Tuesday, August 06, 2013

K.M. v. Tustin USD (9th Cir. - Aug. 6, 2013)

I understand that the Ninth Circuit here isn't deciding the question.  It's simply reversing the grant of summary judgment and remanding to the district court.  Given the relevant statutes, as well as the position of the DOJ (which is entitled to some deference), that may perhaps be the right course.

But I'm still relatively amazed.

The Ninth Circuit holds that it's plausible that a school district might well be required to hire a full-time stenographer ("court reporter") to transcribe everything that a high-school student's teachers say in class because the student -- who's hard-of-hearing but not deaf -- finds it "difficult to concentrate" (leaving her "drained" at the end of the day) when she's required to listen to the teacher.

I'm hugely sympathetic to the educational needs of students.  Hugely.  People deserve the opportunity to learn.  Everyone.  We should go to substantial lengths to make this happen.

But wholly beyond the potential weirdness of having a court reporter sitting in and transcribing a high school class, I think about the cost.  Stenographers ain't cheap.  One student.  One stenographer.  The entire day.  I can't imagine you're not talking about a serious chunk of change.

With recognition that -- especially in the modern era -- funds devoted to X are not available to be deployed for the educational benefit of Y and Z.

I get that the Ninth Circuit doesn't decide whether the administrative or financial burden justifies denying the students' requests here.  That's an issue for remand.

But I wonder if it nonetheless says something when we've reached the point at which -- on remand -- it may well be possible that a school district is ordered to provide a full-time stenographer for a student.

Maybe that says something good.  Maybe not.