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Forest Grove Special Education Update

Jason Bergeron just forwarded the following to me regarding the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' recent decision in this matter:

The Ninth Circuit's opinion of last week in the Forest Grove v. T.A. case should serve as yet another blow to the popular public notion that the Supreme Court's decision in Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v. T.A., 129 S. Ct. 2484, 174 L. Ed. 2d 168 (2009), was a wide-ranging decision which vastly expanded parents' and childrens' private placement rights under IDEA.

Back in 2009, the Supreme Court's decision was trumpeted in the media as "having far-reaching implications" and that it would have the unqualified result of making it "easier for children with disabilities to receive reimbursement private education."

In reality, the Supreme Court offered a limited holding only recognizing that IDEA does not establish a categorical bar on reimbursement for private school tuition for a student who had never been found eligible for special educations services could theoretically submit for. However, the Supreme Court also recognized that a parent of a child who was not previously eligible for special education services was still subject IDEA's advance written notice requirements for reimbursement.  Ultimately, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the district court to consider the equities of the parent's claim and all other statutory considerations provided in IDEA's notice advance written notice requirements.

On remand, the district court in Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v. T.A., 675 F. Supp. 2d 1063, 1066-1068 (D. Or. 2009), denied reimbursement, because the parents failed to provide proper advance written notice and because the placements were made to focus on such issues as a student's drug abuse and behavioral problems, all unrelated to school or education. The district court also pointedly noted the immense expense of the denied placements and the potential devastating real world implications of ordering reimbursement for such placements.

In last week's opinion, the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court's rationale, concluding that the district court had not abused its discretion in finding sufficient evidence in the record to support a factual determination that the parents enrolled the student in the private school solely because of his drug abuse and behavioral problems.

The distinction in enrollment in private school for educational reasons versus reasons unrelated to a child's disabilities/education will be a recurring theme faced by many school districts in the near future as many spurious private schools, which intermix supposed special education "services" with non-specific psychological treatment, continue to pop up around the country. The Ninth Circuit's decision now places the Forest Grove case as providing strong support on the side of school districts in avoiding payment for educationally inappropriate placements.

Posted on Thursday, May 5, 2011 by Registered CommenterSam Jackson | Comments1 Comment | References9 References

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