By MARYCLAIRE DALE | Associated Press
January 2, 2009
Parents cannot sue to force school districts to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, a federal appeals court said Thursday in a precedential ruling.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit case concerns the Newark (N.J.) Public Schools, which the parents say had 51 'failing' schools under the federal law _ among its 81 schools _ in 2006-07.
The parents say the district failed to notify them, as required, of NCLB provisions including their right to transfer their children to non-failing schools or to seek supplemental services. Other parents say they sought but were denied such services.
"Congress did not intend to give individuals a right to enforce the notice and supplemental educational services provisions of the Act," but instead left enforcement to state educational agencies, Circuit Judge Maryanne Trump Barry wrote.
The 3rd circuit is the first federal appeals court to address the issue of individual enforcement, but each district judge asked to review the question has reached the same conclusion, Barry said. Thursday's ruling upholds a decision by District Judge Susan D. Wigenton.
Emily Goldberg, a lawyer for the parents, said her clients must now pressure the state to enforce the law's educational promises.
"Obviously, the courts are no longer an option, so it really puts pressure on the political process," she said.
The parents won't appeal because they do not believe the Supreme Court would be "more hospitable" to their cause than the 3rd Circuit, Goldberg said. However, they hope another circuit will rule differently, setting up a conflict between circuits which might interest the high court.
School district lawyer Adam S. Herman did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press.