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Third Circuit bars individuals from suing under No Child Left Behind Act

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] on Thursday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a district court decision that individuals cannot sue school districts to seek specific enforcement for provisions listed in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) [official website; JURIST news archive]. The Newark Parents Association brought a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against the Newark Public Schools (NPS) [official website] system alleging that NPS had failed to comply will all provisions of the NCLBA, including notifying parents of failing school status and providing struggling students with supplementary educational materials. The Parents Association further sought an injunction compelling the NPS to comply with these provisions. Both causes of action were denied by the District Court. In affirming the decision of the US District Court for the District of New Jersey [official website], the Court of Appeals noted that the language of the NLCBA did not provide relief for individuals, but rather was concerned with the aggregate condition of groups of low-performing children. In discussing its reason for this conclusion, the Court said:

[T]he District Court found that the nature of the Act's enforcement mechanism supported the conclusion that Congress did not intend to create individual rights. 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 Secretary of Education can enforce a State's violation of the Act.
The decision by the Court of Appeals effectively bars future individuals from seeking legal relief for failure to comply with the NCLBA, and instead leaves enforcement of the act with the Secretary of Education for the respective state. It is deemed unlikely [AP report] that the Newark Parents Association will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The NCLBA, signed into law in 2002, seeks to raise educational standards in public school systems nationwide by providing federal funding to state education systems. The legislation has been criticized [Washington Post report] in the past for failing to provide adequate funding to improve school performance. In April 2008, the US Department of Education [official website] announced [JURIST report] new regulations to the NCLBA in hopes of encouraging more support for the initiative. This announcement followed closely a decision made by the Department of Education to narrow the focus [JURIST report] of the NCLBA to schools in need of "drastic intervention."

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