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9th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Case About Autistic Child Locked in Closet

We're all lawyers here, and understand that sometimes you have to jump through a hoop or two to get things accomplished, even if you might have a legitimate beef. But sometimes, you read about a court opinion that makes you say, "Seriously?"

That was the reaction of the folks over at the Section 1983 Blog when they came across the opinion in Payne v. Peninsula School District, released by the 9th Circuit yesterday. The case is about a parent (named "Windy Payne"; I was suspecting that was a pseudonym, like a "Jane Doe" for the 2010s, but it looks like it might really be her name) who didn't particularly like the Individualized Education Plan implemented pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for her 7-year-old autistic son by the local school district.

Largely because it involved routinely locking him in a closet-sized "safe room" until he messed his drawers. Ah, yes, the Mike Leach method of special education. Two of the judges on the panel agreed with the district court that it had no jurisdiction over the claims because Payne had failed to exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA. To do so, they had to endorse the idea that locking the kid up was legitimately part of an educational strategy. Not necessarily a wise part, but a part nonetheless. Judge Noonan, in dissent, saw it as more akin to "a return to the bleak black days of Dickensian England," with a bluebook-perfect cite to Oliver Twist.

The 1983 Blog post is not all about outrage, but also legitimate confusion. I concur with the observation that the opinion is less than clear as to whether there are Section 1983 claims separate and apart from the IDEA claims; the majority's bare reference to claims that the policy was "unconstitutional" don't shed much light. However, the long list of things I'm not an expert on includes Section 1983 and IDEA. Anyone else care to weigh in?

Posted by Eric Lipman on March 19, 2010 at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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