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The GAP Attorneys Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘bipolar disorder’

School’s failure to address bullying permits suit for damages

Monday, August 12th, 2013

M.J.  v. Marion Independent School District, 61 IDELR 76 (W.D. Tex. 2013): A federal district court allowed the parents of a student with bipolar disorder and ADHD to seek damages from a school district which failed to adequately address disability-based bullying.  The court concluded that, under Section 504, a school may be liable for failing to remedy disability-based peer-on-peer harassment.  Accordingly, the suit was permitted to proceed to resolve a genuine dispute as to whether the school acted with deliberate indifference or gross misjudgment when the student notified it of instances of harassment.

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School district must reimburse parents for educationally necessary out-of-state residential placement.

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Jefferson County School District R-1 v. Elizabeth E., 57 IDELR 13 (D. Colo. 2011):  A U.S. District Court held that the parents of a student with emotional difficulties were entitled to reimbursement for the student’s placement at a private, therapeutic program out-of-state.

The student, who was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, reactive attachment disorder, and bipolar disorder, had previously attended a private school for students with behavioral problems.  However, her emotional disabilities required a prolonged hospitalization, after which her parents placed her at a therapeutic program incorporating both academics and psychotherapy.

While the student was hospitalized, her home school district disenrolled her from her previous program and ultimately took the position that it had no obligation to provide special education services, nor any obligation to even evaluate her need for such services, while she was out-of-state.  The hearing officer, administrative law judge, and District Court all agreed that the school district did, in fact, retain the obligation to evaluate the student and provide special education services, and its failure to do so denied the student a FAPE.  Additionally, the psychotherapy component of the student’s private placement was necessary in order for her to make academic progress.  All told, the student’s residential placement was appropriate and her parents were entitled to reimbursement, except for those services provided by a licensed physician (which thereby do not qualify as related services).

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School district may be ordered to pay retroactive tuition directly to unilateral private placement.

Monday, June 20th, 2011

D.A. v. New York City Department of Education, 56 IDELR 42 (S.D.N.Y. 2011):  A U.S. District Court held that a school district may be ordered to pay tuition directly to a private school in a which a student is unilaterally placed by his or her parents.  The parent need not actually pay the expense, as long as the parent is legally obligated to do so.

The parents enrolled the student (who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, bipolar disorder, and ADHD) in a private school.  In both the impartial hearing, and appeal to the State Review Officer (SRO), the parents demonstrated that the school district did not offer the student a FAPE, and that the private placement was appropriate.  Additionally, the equities favored the parents.  However, the SRO determined that the parents were not entitled to reimbursement because they were only able to make nominal payments towards the $84,900 annual tuition at the unilateral placement.  The SRO said that the parents could not seek direct payment of tuition for payments they had not actually made.

The Court overturned that determination, noting that the “consistent message” in IDEA decisions is that “a child’s access to FAPE cannot be made to depend on his or her family’s financial ability to ‘front’ the costs of private school tuition.”  Absent an allegation of bad faith or collusion on the part of the parents and/or private school, the remedies available under the IDEA include retroactive direct payment of tuition to a unilateral placement.

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District violated 504 and Title II of ADA upon failing to refer student to District’s 504 Team

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Palo Verde (CA) Unified School District, 56 IDELR 177 (OCR 2010): The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) determined that the school district violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it failed to refer a student with Bipolar Disorder, Organic Affective Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to the school district’s Section 504 team after finding that the student was ineligible for services through an Individual Education Program (IEP) under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The school district erroneously limited its analysis to whether or not the student suffered from a physical or mental impairment that limited the major life activity of learning.  OCR stated that the school district should have also considered the affects of the student’s impairments on other major life activities.

OCR also stated that the school district incorrectly considered the extent to which medication mitigated the student’s impairment.  OCR pointed out that the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (ADAA) of 2008 prohibits the consideration of “ameliorative effects of mitigating measures,” such as medication, in determining whether or not an individual is considered to be disabled under Section 504 or Title II of the ADA.

Moreover, OCR determined that when the school district’s IEP team refused to refer the student to the District’s 504 Team the school district, in effect, determined that the student was ineligible for services under Section 504.  Therefore, the school district violated Section 504 when it failed to provide the student’s parents with notice of their procedural rights under Section 504.

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Hearing officer improperly extended IDEA eligibility as a compensatory measure to a student who was awarded a regular high school diploma

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Dracut School Committee v. Bureau of Special Education Appeals, 55 IDELR 66 (D. Mass. 2010):  A student, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Bipolar Disorder, and an anxiety disorder, was denied a FAPE when the school district failed to provide him with proper transition goals and services.  The Hearing Officer awarded the student compensatory services for the denial of FAPE and awarded the student a high school diploma.  However, having awarded the student a diploma, the Court ruled that the Hearing Officer improperly also extended the student’s IDEA eligibility for two years after graduation.  Nonetheless, the Court remanded the case back to the hearing officer to determine the appropriate level of compensatory services needed in the areas of employment and independent living.

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Parental placement outside the geographical boundaries of the school district relieves the district of obligation to provide services to the student.

Monday, November 15th, 2010

T.C. v. Klein Independent School District, 54 IDELR 187 (S.D. Tex. 2010):  A U.S. District Court determined that once a student begins attending school outside the geographic boundaries of the school district, that school district is no longer obligated to provide special education and related services.

Under state law, a number of the parent’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations.  However, the parent still argued that the school district had a responsibility to hold its annual IEP team meeting relating to the program for the student (who was diagnosed with ADHD, manifesting itself as severe bipolar disorder, anxiety, and oppositional defiant disorder), even though she was then receiving special education and related services at a program in a different state.  The Court rejected that argument, saying the school district had “no obligation” to hold an IEP team meeting “when her parents moved her to a private school outside the district’s jurisdiction.”  As a result, the student’s parents were denied any relief.

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