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

Posts Tagged ‘reimbursement’

School districts responsible to offer IEPs to private school students

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

District of Columbia v. Vinyard, 62 IDELR 13 (D.D.C. 2013): A U.S. District Court held that a school district must develop and offer an IEP to its resident students who are placed in private schools by their parents.  The school district initially offered the student, who was diagnosed with a cognitive disorder and borderline intellectual functioning, an IEP (which, in the Court’s view, offered the student an appropriate education), but refused to develop an IEP for the subsequent school year when the student’s parents notified the school they intended to maintain the student in his private placement.  The Court held that the school district denied the student an appropriate education, as the district is obligated to develop and offer an IEP to each of its resident students with disabilities.  Here, the district conditioned its offer of an IEP on the student’s re-enrollment in the public school system.  However, the Court found such a condition improper.  In the Court’s view, the school district must develop an IEP.  If, after offering an appropriate IEP, the parents reject the public schools in favor a private placement, at that point the school district is no longer obligated to provide services.  Accordingly, here, the school district failed to offer an appropriate program and was therefore ordered to reimburse the parents’ for the private placement.

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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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School’s recommended IEP inappropriate where it focused on student’s physical disability, while his autism presented more significant educational impact

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

F.O. v. New York City Department of Education, 62 IDELR 51 (S.D.N.Y. 2013): A federal district court overturned the New York State Review Officer’s (SRO) decision denying parents reimbursement for a unilateral placement for their child with autism, global developmental delays, and myasthenia gravis.  The school recommended an IEP which focused on addressing the student’s myasthenia gravis, a condition impacting his speech and writing.  However, the evidence in the underlying impartial hearing demonstrated that the student’s autism spectrum disorder had a much greater educational impact.  Therefore, the student’s autism, and not his physical disability, should have been the focus of his IEP.  Accordingly, the Court overturned the SRO and awarded the parents tuition reimbursement.

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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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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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Private Placement where student progressed was appropriate despite lack of physical therapy services

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

M.F. v. N.Y.C. Bd. of Educ, d.b.a. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Educ., 61 IDELR 100 (S.D.N.Y. 2013)—the parents of a student with PDD-NOS sought reimbursement for a private school placement. Although the student had been placed by the district in a private school from Kindergarten through fourth grade, the district recommended a public school placement for the upcoming school year. Although the private school, where the student had progressed, lacked physical therapy services, the court determined that a private placement need not offer every service listed in the IEP, in order to be appropriate. The private school offered, and the student received, additional services that significantly overlapped those listed on the IEP. Also, the curriculum was specifically designed for children with similar needs and met the student’s social and emotional needs. Thus, the court granted summary judgment to the parents and ordered full reimbursement for the unilateral private school placement.

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District could not rely on retrospective testimony to show that IEP offered FAPE to student with Autism

Monday, August 19th, 2013

P.K. and T.K. ex rel. S.K. v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Educ., 61 IDELR 96 (2d Cir. 2013)—in this case, the parents appealed the State Review Officer’s (“SRO”)’s decision that a student with Autism was offered a FAPE. The SRO (relying on the classroom teacher’s testimony about the services she would have provided) concluded that the student would have received sufficient speech and language therapy, though the IEP itself did not specify an adequate amount of speech and language therapy. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals refused to allow retrospective testimony about the individual instruction that would be available in the proposed placement, because that information was not written on the IEP. The court found that the IEP was insufficient by only listing group speech and language therapy, and lacking the 1:1 speech language instruction required by law. Thus, the court reversed the SRO and ordered the parents to be reimbursed for their unilateral private placement. Note: the district court decision at 57 IDELR 139 was posted on this blog on November 4, 2011.

Note: per court order, this decision has not been released for publication in official or permanent law reports.

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District’s failure to reschedule IEP meeting for sick parent resulted in a denial of FAPE

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Doug C. v. State of Haw. Dep’t of Educ., 61 IDELR 91 (9th Cir. 2013)—in this case, the parent appealed the district’s court judgment that his son with Autism was not denied FAPE when the district held his annual IEP meeting without the parent. The Federal Circuit Court found that this procedural violation amounted to a denial of FAPE, because the district violated IDEA’s critical requirements for parental participation. The parent did not refuse to attend, but asked to reschedule on the morning of the annual review meeting, due to illness. The parent wanted to be physically present at the meeting, and did not accept the district’s suggestions of participating by phone or internet. At the meeting, the child’s placement was changed to his local public school and the parent decided to keep the student at his prior private placement, at his own expense. It was not acceptable for the district to go forward with the meeting without the parent, simply to meet the annual review date deadline, because special education services wouldn’t magically cease if the annual IEP review was overdue. Also, it was not appropriate to give priority to the schedules of other CSE members, because the parent could consent to the absence of other members of the CSE. The 9th Circuit reversed the lower court decision and held that the district denied the student a FAPE because the procedural violation denied an educational opportunity (for the merits of his current placement to be properly considered). Thus, the parent was permitted to seek reimbursement if he could establish that the private school placement was appropriate.

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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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