Publication Date



44 p. ; An outstanding student paper selected as a Honors Paper.


Congress signed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") into law with the express intent that individuals with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education that is designed to meet their individual needs. In circumstances where parents believe the limited scope of remedies construed to be available under the IDEA is inadequate: the use of 42 U.S.C. 1983 ("Section 1983"); among other laws: has garnered special appeal. The courts, however, have split on the issue of whether 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 is available to plaintiffs seeking to allege a statutory violation of the IDEA. This Note will explore whether Section 1983 is available under the IDEA and to what extent a recent Supreme Court decision, Gonzaga v. Doe, may influence the current circuit court split on the issue. Part I provides a brief overview of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and its nexus with the current controversy over whether a claim for a violation of the IDEA may be made under Section 1983. Part II discusses the various decisions reached by the circuit courts in addressing this question. Part III examines 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and the treatment it has received by the Supreme Court up and through its decision in Blessing v. Freestone. Part IV analyzes a frequently litigated IDEA provision in light of the Supreme Court\'s Section 1983 jurisprudence and concludes that Section 1983 is available to plaintiffs suing for statutory violations of the IDEA. Part V evaluates the circuit court decisions that have found Section 1983 to be unavailable and discusses possible analytical errors these courts may have made in reaching their decisions. Part VI considers the holdings of the latest Section 1983 Supreme Court case, Gonzaga v. Doe, and the possible significance this decision may have in directing future decisions regarding the applicability of Section 1983 for violations of the IDEA. Finally, part VII concludes that, although Section 1983 should have been readily perceived by the circuits as available to plaintiffs suing upon statutory violations of the IDEA prior to Gonzaga, that decision now casts doubt onto this conclusion.


University of New Mexico School of Law

Document Type

Student Paper

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Law Commons



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