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Meeting the needs of people with disabilities, their families, educators & service providers

Posts Tagged ‘autism spectrum disorder’

Improper IEP Team meeting invalidates IEP

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

R.G. v. New York City Department of Education, 62 IDELR 84 (E.D.N.Y. 2013): A U.S. District Court held that a school district denied a student on the autism spectrum a free appropriate public education (FAPE) by failing to include a general education teacher as part of the student’s IEP team.  The student was transitioning from preschool to kindergarten, and had attended a general education preschool classroom with special education support (including an itinerant teacher and applied behavioral analyst).  Despite the student’s previous general education placement, her IEP team set to develop her IEP for her kindergarten school year did not include a general education teacher.  Moreover, the chair of the IEP team, the school district psychologist who conducted the student’s evaluation, failed to share all the information contained in her evaluation and did not adequately explore the various service providers’ recommendations that the student continue in a general education setting for kindergarten.  Together, the absence of a general education teacher and failure to adequately review the prospects of a general education placement, constituted a procedural violation which rendered the IEP team’s ultimate recommendation, a self-contained special education classroom, inappropriate.

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School district required to provide in-home services as part of stay-put

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

M.G. v. New York City Department of Education, 61 IDELR 220 (S.D.N.Y. 2013): A U.S. District Court ordered a school district to continue providing in-home applied behavioral analysis (ABA) services during the pendency of litigation due to the district’s provision of such services during the underlying proceedings.  Although the impartial hearing officer (IHO) denied much of the parents’ requested relief, interim IHO orders directed the district to commence in-home ABA services to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  The parents initiated a state-level appeal, but in the meantime the district indicated it would discontinue the in-home services during the subsequent school year.  The Court, upon the parents’ application, directed the district to continue providing the in-home ABA services as part of the student’s pendency placement.

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School provided FAPE, despite no FBA or parent counseling

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

M.W. v. New York City Department of Education, 61 IDELR 151 (2d Cir. 2013): A federal Court of Appeals upheld the New York State Review Officer’s (SRO) determination that a school district provided a student with autism, ADHD, speech and language disorders, and fine and gross motor deficits, a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  The parent contended that the district’s failure to conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and the IEP’s failure to provide parent counseling and training denied the student a FAPE.

The Court agreed with the SRO that an FBA was not necessary, as the student’s IEP adequately identified his behavioral impediments along with strategies to address those behaviors.  Accordingly, since the IEP adequately addressed the student’s problem behaviors there was no harm in failing to conduct an FBA.  Similarly, the resources available within the student’s proposed school were sufficient to address any deficiency by failing to provide parent counseling and training.  The Court noted that a failure to provide parent counseling and training, in and of itself, is not sufficient to result in a FAPE denial.  Therefore, the school offered the student FAPE.

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Cost of IEE includes presentation to IEP team

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Meridian Joint School District, No. 2 v. D.A., 62 IDELR 144 (D. Idaho 2014): A federal district court awarded a parent of a student on the autism spectrum reimbursement for an independent educational evaluation (IEE), with such reimbursement to include the private evaluator’s presentation of her findings to the IEP team.  Noting that the parents’ “right to an IEE, let alone their right to participate in decisions on the educational placement” of their son “would mean little if they were left to challenge the District’s experts with a partial assessment or ‘without an expert with the firepower to match the opposition’”, the Court awarded the parents reimbursement for the expenses incurred by the private evaluator in presenting her evaluation to the IEP team.

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Parent entitled to reimbursement where school’s proposed placement is too restrictive

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Deer Valley Unified School District v. L.P., 61 IDELR 48 (D. Ariz. 2013): A federal district court awarded reimbursement to the parent of a student with high functioning autism.  The student had an identified need in socializing and communication.

The school prepared an IEP recommending a “special school,” without identifying which specific school the student would attend.  The school district ultimately recommended a specific program in which all the children with autism were non-verbal, and functioning at a lower level than the student.  The evidence showed such a program would not meet the student’s socialization and communication needs, particular since the IEP offered no interaction with non-disabled peers outside of the classroom.  Similarly, although the school district argued that non-disabled peers could push-in to the classroom, the court deemed such an arrangement unsatisfactory in light of the student’s IEP.  Accordingly, the court determined the school district denied the student a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  Since the parent unilaterally placed the student in a private school that addressed his socialization and communication needs, she was entitled to reimbursement.

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Reimbursement denied where unilateral placement failed to address student’s needs

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

M.W. v. Board of Education of the Enlarged City School District of Middletown, N.Y., 61 IDELR 140 (S.D.N.Y. 2013): A federal district court upheld the New York State Review Officer’s (SRO) decision that a parent of a student with a learning disability and behavioral problems was not entitled to reimbursement.

The parent withdrew the student from the residential program at which the school district assigned her, and unilaterally placed the student at a different residential program.  Following the unilateral placement, the parent filed a due process complaint alleging a denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and sought reimbursement.  The impartial hearing officer (IHO) agreed with the parent that the child was denied a FAPE and that the unilateral program was appropriate.  The SRO, however, overruled the IHO in part, noting that the parent’s unilateral withdrawal contributed in part to the student’s failure to receive a FAPE.  More significantly, regardless of any FAPE denial, the SRO further overruled the IHO regarding the appropriateness of the unilateral program.  After reviewing the hearing record, the SRO found insufficient evidence to support the IHO’s conclusion that the unilateral program was appropriate, as such program failed to include a sufficient level of special education and related services to meet the student’s needs (both academically and behaviorally).  Accordingly, reimbursement was denied.  The district court upheld the SRO’s conclusions.

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Parent entitled to reimbursement where school’s proposed placement is too restrictive

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Deer Valley Unified School District v. L.P., 61 IDELR 48 (D. Ariz. 2013): A federal district court awarded reimbursement to the parent of a student with high functioning autism.  The student had an identified need in socializing and communication.

The school prepared an IEP recommending a “special school,” without identifying which specific school the student would attend.  The school district ultimately recommended a specific program in which all the children with autism were non-verbal, and functioning at a lower level than the student.  The evidence showed such a program would not meet the student’s socialization and communication needs, particular since the IEP offered no interaction with non-disabled peers outside of the classroom.  Similarly, although the school district argued that non-disabled peers could push-in to the classroom, the court deemed such an arrangement unsatisfactory in light of the student’s IEP.  Accordingly, the court determined the school district denied the student a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  Since the parent unilaterally placed the student in a private school that addressed his socialization and communication needs, she was entitled to reimbursement.

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Failure to offer seafood-free environment entitles parent to reimbursement

Monday, July 29th, 2013

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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School district’s failure to discuss natural setting at IEP team meeting gives parent claim for damages

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Luo v. Baldwin Union Free School District, 60 IDELR 281 (E.D.N.Y. 2013): A federal district court allowed a parent of a student with an autism spectrum disorder to pursue claims for damages based on IDEA violations.  The parent claimed that he had requested his son be placed in a “natural setting environment,” but that the student’s IEP team failed to discuss or present any information about such a possibility.  The parent further alleged that he was unable to pursue his grievances through an impartial hearing due, in part, to malfeasance by school district officials.  The Court (following precedent within that Circuit) allowed the parent to assert claims for damages, brought under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, to proceed based on allegations of procedural violations of the IDEA.  The Court did note, however, that it was construing the parent’s allegations liberally at this particular stage in the proceedings.

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Parents may pursue Section 504 claim for disability discrimination related to bullying

Monday, June 17th, 2013

D.A. v. Meridian Joint School District No. 1, 60 IDELR 192 (D. Idaho 2013):  A federal district court permitted a student’s Section 504 discrimination case to proceed where his parents alleged that he was the victim of “relentless bullying.”  The Court explained that “evidence of bullying severe enough to alter the condition of a student’s education and create an abusive educational environment, coupled with knowledge and deliberate indifference by school officials” is one way to establish a Section 504 violation.  Here, a student, diagnosed with Asperger’s and high functioning autism spectrum disorder, burned down his house, which behavior his parents attributed to the harassment he endured at school. Since the student’s fire setting incident resulted in an eighteen month incarceration, the student was deprived of his education (which constituted a denial of access to his education, a prerequisite to a valid Section 504 claim in this instance).  Accordingly, the parents’ claims may proceed to trial (at which time the parents would be required to prove their allegations, as well as knowledge and deliberate indifference by school officials).

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