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Current developments in special education law with a focus on recent federal and New York cases and important legislative and regulatory developments.
Please See the Notice Regarding the Confidential Release of Student Records to Class Counsel in a Class Action Litigation Involving Students with Autism and Students Attending State-Approved Non-Public Schools.
SRO 13-078: Parents disagreed with the placement and program offered by the NYC DOE for their autistic child. The parents developed a home based program and put the DOE on notice of their intent to hold the DOE financially responsible. There was no disagreement as to the need for ABA services, but the DOE maintained that the student could benefit from 5 hours per week, rather than the 10 hours ordered by the IHO. While the SRO found that while the evidence supported a determination that only 5 hours per week were necessary, “parents were not required to limit the ABA services with exacting precision to the minimum level of services necessary to produce educational benefit.” The SRO went on to order the DOE to fund 8.5 hours per week as that was the level of service that the child was receiving and for which there was evidence of progress.
SRO 13-170: Parent prevailed at hearing. The NYC DOE appealed to the SRO. The SRO dismissed the appeal sua sponte finding that the DOE’s nine day delay in filing the administrative record “impeded his ability to issue a timely and thorough decision.”
R.B. v. MASTERY CHARTER SCHOOL, 11-1009 (3rd Cir. 7-25-2013): In response to events that displeased the parent, she stopped sending her child to school. The school dis-enrolled the child after she had not attended for awhile. The parent filed a complaint and sought pendency. The school argued, inter alia, that the parent had no right to pendency as the child was out of school at the time of the filing of the hearing request. The 3rd Circuit disagreed stating that pendency was based upon the last agreed upon IEP and that to rule in the school’s favor would “would render the stay-put provision useless, as schools could implement unilateral changes prior to a parent's suit and then claim that the new change is the status quo.”
In a case decided on June 4, 2013, the SDNY once again reversed an SRO denial of tuition reimbursement. This case, M.F. v. NYC Bd. of Educ., made it to the Court in a fairly typical posture. The parent prevailed at hearing; the SRO reversed. The NYC DOE conceded that it had failed to provide the child a FAPE and thus, the appropriateness of the DOE’s placement and program recommendations was not at issue. The SRO found that the parental placement, the Aaron School, was not appropriate. The Court held that “[i]n mechanically comparing the IEP's requirements to what the Aaron School provided, the SRO ignored the Second Circuit's instruction that a private placement need not offer every service listed in an IEP” and “that the SRO applied a more rigorous standard than that required by the case law, mischaracterized what the IEP required, and held the Aaron School responsible for a failure to offer summer services that it was not obligated to provide.” With respect to the summer services, the Court found that it was the DOE's responsibility to provide these services in July and August 2010, and it makes no sense to find the Aaron School an inappropriate placement because it offered only a 10–month program.
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