No Private Right to Sue Under NCLB, 3rd Circuit Rules

By Mark Walsh — November 21, 2008 1 min read
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The federal No Child Left Behind Act does not provide a private right to sue over its parental-notice and tutoring provisions, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled unanimously on Nov. 20 in a case brought by a parents’ group in Newark, N.J.

“The overall structure of the act supports the conclusion that Congress did not intend to confer enforceable individual rights” under the parental-notice and supplemental education services provisions, the court said in Newark Parents Association v. Newark Public Schools.

The court says it is the first federal appeals court to consider whether the NCLB law contains a private right of action, but it notes that every one of several federal district courts to rule on the issue has also decided that private suits aren’t authorized under the law.

The No Child Left Behind Act is the main federal K-12 education law, providing funding to the states and school districts in exchange for a host of accountability provisions. The law says that schools deemed in need of improvement must notify parents of the designation and and the fact that the district must pay for tutoring services for children in such schools.

The Newark parents group charged in its suit that parents of children in schools in need of improvement in the Newark district never received notice or received insufficient notice of their schools’ status and the opportunities for tutoring.

In its decision, the 3rd Circuit court says the NCLB offers parental notice and supplemental education services “in the aggregate” and “not on any individual student’s right” to receive the services.

“The act contains no procedures—administrative or judicial—by which individuals can enforce violations of its notice, transfer, or supplemental
educational services provisions. Instead, only the [U.S.] secretary of education can enforce a state’s violation of the act,” the court said.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.