SCOTUS Takes on Texas Deaf Driver-Ed Question

     (CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to take up a dispute involving deaf people in Texas who say driver instruction schools in the state won’t let them take classes needed to get a driver’s license.
     As is their custom, the justices did not explain their rationale for adding the case, Ivy v. Morath, to their calendar for the fall.
     The question they will consider is whether a state agency that outsources driver education to private contractors can be sued for refusing to make sure the schools accommodate people with disabilities.
     In Texas, individuals under the age of 25 cannot obtain driver’s licenses unless they submit a driver education certificate to the state Department of Public Safety.
     The plaintiffs in the case are all deaf individuals who contacted a variety of state-licensed private driver education schools only to be told their needs could not be accommodated.
     A deafness resource specialist with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services contacted the Texas Education Agency on the plaintiff’s behalf, but the agency declined to intervene, stating that it was not required to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act and that it would not act against the schools unless the U.S. Justice Department declared them non-compliant with the ADA.
     Ivy Donnika sued and the case later became a putative class action with multiple named plaintiffs seeking injunctive and declaratory relief.
     The trial court denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case, but certified an interlocutory appeal to the Fifth Circuit, staying all further proceedings to await the outcome of the appellate review.
     In March 2015, a divided Fifth Circuit held the Texas Education Agency could not be sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because it merely licensed the driver education schools and did not itself provide driving instruction.

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