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Case Name Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) v. DeVos ED-DC-0008
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-01636 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Attorney Organization National Center for Youth Law
Case Summary
On July 12, 2018, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. COPAA sued the U.S. Department of Education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) ... read more >
On July 12, 2018, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. COPAA sued the U.S. Department of Education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Represented by the National Center for Youth Law and private attorneys, COPAA sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as attorneys' fees and costs to stop the Dept. of Education from delaying regulations intended to identify and eliminate bias against students with disabilities and students of color. The case was assigned to District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan.

In 2016, the Dept. of Education established Final Regulations that were aimed to help States fully comply with Section 618(b) of IDEA, which required states to implement measures that could address problems related to racial disproportionality. Section 618(b) was meant to capture whether significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity was occurring in the States and local educational agencies of the States with respect to the identification, placement, and discipline of children with disabilities. Significantly, it also established a standard methodology for states to use to determine whether racial disproportionality was occurring. The Dept. of Education gave States until July 1, 2018 to implement the Final Regulations.

On July 3, 2018, the Dept. of Education issued a notice in the Federal Register delaying by two years the requirement to comply with the 2016 Final Regulations. The plaintiffs alleged that this delay (the "Delay Regulation"), was an abuse of discretion and arbitrarily allowed states to delay their compliance with section 618(d) of the IDEA, in violation of the IDEA itself and also the APA.

The Dept. of Education moved to dismiss the complaint on September 17, 2018. It claimed that the plaintiffs lacked standing for two main reasons. First, in defendants' view, plaintiffs' allegations of harm--that without the delay, more disproportionate school districts would have been identified--was speculative. The defendants also claimed that the plaintiff failed to identify people who actually had suffered or would imminently suffer harm due to the delay.

On October 1, 2018, the plaintiffs filed both a memorandum in opposition to the defendants' motion to dismiss, and their own motion for summary judgment. On November 12, 2018, the defendants also moved for summary judgment.

On March 7, 2019, the court denied defendants' motion to dismiss, granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgement, and denied defendants' cross-motion for summary judgement.

First, the court held that plaintiffs had established 1) organizational standing, by demonstrating concrete injury resulting from the delay and showing a likelihood that vacating the delay would redress such injury; and 2) associational standing, by identifying two COPAA members with standing, demonstrating that the plaintiff's litigation goals were germane to its overall mission, and showing that this litigation pursued by plaintiff did not require participation by COPAA members.

Second, the court held that the defendants had violated the APA. The court noted that the defendants failed to produce a reasoned explanation for the delay, instead offering inconsistent explanations that did not address the previous regulations' safeguards in an adequate or non-cursory manner. The court also found that the defendants' failure to consider the cost of the delay to states, society, and children alike connoted an arbitrary and capricious attitude to the possible disadvantages of the Delay Regulation.

The court held that vacatur of the Delay Regulation was an appropriate remedy. On May 10th, 2019, the defendants filed a notice of appeal. On September 12, 2019, before the appellate court heard any oral arguments, the defendants filed an unopposed motion to dismiss the appeal. The case returned to the district court, where litigation over attorneys’ fees is ongoing.

Lisa Koo - 01/31/2019
Alec Richards - 10/18/2019

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Mental impairment
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Race discrimination
Classification / placement
Communication skills
Disparate Impact
Pattern or Practice
Racial segregation
School/University Facilities
School/University policies
Special education
Mental Disability
Intellectual/developmental disability, unspecified
Learning disability
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
American Indian/Alaskan Native
Asian/Pacific Islander
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Indv. w/ Disab. Educ. Act (IDEA), Educ. of All Handcpd. Children Act , 20 U.S.C. § 1400
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Education
Plaintiff Description COPAA is a national non-profit organization of more than 2,100 parents of children with disabilities, their attorneys, and their advocates.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations National Center for Youth Law
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 07/12/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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National Center for Youth Law
Date: July 2018
By: National Center for Youth Law
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

1:18-cv-01636 (D.D.C.)
ED-DC-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/18/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
ED-DC-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/23/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 31] (365 F.Supp.3d 28) (D.D.C.)
ED-DC-0008-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/07/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Chutkan, Tanya Sue (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
ED-DC-0008-0002 | ED-DC-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Adams, Crystal (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
ED-DC-0008-0001 | ED-DC-0008-9000
Andr, Jean-Claude (California) show/hide docs
ED-DC-0008-0001 | ED-DC-0008-9000
Barokh, Benjamin G. (California) show/hide docs
ED-DC-0008-0001 | ED-DC-0008-9000
Clark, Jennifer J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
ED-DC-0008-0001 | ED-DC-0008-9000
Galanter, Seth Michael (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
ED-DC-0008-0001 | ED-DC-0008-9000
Harris, Michael (California) show/hide docs
ED-DC-0008-0001 | ED-DC-0008-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Lee, Jason (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Snell, Kevin Matthew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs

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