October 29, 2006

Supreme Court to Hear Autism Ed Case

High court to hear of autism
Posted 10/27/2006 2:58 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court agreed Friday to consider an appeal from an autistic child and his parents, who want to sue over his school accommodations without hiring a lawyer.

Jeff and Sandee Winkelman say they cannot afford an attorney to argue their court case against the Parma, Ohio, school district over the education of their son, Jacob.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the parents had to find a lawyer, although other federal courts have ruled differently in cases under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.

The Bush administration urged justices to take the case, saying Congress clearly intended parents to be able to represent their children in such court proceedings.

The Winkelmans contested Parma's plan to educate Jacob at a public school. They wanted the district to pay for his $56,000 yearly enrollment in a private school that specializes in educating autistic children.

Whether Jacob should have private schooling at public expense is not before the Supreme Court, only his parents' right to go into federal court without a lawyer.

The Winkelmans have spent about $30,000 in legal fees since first contesting Jacob's treatment in 2003. Jeff Winkelman has taken a second job while his wife has researched previous court rulings and written her own filings.

The case number is Jacob Winkelman v. Parma City School District, 05-983.

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