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The GAP Attorneys Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘IDEA’

Student’s excessive absenteeism should have prompted action by the school district to respond to attendance issues.

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Springfield School Committee v. Doe, 53 IDELR 158 (D. Mass. 2009): A school district has an affirmative duty to take responsive action to a student’s chronic absenteeism, even when there is no “particularized showing of lack of progress or loss of education benefit attributable to [the school district’s] failure to respond” to the student’s absenteeism.  In this case, the student had cognitive, attention, and behavioral issues (plus a history of poor attendance) and was absent in excess of thirty-two (32) days over a period of just two months. Also, one of the goals of the student’s IEP was to improve his handling of school responsibilities, which was “grounded in” the student’s “often being late and walking out of class, among other serious performance problems.”

Although there was no specific indication of any loss of educational benefit due to this chronic absenteeism, there was also no indication that a representative from the school’s Educational Team contacted the student or his guardian to determine the cause of the student’s absences.  This failure was “reason enough for the hearing officer to conclude that he had been denied a FAPE.”  The Court noted that “for the hearing officer to have found otherwise” in light of such circumstances, it “would only encourage school districts to ignore such problems in the hope that no lasting damage will ensue.”

Notably, the Court stated that it would not establish a set number of days of absence or truancy that would trigger a school district’s obligation to determine how to provide a FAPE.  Rather, “each student’s case must turn on its own facts.”

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E-mails are not considered “educational records” under IDEA and FERPA unless they are maintained as part of the student’s permanent file.

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

S.A. v. Tulare County Office of Education, 53 IDELR 111 (E.D. Cal. 2009): A federal district court rejected a claim by the parents of an autistic student that any and all e-mails, wherever kept by the school district, were “educational records.”

Noting the “fleeting nature” of e-mails (since “an e-mail may be sent, received, read, and deleted within moments”), the Court said that the idea that a parent or student could demand every e-mail that identifies a student, including those kept in individual inboxes or a retrievable electronic database, was “fanciful.”  Instead, the Court decided that, in order to become an “educational record” in accordance with FERPA and IDEA, the school district needs to print the e-mail and “maintain” a copy of the e-mail in the student’s permanent file (or, possibly, a secure electronic database; however the Court explicitly withheld judgment on that possibility).

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School district’s failure to correct deficiencies in student’s IEP renders program inappropriate, entitling the student’s parents to tuition reimbursement for private school placement.

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Bougades v. Pine Plains Central School District, 53 IDELR 42 (S.D.N.Y. 2009): A federal district court overturned the decisions of a New York impartial hearing officer (“IHO”) and state review office (“SRO”) that a student’s IEP for the 2003-04 school year provided him a FAPE.

The student was classified as learning disabled, due to reading and language difficulties stemming from his dyslexia.  In order to provide a multi-sensory reading program, the student’s IEP stated he would receive one reading intervention period, one writing intervention period, and five resource room periods, each week.  However, the record showed the student instead received “four or five periods of inclusion programming” and additional multi-sensory tutoring for reading.

At the conclusion of the 2002-03 school year, the student had mastered, or made satisfactory progress, on only two of his IEP goals, neither of which directly address his learning disability.  Despite passing his classes for most of the school year, the student ultimately failed two courses and the school district did not promote him from sixth to seventh grade.  As a result, the school district proposed, for the 2003-04 IEP, to provide four inclusion classes daily, one multi-sensory reading period daily, and a writing intervention period every other day.  The student’s parents rejected this program, and instead placed the student in a private school and requested a hearing.  The IHO and SRO held that the 2003-04 IEP provided the student a FAPE.

The federal district court disagreed.  Noting the student’s lack of progress, and his difficulties in completing homework, the court held that the 2003-04 IEP was not reasonably calculated to allow the student to make meaningful progress, particularly in the areas of writing and homework completion.  The student’s writing was “a critical area of concern,” and a writing intervention every other day was not sufficient to address that concern.  Further, the IEP did not address the student’s difficulty completing homework, notwithstanding that the district was aware that such difficulty contributed to the student’s failing grades.  As a result, the 2003-04 IEP was inappropriate and the parent’s placement of the student at a private school warranted reimbursement.

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Student’s inability to begin classes due to admission to a psychiatric hospital triggered a school district’s child find obligations.

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Regional School District No. 9 Board of Education v. Mr. and Mrs. M., 53 IDELR 8 (D. Conn. 2009): Noting that “the standard for triggering the Child Find duty is suspicion of a disability, rather than factual knowledge of a qualifying disability[,]” a federal district court found that a school district should have begun an evaluation for special education once it was informed that a student with clinical depression would not start school on time due to admission to a psychiatric hospital.

Once the school district had notice that the student’s psychiatric condition interfered with her ability to engage in academics, the district should have evaluated the student within a reasonable period of time.  Although the parents, residents of Connecticut, placed the student in an intensive therapeutic educational program in Utah, the hearing officer found that the school district was on notice to begin an evaluation once the student’s mother informed the district that the student was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.  The district court agreed with the parents, and also agreed that the student was eligible for special education as a student with an emotional disturbance.

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School district ordered to reimburse parents for the cost of a college remedial reading program and necessary related expenses.

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Streck v. Board of Education of the East Greenbush Central School District, 52 IDELR 285 (N.D.N.Y. 2009): A federal district court determined that parents of a student with a learning disability were entitled to $8,640 in reimbursement for college tuition and an independent neuropsychological evaluation.

An Impartial Hearing Officer (“IHO”) and State Review Officer (“SRO”) both determined that the school district failed to provide a FAPE, and ordered the district to provide compensatory education.  The district subsequently offered to pay $3,200, which the parents rejected and filed suit in federal court.

The court determined that the district was only required to pay for those portions of the student’s education related to his compensatory reading program (not a comprehensive college education, though it may target the student’s disability).  As a result, the court ruled that the district should one pay one-third (1/3) of the student’s tuition, since only three of his nine classes specifically addressed his reading difficulties.  Although “necessary expenses” could also be reimbursed, the court ruled that room and board, and other expenses were not “specifically associated with the implementation of the reading program” and therefore were not reimbursable.

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