notified [Kevin's parents] that Kevin would be discharged as a special education student." Id. "In August 1989, less than one month after Kevin had been discharged, [his parents] requested an administrative hearing." Id. They sought compensatory education for Kevin, arguing that the school owed him for the time between 1982 and 1984 when it provided him with no educational services.
The Murphy court chose between two statutes, a four-year statute applicable to "'Actions to Recover for Bodily Injury' against local governmental units," RSA 507-B:7, and a six-year statute on "'personal actions,'" RSA 508:4. Id. at 1192. The court decided that RSA 507-B:7 did not meet the "like action" test because it concerned "fault attributable to a governmental unit," and the state legislature designed the statute "to limit municipal liability arising from tort suits. . . ." Id.; see Wilson, 471 U.S. at 279. On the other hand, the court decided that RSA 508:4 met the test, although mainly because nothing else did. 22 F.3d at 1192-3 (finding that the statute was a "general statute of limitations," "meant to serve as a 'backstop' . . . on civil actions not governed by some more particular limitation").
The other court to consider which state statute of limitations is most analogous to requests under § 1415(b)(2) is Hall v. Knott County Bd. of Education, 941 F.2d 402 (6th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1077, 117 L. Ed. 2d 144, 112 S. Ct. 982 (1992). In that case, in 1967, plaintiff Shirlene enrolled in the local school district. She withdrew, however, some time later because doctors discovered that she had congenital cataracts and, with the ensuing loss of vision, could not function well in "regular school." Id. at 404. To comply with the IDEA, by September 1, 1987, the district should have formulated an IEP for Shirlene. In April 1982, still waiting for the formulation, she turned 21. On May 5, 1983, the district ostensibly formulated an IEP. On May 26, 1988, she brought suit pursuant to the IDEA, claiming that the district violated the statute by failing timely to formulate an IEP that would maximize the value of the district's instruction of her. On May 30, 1983, Shirlene graduated.
The Hall court chose between two statutes. First, there was he "one-year statute . . . applicable to personal injury actions." Id. at 405. Second, there was the statute that allows "five years for bringing 'an action upon a liability created by statute, when no other time is fixed by the statute creating the liability.'" Id. (quoting Ky. Rev. Stat. § 413.120).
To make this "challenging" choice, the Hall court returned to its decision in Janzen v. Knox County Bd. of Education, 790 F.2d 484 (6th Cir. 1986), in which it stated that it is "'an imperative' . . . that the selection of state limitations periods under the [IDEA] be made 'on a case-by-case basis.'" Id. at 408 (quoting Janzen, 790 F.2d at 487). Still, "for reimbursement claims, Janzen held [that] the one-year limitations period prescribed by [state] law for personal injury actions 'is simply too short a time. . . ." Id. ((quoting 790 F.2d at 488) (adopting a three year statute of limitations)). The Hall court stated that "it does not seem to us that Janzen mandates a longer limitations period for actions brought to obtain funds with which to pay for educational services that have not yet been received." Id. The court provided two reasons. First, "in these cases -- where the need for immediate action is greater, the child still not having received the services contemplated by the [IDEA] the Janzen court expressly stated that 'the shorter statute of limitations probably furthers the goals of the [IDEA].'" Id. (quoting 790 F.2d at 487). Second, "to apply a shorter personal injury statute of limitations in these cases" would bring the Sixth Circuit more in line with other circuits." Id.
As it turned out, making the choice proved too challenging, or at least unnecessary. After reasoning in favor of the one-year statute, the Hall court announced that it "need not rest [its] decision on this ground." Id. The court assumed "that the relevant limitations period in the case at bar is one year" and found Shirlene time-barred. 941 F.2d at 409. "And if the relevant limitations period should be thought to be five years, [she] would still have" been time-barred. Id. Because she was time-barred either way, the court did not choose.
Are the facts in this case more like those in Murphy or Hall? Citing and distinguishing Hall, the Murphy court stated:
Although the Hall case is distinguishable from the present action on a number of grounds, the most cogent distinction is that the present dispute involves a total denial of all special education services extended over a period of time, not merely a challenge to the appropriateness of special education services provided years earlier. Revisiting the appropriateness of special education services actually provided in school years long since passed may indeed be an exercise of 'extremely limited utility,' but given the totality of the present deprivation the effort to evaluate the merits of the compensatory education claim in this case is both useful and far less problematic.
22 F.3d at 1194 (citation omitted). We agree that the appropriateness/totality distinction is the most cogent. In this case, Todd received special education services between the 1988-89 and 1992-93 school years. Now he challenges the appropriateness of those services. The facts in this case are more like those in Hall.
Should the reasoning in this case follow the reasoning in Murphy or Hall? To answer that, we take a step back and consider each court's statutory choices. The Murphy court chose between the first and third statutes in Wilson. The Hall court chose between the second and third statutes in Wilson. Likewise, we choose between the second and third statutes. Because the Hall court chose between statutes similar to ours, it is more applicable. Moreover, because the Hall court reasoned toward the second statute, the one the Wilson Court chose, the Hall court is particularly forceful. Therefore, the reasoning in this case should follow the reasoning in Hall.
So the facts and reasoning in this case follow the facts and reasoning of Hall, a case that did not choose a limitations period. Where does that get us? First, we glean from Hall that, as stated above, it reasoned toward the general personal injury statute's limitations period, even if it did not let its reasoning run full course. Second, we return to Wilson. In that case, again as stated above, the Court adopted the general personal injury statute's limitation period. Therefore, we hold that Illinois' general personal injury statute, 735 ILCS 5/13-202 ("§ 5/13-202"), which provides for a two-year limitations period, is the statute most analogous to requests brought under § 1415(b)(2).
3. Is § 5/13-202 Inconsistent with Federal Policy?
Next, we consider whether the two year statute of limitations "is inconsistent with federal law or policy." Dell, 32 F.3d at 1059. "The principal goal of the IDEA is to protect the educational rights of the handicapped student and to maintain the involvement of that child's parents in the education choices for their child." Id. at 1060. Within that principle goal, there is a tension. On the one hand, "to succeed in safeguarding the student, the IDEA's policies encourage the prompt, rather than protracted, resolution of disputes concerning the disabled student's education." Id. On the other hand, "the more abbreviated the limitation on compensatory education claims the greater the disincentive to parents to shed an adversarial posture and get on with the business of cooperating with school officials to further the special educational needs of the child." Murphy, 22 F.3d at 1194. We find that a two year limitations period removes the tension from both hands as best as possible. It encourages prompter resolution than the Murphy six-year approach, yet it encourages more good will than the Hall one-year approach, and certainly more than the Dell 120-day approach.
4. When Did the Cause of Action Accrue?
The District argues that Todd's cause of action accrued too early for him timely to file suit. For support, it quotes Todd's mother from her Level I hearing testimony:
They realized, and I was told this time after time, that Todd was not getting the number of hours that he ought to have in the community at his job site. But they were exploring. They were exploring. Any every time I sat down with them, they were going to explore another job site, except the one that was Toys-R-Us. And that was inappropriate as well.