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IDEA’s Futility Exception

On the Verge of Futility?

In March of 2023, the Supreme Court clarified the exhaustion requirement set out in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), holding that plaintiffs do not need to exhaust administrative procedures if the type of relief that they are seeking is unavailable under the IDEA. In doing so, the Court left unanswered the question of whether the exhaustion requirement is susceptible to the futility exception—an exception that is currently recognized by eleven courts of appeals. This Comment provides an overview of the IDEA and its exhaustion requirement, including an analysis of exceptions to the requirement. I address the inconsistencies in the interpretation and application of these exceptions and the effect of the Court’s restraint in deciding the issue. I argue that the futility exception fits in line with Congressional intentions and heeds judicial precedent. The Court’s discretion furthers confusion in lower courts and impedes students’ paths to relief. Finally, I analyze whether the Court’s decision in Luna Perez could be utilized to expand the scope of exceptions to exhaustion, specifically exceptions for systemic violations.