Successful defense of school district in a special education due process matter.
The case involved a middle school student diagnosed with epilepsy and ADHD. Throughout middle school, the student was accommodated for his medical conditions through a 504 Service Agreement, and was provided intensive, small group instruction in reading and math as he struggled in those areas. The student was evaluated for special education twice by the school district, at the parents’ request, because they believed he might have a learning disability. The school district concluded both times that the student did not have a learning disability; however, the district also determined in the second evaluation that the student was eligible for special education with an Other Health Impairment, in light of his medical diagnoses. The school district presented the parents with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for the student, which they initially approved. Before the school district had a chance to implement the plan, however, the parents unilaterally withdrew the student from public school and placed him at a private school for children with special needs. In their complaint, the parents claimed the school district conducted inadequate evaluations and, therefore, failed to timely identify the student as eligible for special education (and to recognize his alleged learning disability), and that the school district denied the student a Free Appropriate Public Education by offering him an inadequate IEP. The parents also claimed the school district failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the student from being bullied by his peers. The family sought, among other relief, reimbursement for the cost of the private school at the school district’s expense, reimbursement for the cost of a private educational evaluation and a finding of intentional discrimination because of the school district’s response to the alleged bullying. After nine hearing sessions, the Hearing Officer found in favor of the school district on all claims. Preliminarily, the Hearing Officer agreed with our argument that the complaint was not timely filed and, therefore, much of the parents’ claim was precluded by the IDEA statute of limitations. The Hearing Officer also found that the school district’s evaluations were appropriate and that the family was not entitled to tuition reimbursement because there was insufficient evidence to show the private school was an appropriate placement. Additionally, the Hearing Officer concluded that the school district responded promptly and appropriately to the parents’ reports of alleged bullying and, therefore, the school district did not discriminate against the student.