SCHAFFER v. WEAST

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
04-698
Petitioner 
Brian Schaffer, a Minor, By His Parents and Next Friends, Jocelyn and Martin Schaffer, et al.
Respondent 
Jerry Weast, Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools, et al.
Advocates
(argued the cause for Respondents)
(argued the cause for Petitioners)
(argued the cause for Respondents)
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Facts of the Case 

The parents of Brian Schaffer, a disabled child, sued their public school district under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Schaffer's parents claimed the Individualized Education Program that the school system devised for their son, and which IDEA required for each disabled student, was inadequate. The district court ruled for the Schaffers, but the Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that the lower court incorrectly assigned the burden of proof to the school system. Because IDEA was silent on whether the parents or the school system bear the burden of proof, the Fourth Circuit held, the general rule that the party initiating the suit bears that burden should be applied.

Question 

Do the parents or school system bear the burden of proof in disputes over a child's individualized education program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Weast, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Education of the Handicapped, Education for All Handicapped Children, or Individuals with Disabilities Education Acts, or related statutes, as amended; also see ADA

In a 6 to 2 ruling, the Supreme Court held that the party bringing the suit bears the burden of proof, whether that party is the parents or the school system. In the majority opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that "absent some reason to believe that Congress intended otherwise, ... we will conclude that the burden of persuasion lies where it usually falls, upon the party seeking relief."

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SCHAFFER v. WEAST. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2005/2005_04_698>.
SCHAFFER v. WEAST, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2005/2005_04_698 (last visited September 10, 2014).
"SCHAFFER v. WEAST," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2005/2005_04_698.