TWO YEARS MAY REALLY MEAN TWO YEARS ... MAYBE

In a new case out of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Baker v. Southern York Area School District, the District Court applied in a Section 504 FAPE case a strict two year statute of limitations, borrowing the statute of limitations from the IDEA. Looking to a recent case from the Third Circuit, P.P. v. West Chester Area School District, discussed below, the Court simply looked to the filing date of the Complaint and limited the claims to two years prior to that date. However, it appears that there continues to be cases all over the map on how to apply statute of limitations in IDEA cases. It appears that will likely to continue until the issue is decided by the Third Circuit.   

THIRD CIRCUIT GIVES SOME GUIDANCE ON STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS UNDER IDEA AND SECTION 504, BUT STILL LEAVES SOME ISSUES UNRESOLVED

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a decision addressing the issue of the statute of limitations, or the time limits for bring a case, under both Section 504 and IDEA. In P.P. v. West Chester Area School District the only clear guidance that is given is that the statute of limitations provided for in IDEA is also applicable in Section 504 cases. Section 504 does not provide any statute of limitations. The Court also indicates that the exceptions available to the statute of limitations under IDEA would also be available under Section 504.

However, the Court leaves unanswered two issues. First, the Court refused to address whether the statute of limitations under IDEA is applicable at all to cases in which the alleged improper conduct occurred prior to the addition of the time limits in IDEA, which were new to the statute as reauthorized in 2004. The other unresolved issue is whether a strict two year statute of limitations applies or whether the “two plus two” concept is applicable. One approach would limit cases to strictly looking to alleged wrongful conduct two years prior to the filing of the Due Process Complaint. The second approach allows looking back two years from the date the parents of the student knew or should have known of the alleged wrongful conduct and then allows the parents two years from that date to file the claim. Thus, in theory, under the second approach you might be able to look at a four year window in total.

The Court does not address these two remaining issues and has left them for another day.