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Board of Education v. Rowley

United States Supreme Court
458 U.S. 176 (1982)


Amy Rowley (plaintiff) was a deaf student at the Furnace Woods School (the school) (defendant). Rowley was an excellent lip reader who had minimal residual hearing. During her kindergarten year, Rowley was provided with an FM hearing aid that amplified words spoken into a receiver, the principal’s office was equipped with a teletype machine to communicate with Rowley’s parents, and the school administration took a course in sign-language interpretation. Rowley successfully completed her kindergarten year and performed better than average. During her first-grade year, an individualized education plan (IEP) was developed for Rowley. The IEP provided that Rowley would continue to have the FM hearing aid and would receive instruction from a tutor for the deaf and services from a speech therapist. With these supports, Rowley was placed into the regular classroom at the school. Rowley’s parents objected to the IEP and requested a sign-language interpreter in place of the FM hearing aid. The school consulted with the Committee on the Handicapped, which heard from Rowley’s parents and teachers and visited a class for the deaf. The school rejected Rowley’s parents’ request for an interpreter. Rowley’s parents appealed that decision to an independent examiner, who agreed with the school. That decision was affirmed by the New York Commissioner of Education. Rowley’s parents then sought review of that decision in district court. The district court determined that the school was required to provide Rowley with an opportunity to achieve her full potential, which meant the school had to provide a sign-language interpreter. The school appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which affirmed. The school then petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

Concurrence (Blackmun, J.)

Dissent (White, J.)

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