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Failure to offer seafood-free environment entitles parent to reimbursement

D.C. v. New York City Department of Education, 61 IDELR 25 (S.D.N.Y. 2013): A federal district court awarded reimbursement to the parent of a student with a pervasive developmental disorder, mild mental retardation, and a severe language disorder.  The student also had a seafood allergy.

The school prepared an IEP recommending a seafood-free environment to ensure the student’s safety.  However, when the parent toured the recommended school she was informed that it was not seafood-free.  Due to the severity of the student’s seafood allergy, the student’s mother continued his enrollment in a private program that accommodated the allergy with a seafood-free environment.  Notwithstanding the school’s assertions that it would have accommodated the student’s needs, the court followed guidance from the Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that retrospective testimony is impermissible.  Accordingly, the district court here held that the school could not retroactively demonstrate its ability, and willingness, to render the school seafood-free.  Instead, the court must determine the parent’s entitlement to reimbursement based on what she understood the recommended placement to be at the time of its recommendation.  Through that lens, the parent here was entitled to reimbursement.

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