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Court: School Must Aid Disabled

In one of the most closely watched education cases of this term, the Supreme Court has ruled that a disabled boy's school district must pay for his nursing care.

The case questioned how far public schools have to go to provide as good a learning experience for special education students as for their classmates, CBS News Correspondent Stephanie Lambidakis reports.

Despite being a quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator for his every breath, Garrett Frey is a normal, bright high school student. But now he has won a huge victory for 17,000 other disabled students who, without special medical services, would not be able to attend class.

"I think of myself as a normal person, not some special person that won a Supreme Court case," says Frey, a sophomore at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School.

The issue was who should pay for the nurse who helps Garrett at school with his ventilator, catheter and wheelchair - services that cost at least $18,000 a year.

The school board argued that the federal law that guarantees disabled students a quality public education excludes medical services, including nurses. But the Frey family prevailed.

"It's too bad that it's taken this long for us to find out, 'Yeah, we were right,'" says Charlene Frey, Garrett's mother.

Justice John Paul Stevens declared that the school system must pay for these kinds of services to "help guarantee that students like Garrett are integrated into the public schools."

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas notes the ruling "blindsides" schools with fiscal obligations they never expected.

Schools will now have to make painful choices, according to Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association.

"The question comes, if the federal government is not going to pay their fair share, and they haven't been, then it comes down to what do we do? Is it the textbook that we don't buy, is it the computer system we don't put in?" says Bryant.

In the case of the Cedar Rapids School District, the costs could be very expensive. Garrett Frey's family believes the legal costs and nursing costs total almost $300,000.

But as the Supreme Court sees it, it's a small price to pay to make sure disabled students get the help they need.

Frey, now 16, was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident when he was four years old. Until now, his family has paid for his care with money from a $1.3 million settlement with the motorcycle manufacturer.

"We are just overwhelmed," said Charlene Frey. "I'm very happy. It's been a long road and it's finally over. We've been anticipating this day for a long time."