not legally allowed to represent their son without using an attorney.

Sandee Winkelman told The Times in an article last May that her family could not afford thousands in legal fees, and they had nowhere to send her son Jacob to school. "When you're in a do-or-die situation, you do what you have to do," she said. (The article is here but you need a subscription to read it.)

The school district argues that IDEA requires lawyers to represent disabled children in court. The case is called Winkelman v. Parma City School District.

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