Learning-Disabled Athlete Failed To Exhaust Administrative Remedies

Sep 12, 2008

A federal judge from the Northern District on Mississippi has determined that a 19-year-old student athlete “failed to initiate and/or exhaust (his) administrative remedies concerning (his) claims” in a case in which he alleged that the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) did not properly consider his learning disabilities when it denied his transfer.
Jeremy Newsome, who was 19 at the time the opinion was written and had just completed his senior year of high school at Okolona High School, played varsity basketball at Okolona, including his just completed senior year.
Newsome had attempted to join the varsity basketball team at Nettleton High School at the beginning of his senior year, but was deemed ineligible by the MHSAA, after the association determined that his move to Nettleton High was made for athletic reasons.
The matter was further complicated by the fact that Newsome had learning disabilities and that the Nettleton School District had allegedly failed to provide him with an Individual Education Plan pursuant to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400, et seq., and Sections 37-23-133, et seq. of the Mississippi Code. Because of this failure, claimed the plaintiff, Newsome re-enrolled at Okolona High School on December 12, 2007, and played the remainder of the basketball season with the Okolona team, missing only seven of 31 games during the 2007-2008 season.
On November 13, 2007, Newsome filed their initial complaint and subsequently amended it on February 4, 2008. He asserted claims under the IDEA, ADA, and U.S. Constitution, seeking injunctive relief that would require the defendants to permit Jeremy to play basketball at Nettleton – “despite his not having been enrolled there at the time the amended complaint was filed” — and for monetary damages for mental anxiety.
The court began its discussion by noting that Newsome’s request for injunctive relief “is plainly moot.
“As the Supreme Court has held, a case is moot when ‘the issues presented are no longer ‘live’ or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.’ City of Erie v. Pap’s A.M., 529 U.S. 277, 287, 120 S.Ct. 1382, 1390, 146 L. Ed. 2d 265 (2000); Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 67, 117 S.Ct. 1055, 1068, 137 L. Ed. 2d 170 (1997) (holding that ‘an actual controversy must be extant at all stages of review . . .’). Here, at the time of the amended complaint’s filing, Jeremy had re-enrolled at Okolona High School and was playing basketball with the Okolona team. (His) request to enjoin the defendants to permit Jeremy to play basketball at Nettleton, where he no longer resides, was rendered moot by his Okolona re-enrollment. Indeed, such a move would have likely been highly disruptive, with Jeremy disenrolling from Okolona and re-enrolling at Nettleton for a second time, a point not addressed by (Newsome in his) complaint or response to the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.”
Newsome “also request monetary damages for mental distress in their amended complaint. The IDEA, the act which forms the underlying basis of the Plaintiffs’ claims, requires states to establish ‘procedural safeguards’ or administrative remedies that must be exhausted prior to the filing of a civil action. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415; Sandifer v. Lumberton Public Sch. Dist., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51382, 2007 WL 2071799 (S.D. Miss. Aug. 16, 2007). These remedies include requiring aggrieved parents to provide written notice of a request for a due process hearing to the local school superintendent and to attend mediation and the due process hearing (at which the parents may be represented by counsel). See Procedural Safeguards of the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Special Education (July 2007). The Mississippi administrative remedies then provide specifically that ‘the decision made by the hearing officer shall be final, except that any party aggrieved by the findings and decision shall have the right to bring civil action with respect to the issues of the due process hearing.’ Id. at B-14.
“It is well-established that a complaint arising under the IDEA is not a justiciable controversy until the plaintiffs “have exhausted their administrative remedies under the IDEA or proved that exhaustion would be futile or inadequate.” Marc v. North East Ind. Sch. Dist., 455 F. Supp. 2d 577, 591-92 (W.D. Tex. 2006); Gardner v. School Bd. of Caddo Parish, 958 F.2d 108, 112 (5th Cir. 1992). While claims under the IDEA do not form the sole basis of the Plaintiffs’ claim for relief in this case, it has been held that the mandatory exhaustion requirement of the IDEA cannot be circumvented even when a plaintiff purports to cast his claims as Constitutional claims, as arising under the ADA, or as an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 predicated on the IDEA. M.T.V. v. DeKalb County Sch. Dist., 446 F.3d 1153, 1158 (11th Cir. 2006); W.B. v. Matula, 67 F.3d 484, 495 (3rd Cir. 1995); Marc, 455 F. Supp. 2d at 592. Accordingly, because the plaintiffs have failed to initiate and/or exhaust their administrative remedies concerning their claims, the court is without jurisdiction to consider the plaintiffs’ claims and dismissal is appropriate.”
Jeremy Newsome et al. v. Mississippi High School Activities Association, Inc. et al.; N.D. Miss; No. 1:07CV293-D-D; 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53094; 7/8/08
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiffs) Jim D. Waide, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, WAIDE & ASSOCIATES, PA, Tupelo, MS. (for defendant) Kathryn R. Gilchrist, ADAMS AND REESE – Jackson, Jackson, MS.


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