Honig v. Doe

RESPONDENT: John Doe and Jack Smith
LOCATION: Louise M. Lombard High School

DOCKET NO.: 86-728
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1987-1988)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 484 US 305 (1988)
ARGUED: Nov 09, 1987
DECIDED: Jan 20, 1988

Asher Rubin - on behalf of the Petitioner
Glen D. Nager - as Amicus Curiae; in support of Petitioner
Sheila L. Brogna - on behalf of Respondents

Facts of the case

The Education of the Handicapped Act established “stay-put” provision that stated the rule that disabled persons have to continue their study in educational establishment till the finishing of it without the right to change or leave it if the local or state bodies or parents agreed to this.

John Doe, the student of the center for children with disabilities of Louise Lombard School, was suffered from uncontrolled impulse reactions. On November 6, 1980, Doe quarreled with another student that provoked him to attack and push him through the window. Following this event, the question on the Doe`s removing from school was initiated, but the student protested against that in the letter. After receiving no answer, he filed the claim to the court under the mentioned legislative act.

Jack Smith, incapacitated student, and his suspension was also caused by the problems with his conduct. He also brought suit against the school. After discovering the Doe`s issue, they both combined their suits.

The plaintiffs argued on the right to return to their school. The district court approved the decision that accepted the appellant demand, and to prohibit to the school to resolve such issues. However the defendant representative appealed, but the appellate decision confirmed the previous one. Then the school filed a suit to the Supreme Court that their rights to exclude children were according to the Handicapped Act.

The case study explains the judgments points that the mentioned normative act is applied for persons from 3 till 21 ages, and the one plaintiff who had 24 years was not under this regulation while another had 20 years and was in the framework of its jurisdiction.

The case brief concludes that the Court ordered the rulings that “stay-put” provision upheld the prohibition to the state or local authorities to exclude the disabled children from the study even if their behavior can be uncontrolled because of their health diseases. In such opinion, the Court proved the legibility of the district court decision.


(1) Is a claim brought under the Education of the Handicapped Act moot if the claimant is over the age of 21?

(2) Does the "stay-put" provision of the Education of the Handicapped Act prevent a school district from indefinitely suspending a student whose handicap-related misconduct endangered the student and others?

Media for Honig v. Doe

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 1987 in Honig v. Doe

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 20, 1988 in Honig v. Doe

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 86-728, Honig against Doe will be announced by Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

This case is here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The case requires interpretation of the so-called 'stay-put" provision of the Education of the Handicapped Act which directs that a disabled child "shall remain in his or her then current educational placement" pending completion of any review proceedings, unless the parents and state or local educational agencies otherwise agree, and despite the clarity of that direction, officials of the San Francisco Unified School District tried to remove two emotionally disturb children from their placements by expelling them from school indefinitely for violent and disruptive conduct related to their disabilities.

When the school officials advice the parents of their intention to expel the children, the suit was brought in the United States District Court and then injunction issued against the expulsion on the ground of the proposed expulsion and suspension are conduct attributable to the children's disabilities violated the stay-put provision.

The school district was also permanently enjoined from taking any disciplinary action other than the brief 2 or 5-day suspension against any disabled child for disability-related misconduct or from effecting any other change in the educational placement of any such child without parental consent pending completion of any proceedings under the Act.

Finally, the State was ordered to provide services directly to disabled children, when, in any individual case, the State determined that the local educational authority was unable or unwilling to do so.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed with only slight modifications.

The court held that the stay-put provision of the Federal Act admitted of no dangerousness exception and therefore that provision rendered invalid those provisions of the California Educational Code permitting the indefinite suspension or expulsion of disabled children or misconduct arising out of their disabilities.

Petitioner, California Superintendent of Public Instruction, sought certiorari and we granted his petition, and we now affirm.

At the outset, we will address the suggestion of the United States if the case is moot reason stated in our opinion we reject that suggestion.

Turning to the merits we hold first that the unequivocal wording of Section 1415(e)(3) that during dependency of any proceedings initiated under the Act unless the state of local educational agency and the parents or guardians of the disabled child otherwise agree while the child shall remain into then current educational placement and "compels and affirmance" and we decline petitioner's invitation to rewrite the statute.

This is not to say that school officials may not seek judicial relief in appropriate cases, but in any such action 1415(e)(3) effectively creates a presumption in favor of the child's current educational placement which school officials can overcome only by showing that maintaining the child in his or her current placement, a substantially likely to result in injury either to himself or herself, or to others.

In the present case, we hold that the District Court properly balanced the children's interest in receiving a free appropriate public education against the interests of the school officials in maintaining a safe learning environment for all their students.

Because we are equally divided on the question whether a court may order a state to provide services directly to a disabled child where the local agency has failed to do so, we affirm, in that aspect, the Court of Appeals judgment by an equally divided Court.

Chief Justice has filed a concurring opinion, Justice Scalia joined by Justice O'Connor has filed a dissenting opinion.