ST. LOUIS — A mother's claim that her young son had been
unlawfully restrained and isolated at school in the Francis Howell
School District has been dismissed by the 8th Circuit
Court of Appeals.
The appeals court affirmed a St. Louis federal-court decision that
found it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction in Kristine McCauley's
claim on behalf of her son J.M., as she failed to exhaust
administrative remedies. The 8th Circuit also declined to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over McCauley's human-rights
McCauley's son, who began kindergarten in 2011, had qualified for
services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
and had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) because of his
diagnoses of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,
autism-spectrum disorder, anxiety disorder, separation-anxiety
disorder, panic disorder, Asperger’s/autism spectrum disorder and
generalized anxiety, according to court
Her complaint alleged that J.M. was repeatedly placed in physical
restraints and isolation without her knowledge between January 2012
and September 2014.
The decision stated that once she learned about her son's
treatment, she immediately contacted the district and asked that
restraints be used only when necessary and that he not be subject to
isolation. She removed him from school on Sept. 5, 2014.
McCauley sued in federal court under the IDEA and Missouri common
law, court documents reported.
In amending the complaint, she added claims under American
Disabilities Act and Missouri Human Rights Act. Later, the school
district responded by stating that McCauley failed to exhaust
administrative remedies for the federal claims and sovereign immunity
for the common-law tort claims.
In response, McCauley amended her complaint removing the IDEA and
common-law claims. In her second amended complaint, she included
claims under the Equal Protection Clause, the ADA, a section of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the MHRA.
The court in the Eastern District of Missouri granted the school
district's motion to dismiss in its argument that McCauley failed to
exhaust administrative remedies under IDEA. McCauley countered that
her claims were not under the IDEA and therefore not subject to
exhaustion. In the alternative, she asserted exceptions to the
In the decision
filed March 7, the 8th Circuit panel determined that there
were three exceptions to the exhaustion requirement: “futility,”
the “inability of the administrative remedies to provide adequate
relief,” and “the establishment of an agency policy or practice
of general applicability that is contrary to law.”
McCauley had argued that the futility and inadequate-remedy
exceptions apply to her case. She claimed that exhaustion would have
been futile because she tried to take on her problems by directly
getting in touch with the school.
But the appeals panel, which included Chief Judge William Riley
and Judges James Loken and Duane Benton, found that McCauley did not
seek to “address her concerns with isolation and physical restraint
through the IEP process or modified J.M.’s IEP to reflect those
She also claimed “the administrative process would not have
addressed all her claims.”
"This, however, does not excuse exhaustion," the
"Although the administrative process may not address all claims,
this court has held exhaustion is not futile because it would allow
'the agency to develop the record for judicial review and apply its
expertise' to the plaintiff’s 'claims to the extent those claims
are related to implementation' of the IEP."
The court also held that McCauley's claim that the administrative
process did not provide adequate relief, as well as punitive and
compensatory damages, is without merit.