A group of five students sued the Texas Education Agency, alleging that TEA discriminated against them based on their disability while they were taking a drivers' education course. Under Texas law, anyone under the age of 25 must obtain a driver education certificate in order to get a driver's license. At the time the lawsuit was filed, TEA was in charge of overseeing driver education schools that issued these driver education certificates. The TEA issued licenses to driver education schools, developed curriculum for them, developed accountability measures and provided certificates for schools to give to graduates.
All of the students who were involved in the lawsuit are deaf. They alleged that they were unable to obtain their driver education certificates because no driver education school would accommodate their disability. Specifically, the students were requesting that the schools provide them with an interpreter. An advocate brought the issue to the attention of TEA, but TEA refused to grant any accommodation and told the advocate to file a complaint against the driving schools. However, instead of filing a complaint against the schools, the advocate filed a complaint against TEA under the Americans With Disabilities Act. The ADA states that no qualified individual with a disability may be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefit of public entity “service, program or activity” because of a disability. The complaint was dismissed on the grounds that TEA did not have an obligation to enforce individual driving schools’ compliance with the ADA.
The students then filed suit against TEA in federal court. The issue was whether driver education was a service, activity or program of TEA. If it was, then TEA would be required to provide the accommodation. The court of appeals held that it was not, because TEA did not teach driver education, contract with driver education schools, or issue driver education certificates to individual students. Therefore, the court of appeals reasoned, TEA’s program did not provide driver education, but merely licensed driving education schools.
The students appealed to the United States Supreme Court. However the court decided not to hear the case because all of the students involved had obtained their drivers’ licenses while the lawsuit was pending. TEA no longer regulates driver education schools and therefore the court could not grant any remedy that would provide the relief the students were requesting. The case was dismissed.