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

Posts Tagged ‘learning disability’

Parent’s participation in IEP process balances equities in her favor

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

A.R. v. New York City Department of Education, 62 IDELR 12 (S.D.N.Y. 2013): A federal district court overturned the New York State Review Officer’s (SRO) decision denying a parent reimbursement for a unilateral placement because she failed to participate in the IEP process.

There was no dispute that the school district failed to provide a free appropriate public education, and the Court relied on the SRO’s determination that the unilateral placement was appropriate for the student with learning disabilities and a speech and language impairment.  The SRO, however, in balancing the equitable considerations gave weight to the parent’s signing of a contract with the unilateral placement referencing the parent’s pursuit of due process rights as a source of payment of tuition.  The SRO thus denied reimbursement, since the equities favored the district.  The Court overturned the SRO, however, noting that the parent participated in the IEP process, visited the proposed public placement, and the enrollment contract gave the parent the ability to withdraw from the private program without financial penalty in the event an appropriate public placement was offered.  Accordingly, the Court awarded the parent reimbursement.

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School’s failure to modify generic goals denies FAPE

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Jefferson County Board of Education v. Lolita S., 62 IDELR 2 (N.D. Ala. 2013): A federal district court found a school district’s failure to modify generic goals for a student with a learning disability.  The student had identified needs in the areas of reading and transition, however, when the school developed the student’s IEP the draft IEP included generic goals relating to a student in that particular grade level.  The school failed to modify, as appropriate, the generic goals to reflect the unique needs of the individual student in question.  Accordingly, the goals were not appropriate, ultimately denying the student a free appropriate public education.

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Reimbursement denied where student was capable of being educated in general setting with special education aids, services, and accommodations

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

J.C.S. v. Blind Brook-Rye Union Free School District, 61 IDELR 219 (S.D.N.Y. 2013): A federal district court denied a parent’s request for reimbursement for a unilateral placement, confirming the conclusion of the New York State Review Officer (SRO).

The parent sought reimbursement for a private program in which she unilaterally enrolled her son with ADHD and learning disabilities.  Notwithstanding the parent’s placement, the school district’s IEP team met and recommended a program in a general education setting with a wide array of various special education and related services, as well as supplementary aids and services and accommodations.  The parent argued that the volume of aids, services, and accommodations indicated that the general education setting was inappropriate.  However, the strength of the student’s academic skills led the SRO to conclude that the general education setting was appropriate in terms of restrictiveness and therefore the school did not deny the student a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  Accordingly, reimbursement was denied.  The district court agreed, and upheld the SRO’s decision.

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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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District violated child find by its singular focus on grade level benchmarks

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Central School District v. K.C., 61 IDELR 125 (E.D. Pa. 2013): A federal district court awarded compensatory education to a child with dyslexia and dysgraphia, and partial reimbursement to his parents, as a result of a school district’s failure to meet its child find obligations.

The student, despite his average to above-average intellectual abilities, struggled academically and received increasingly significant accommodations and general education supports to help him meet his grade level benchmarks.  Due in part to such accommodations and supports, the student made progress towards those grade level benchmarks which the school deemed sufficient.  The parents referred the student for a special education evaluation, but the school district delayed doing so and, when the evaluation finally occurred, found the student ineligible for special education.  After the parents, on their own, obtained an independent educational evaluation (IEE) and presented it to the district, the student was classified as a student with a disability.  The parents filed a due process complaint, and the hearing officer found that, notwithstanding the student’s progress towards grade level benchmarks, the school had sufficient basis to conduct an evaluation much earlier than it did.  Therefore, the student was entitled to compensatory education for special education he should have received sooner, and the parents received partial reimbursement for a summer program in which they unilaterally enrolled the student.  The district court upheld the hearing officer.

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Tuition reimbursement denied where private program did not offer any specialized instruction to student with a learning disability.

Monday, February 11th, 2013

W.C. v. Lake George Central School District, 59 IDELR 185 (N.D.N.Y. 2012):  A federal district court denied a parent’s request for tuition reimbursement for a unilateral placement, where the private program did not offer any specialized instruction designed to address the student’s learning disability.

The parent disagreed with the school district’s recommendation of a 12:1:1 class with intensive reading instruction, and unilaterally placed the child in a private school.  The impartial hearing officer (IHO) ordered the district to reimburse the parent for such private placement, but the State Review Officer (SRO) annulled the IHO’s decision.  The federal court, in hearing the parent’s appeal of the SRO decision, noted that the private school offered no special education services, and did not employ a special education teacher.  Similarly, the private school did not modify the student’s academic program, but rather modified only its expectations of the student’s performance (resulting in awards of less than full credit, or no letter grade being awarded at all).  Since the private school provided no educational instruction specifically designed to meet the student’s needs, it was not an appropriate placement, and therefore the Court denied the request for tuition reimbursement.

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Educational benefit is not measured by psychological testing progress or regression.

Monday, February 4th, 2013

M.C. v. Katonah-Lewisboro Union Free School District, 59 IDELR 108 (S.D.N.Y. 2012):  A federal district court found in favor of a school district regarding its program for a student with a learning disability.  The court agreed with the State Review Officer (SRO), who rejected the impartial hearing officer’s (IHO) determination that the student’s program was inappropriate, because the student failed to demonstrate sufficient progress on certain psychological and educational testing the student underwent to gauge her cognitive levels and abilities.  The court, however, agreed with the State Review Officer (SRO), noting that, although the student finished the school year with a reading level lower than most of her non-disabled peers, her reading had improved and she made progress on other skills.  Although the student’s performance on psycho-educational testing often remained stagnant (or regressed), the progress she demonstrated in her skills demonstrated a sufficient educational benefit to show the district offered her an appropriate program.  As a result, her parents’ claim for reimbursement for the unilateral placement was denied.

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School district’s recommended placement appropriate despite more than three year gap in student achievement levels

Monday, June 25th, 2012

S.F. and Y.D. v. New York City Department of Education, 57 IDELR 287 (S.D.N.Y. 2011): The parents of a thirteen-year-old student with a learning disability were denied private school tuition reimbursement for their unilateral placement despite the fact that the school district’s recommended placement included students with academic achievement levels ranging from a third-grade level to a seventh-grade level.  The parents had argued that the gap in academic achievement levels violated New York State law.  The Court noted that although under New York state law there is a maximum three-year range that applies to the chronological age of students, there is no maximum range for levels of academic achievement.  The Court also determined that the inclusion of one student with an emotional disturbance and one student classified as other health impaired, did not make the proposed placement inappropriate.  The requirement to place students with students of similar needs does not necessarily prohibit placing students of varying disabilities in the same classroom.

In addition, the Court concluded that the school district did not procedurally violate the IDEA by not allowing the student’s parent to visit the recommended placement.  Nor did the school district commit a procedural violation when they included a regular education teacher at the student’s IEP team meeting who had not taught regular education for nearly twenty years.

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Student denied compensatory education after being unable to prove gross violation of IDEA

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

In re: Student with a Disability, 57 IDELR 179 (SEA NY 2011): Following precedent of the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, The New York State Review Officer (SRO) determined that in order for a student who is no longer eligible for special education by reason of age or graduation to be awarded compensatory education, the student must prove a gross violation of the IDEA resulting in a denial of FAPE.  In this case the parent of a student with a learning disability claimed that the student, who was 22 years old at the time of the due process hearing, was entitled to compensatory education due to the school district’s failure to provide him with an appropriate vocational program.  However, the SRO refused to find a gross violation of the IDEA since the parent had rejected a vocational program that would have been appropriate for the student.

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Student still entitled to compensatory education despite her graduation from high school during the litigation process.

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Brooks v. District of Columbia, 58 IDELR 103 (D.D.C. 2012):  A U.S. District Court affirmed its award of compensatory education to a student, notwithstanding the fact that the student graduated from high school while her case was pending in court.  The student, who was diagnosed with a learning disability, did not receive an appropriate vocational evaluation, and the school district’s failure to do so in a timely manner denied her a FAPE.  Accordingly, the Court ordered compensatory education.

However, while the case was pending, the student graduated from high school and received a diploma.  The school district argued that receipt of a diploma terminated the student’s eligibility for special education and related services.  The Court disagreed, noting that it had the ability to award compensatory education to a student denied her statutory rights (notwithstanding her graduation).  Therefore, the Court affirmed its earlier compensatory education award.

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