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The GAP Attorneys Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘substance abuse’

Student’s academic and behavioral problems were a result of social maladjustment, not an emotional disturbance

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

W.G. v. New York City Department of Education, 56 IDELR 260 (S.D.N.Y. 2011): The parents of a student with conduct and personality disorders – including Oppositional Defiance Disorder – were denied reimbursement for a unilateral private school placement after the court affirmed the decision of the State Review Officer (SRO) concluding that the student was not eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The court found that the student’s academic and behavioral problems were a result of a social maladjustment, which more specifically for this student included narcissistic personality traits, conduct and personality disorders, and substance abuse.  The court noted that “social maladjustment” is specifically excluded from the definition of “emotional disturbance,” which is one of the thirteen disability categories defined in the IDEA and the only disability category for which the parents argued the student met the criteria.

NOTE: Another federal district court in New York arrived at a similar conclusion in a similar case (on almost the same date).  See P.C. v. Oceanside Union Free School District.

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Student’s parents not entitled to reimbursement for private placement where private placement was designed to address student’s drug abuse and behavior issues rather than his educational disabilities.

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Forest Grove School District v. T.A., 53 IDELR 213 (D. Or. 2009):  A federal district court determined, after balancing the equities, that parents were not entitled to reimbursement for their son’s unilateral private placement.

The student, diagnosed with ADHD and depression, was placed in a private school due to his difficulties in public school.  The parents thereafter requested a hearing seeking reimbursement.  The hearing officer determined that the student was sent to the private placement “for reasons unrelated to his disabilities (i.e., substance abuse and behavioral problems)” as well his educational difficulties.  The parents placed the student in his private school on March 24, 2003, but the court determined that the parents could not have disagreed with the school district’s decision until a final decision was made (in this case, not until August 26, 2003, when the school district ultimately determined that the student was not eligible for services under IDEA or Section 504).

The court weighed several factors, but ultimately decided that, in large part because of the fact that the parents placed the student because of his drug abuse and behavioral problems (and “not because of any disability recognized by the IDEA”), reimbursement should be denied.  The court noted that “the [school district’s] responsibility under IDEA is to remedy the learning related symptoms of a disability, not to treat the underlying disability, or to treat other, non-learning related symptoms.”

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