Irving ISD v. Tatro
Annotate this Case
468 U.S. 883 (1984)
U.S. Supreme Court
Irving ISD v. Tatro, 468 U.S. 883 (1984)
Irving Independent School District v. Tatro
Argued April 16, 1984
Decided July 5, 1984
468 U.S. 883
Respondents' 8-year-old daughter was born with a defect known as spina bifida. As a result, she suffers from orthopedic and speech impairments and a neurogenic bladder, which prevents her from emptying her bladder voluntarily. Consequently, she must be catheterized every three or four hours to avoid injury to her kidneys. To accomplish this, a process known as clean intermittent catheterization (CIC) was prescribed. This is a simple procedure that can be performed in a few minutes by a layperson with less than an hour's training. Since petitioner School District received federal funding under the Education of the Handicapped Act it was required to provide the child with "a free appropriate public education," which is defined in the Act to include "related services," which are defined in turn to include
"supportive services (including . . . medical . . . services, except that such medical services shall be for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only) as may be required to assist a handicapped child to benefit from special education."
Pursuant to the Act, petitioner developed an individualized education program for the child, but the program made no provision for school personnel to administer CIC. After unsuccessfully pursuing administrative remedies to secure CIC services for the child during school hours, respondents brought an action against petitioner and others in Federal District Court, seeking injunctive relief, damages, and attorney's fees. Respondents invoked the Education of the Handicapped Act, arguing that CIC is one of the included "related services" under the statutory definition, and also invoked § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which forbids a person, by reason of a handicap, to be "excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under" any program receiving federal aid. After its initial denial of relief was reversed by the Court of Appeals, the District Court, on remand, held that CIC was a "related service" under the Education of the Handicapped Act, ordered that the child's education program be modified to include provision of CIC during school hours, and awarded compensatory damages against petitioner. The court further held that respondents had proved a violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act,
and awarded attorney's fees to respondents under § 505 of that Act. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
1. CIC is a "related service" under the Education of the Handicapped Act. Pp. 468 U. S. 888-895.
(a) CIC services qualify as a "supportive servic[e] . . . required to assist a handicapped child to benefit from special education" within the meaning of the Act. Without CIC services available during the school day, respondents' child cannot attend school and thereby "benefit from special education." Such services are no less related to the effort to educate than are services that enable a child to reach, enter, or exit a school. Pp. 468 U. S. 890-891.
(b) The provision of CIC is not subject to exclusion as a "medical service." The Department of Education regulations, which are entitled to deference, define "related services" for handicapped children to include "school health services," which are defined in turn as "services provided by a qualified school nurse or other qualified person," and define "medical services" as "services provided by a licensed physician." This definition of "medical services" is a reasonable interpretation of congressional intent to exclude physician's services as such and to impose an obligation to provide school nursing services. Pp. 468 U. S. 891-895.
2. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is inapplicable when relief is available under the Education of the Handicapped Act to remedy a denial of educational services, Smith v. Robinson, post, p. 468 U. S. 992, and therefore respondents are not entitled to any relief under § 504, including recovery of attorney's fees. Pp. 468 U. S. 895-896.
703 F.2d 823, affirmed in part and reversed in part.
BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and in all but Part III of which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 468 U. S. 896. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 468 U. S. 896.