a classroom

New York’s highest court held Tuesday that a public school district did not have legal authority to challenge the state’s finding that the district’s method of resolving disputes over the schooling of disabled students is legal under federal statutes.

The Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that a lower court was correct when it dismissed the attempted challenge to the state Education Department’s action in Matter of East Ramapo Central School District v. King, 21.

The high state court’s reasoning, however, differed from that of the Appellate Division, Third Department.

Whereas the lower court ruled that the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not confer on East Ramapo or other districts a private right of action to challenge the state determination (NYLJ, June 5, 2015), the Court of Appeals ruled that the challenge was not properly timed.

It held that while the state Education Department threatened to withhold federal school funds from East Ramapo in 2012 if it did not change the local disabled student dispute resolution process, state officials never actually reached a final determination to withhold the funds.

That means East Ramapo’s challenge was to a nonfinal state administrative decision and, as such, not subject to review under Article 78 of the state Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR), the court ruled Tuesday.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Judges Jenny Rivera, Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Leslie Stein, Eugene Fahey, Michael Garcia and Rowan Wilson joined in the unsigned ruling.

Assistant State Attorney General Jeffrey Lang defended the Education Department. Randall Levine, partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Washington, D.C., argued for the East Ramapo district.