New York Special Education Case Law Digest

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New York

SPECIAL EDUCATION CASE LAW DIGEST

A Publication of the New York Special Education Task Force

New York Special Education Law Digest for Students, Families, and Advocates

Introduction

The mission of the New York State Special Education Task Force (“State Task Force”) is to improve educational access and outcomes for students with disabilities through a collaborative statewide network of stakeholders representing a variety of roles in addressing the special education needs of students in New York State.

The Task Force was originally formed in 2004 as a local, grassroots task force focused on improving the educational outcomes of students with disabilities. Activities of the original task force emphasized training, issue identification and discussion, and networking. Most importantly, the task force purposefully promoted participation and collaboration among all stakeholders, including parents, advocates, attorneys, school personnel, service providers, educators, government representatives, and individuals with disabilities.

Because of the outstanding success of the model and requests for replication in other parts of the State, the executive board of the original task force unanimously agreed to promote the development of task forces in other regions across the State while establishing a statewide special education task force to support, facilitate and represent regional task forces. At the same time, Disability Rights New York (DRNY) was designated the federally-funded Protection and Advocacy System in New York. With substantial resource support from DRNY, the State Task Force was formally established in 2014. Several Regional Affiliate task forces have been established across upstate New York State. For additional information see https://www.nyspecialedtaskforce.org/

The New York Special Education Case Law Digest provides information for special education stakeholders about cases involving special education laws. Understandingdecisions of federal and state judges and New York’s Office of State Review in special education cases is essential to navigating the rights of students with disabilities and the obligations of school districts. This publication is a resource for all stakeholders involved in special education including students, families, school professionals, advocates, attorneys, and others. This Digest provides summaries of cases involvinga wide range of special education legal issues. It will be updated with new cases periodically. Most summaries focus on recent administrative and judicial cases in New York, but in some instances, older but important special education cases decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and other jurisdictions are included. Our hope is that through the use of this publication, parents, families, and school districts will collaborate together to protect student rights and improve educational outcomes.

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UPDATED:JUNE,2023

Suggestions for case summaries, feedback, and questions can be sent to SpecialEd.Digest@drny.org. We want to empower special education stakeholders through knowledge.

The New York Special Education Case Law Digest work is designed to provide practical and useful information on the subject matter covered. However, it is provided with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

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iii AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) ...................................................................................... 1 APPEALS TO THE STATE REVIEW OFFICER (SRO)............................................................................... 4 Evidence 4 Procedures................................................................................................................................................. 6 Scope of Review......................................................................................................................................... 7 APPEALS OF FEDERAL AND STATE COURTS .................................................................................... 10 Deference – Hearing Officer..................................................................................................................... 10 Deference – Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Letters 14 Deference – State Review Officer ............................................................................................................ 16 Scope of Review....................................................................................................................................... 19 ATTORNEY FEES 22 ASSIGNED SCHOOL –NOTIFICATION 30 BEHAVIOR...................................................................................................................................... 34 Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).............................................................................................................. 34 Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) and/or Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) .................................. 35 BULLYING 39 CHILD FIND .................................................................................................................................... 48 COMPENSATORY EDUCATION........................................................................................................ 58 CONSENT 71 COVID-19 71 Compensatory Education......................................................................................................................... 71 Implementation of IEP ............................................................................................................................. 80
iv Miscellaneous .......................................................................................................................................... 94 COMMITTEE ON SPECIAL EDUCATION (CSE) 106 Notice..................................................................................................................................................... 106 Parent Participation............................................................................................................................... 108 Parent Submitted Evaluations and Data ................................................................................................ 116 Required Members ................................................................................................................................ 117 Interpretation Services .......................................................................................................................... 122 DECLASSIFICATION & TERMINATION OF SERVICES....................................................................... 124 DISCIPLINE OF STUDENTS............................................................................................................. 124 Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) ...................................................................................... 124 Manifestation Determination ................................................................................................................ 126 Miscellaneous ........................................................................................................................................ 128 Timeout Rooms, Restraints, and Seclusion ............................................................................................ 129 DUE PROCESS IMPARTIAL HEARINGS 134 Impartial Hearing Officers (IHO) 134 Retrospective Testimony ....................................................................................................................... 136 Scope of Review..................................................................................................................................... 139 Sufficiency of Decision ........................................................................................................................... 144 Telephonic Hearings/In-Person Hearings 145 ELIGIBILITY FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES 147 ............................................................................................................................................................... 147 Classification .......................................................................................................................................... 147 Learning Disabilities............................................................................................................................... 154 Twice Exceptional/Gifted Students 159
v EVALUATION AND REEVALUATION .............................................................................................. 161 EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES ............................................................................. 165 EXTENDED SCHOOL YEAR 177 FREE APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION (FAPE) 179 Cumulative Procedural Violations.......................................................................................................... 179 Miscellaneous ........................................................................................................................................ 186 INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION AT PUBLIC EXPENSE (IEE) 187 INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP) 194 Amendment........................................................................................................................................... 194 Assistive Technology.............................................................................................................................. 195 Goals and Objectives 198 Evaluations............................................................................................................................................. 200 Grouping ................................................................................................................................................ 203 Miscellaneous ........................................................................................................................................ 204 Location ................................................................................................................................................. 205 Needs of Student ................................................................................................................................... 208 Needs of Student: Methodology............................................................................................................ 214 Parent Counseling and Training ............................................................................................................. 218 Parent Concerns..................................................................................................................................... 220 Placement .............................................................................................................................................. 222 Predetermination................................................................................................................................... 239 Present Levels of Performance .............................................................................................................. 250 Related Services..................................................................................................................................... 251 Starting Date – When Required to be in Effect ...................................................................................... 253
vi Transition Services................................................................................................................................. 254 Transportation 257 Procedural Violations............................................................................................................................. 261 Related Services..................................................................................................................................... 263 LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT (LRE) 267 MEDIATION 276 MOOTNESS 276 PENDENCY PLACEMENT............................................................................................................... 279 PRIOR WRITTEN NOTICE 291 REMEDIES 291 Compensatory Education....................................................................................................................... 291 Direct Payment ...................................................................................................................................... 295 Injunctive Relief 298 Prospective Relief .................................................................................................................................. 302 Remand.................................................................................................................................................. 305 Services.................................................................................................................................................. 311 Tuition Reimbursement ......................................................................................................................... 313 Equitable Relief...................................................................................................................................... 314 SECTION 504 OF THE REHABILITATION ACT OF 1973 316 Damages ................................................................................................................................................ 316 Eligibility ................................................................................................................................................ 320 Free Appropriate public education (FAPE) under section 504................................................................ 323 Least Restrictive Environment ............................................................................................................... 325
vii Miscellaneous ........................................................................................................................................ 327 SERVICE ANIMALS 330 STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS 332 Tolling .................................................................................................................................................... 332 Miscellaneous ........................................................................................................................................ 337 TUITION REIMBURSEMENT – UNILATERAL PLACEMENTS 338 Appropriateness of Placement............................................................................................................... 338 Burden of Proof...................................................................................................................................... 351 Equitable Considerations ....................................................................................................................... 351 Tutoring ................................................................................................................................................. 363 Speculation ............................................................................................................................................ 366
viii TABLE OF CASES AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) ...................................................................................... 1 Luna Perez v. Sturgis Pub. Sch., 21-887, 2023 WL 2575928 (S.Ct. Mar. 21, 2023) 1 L.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 21 CV6626 (VEC), 2023 WL 1779550 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2023)......................... 1 Barnes v. Gorman, 122 S.Ct. 2097 (2002) 2 K.O. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 20-cv-10277 (LJL), 2022 WL 1689760 (S,D.N.Y. May 26, 2022) 4 APPEALS TO THE STATE REVIEW OFFICER (SRO)............................................................................... 4 Evidence..................................................................................................................................................... 4 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023) 4 Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/20) .................................................... 5 Procedures................................................................................................................................................. 6 Application of the Bd. of Educ., Appeal No. 20-112 (Sept. 1, 2020) 6 Scope of Review......................................................................................................................................... 7 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023) ........................................................ 7 B.D. v Eldred Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-03637 (PMH), 2023 WL 3025308 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2023) 7 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021) 8 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-083, (June 26, 2020) .................................................... 9 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-122 (September 17, 2020) 9 APPEALS OF FEDERAL AND STATE COURTS 10 Deference – Hearing Officer..................................................................................................................... 10 L.J. B. v. North Rockland Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 21-CV-7028 (CS), 2023 WL 2692335 (Mar. 29, 2023) 10 E.H. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 164 F. Supp.3d 539, 546-47 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) 11 R.E. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 649 F3d 167, 189 (2d 2012)........................................................................ 12 V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 20 CV-0989 (EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 (E.D.N.Y May 10, 2022) 13 Deference – Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Letters........................................................... 14 L.J. B. v. North Rockland Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 21-CV-7028 (CS), 2023 WL 2692335 (Mar. 29, 2023) .................... 14 E.H. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 164 F. Supp.3d 539, 546-47 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) 15 D.S. v. Trumbull 2020 WL 5552035 (9/17/2020) 16 Deference – State Review Officer ............................................................................................................ 16 R.E. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 649 F3d 167, 189 (2d 2012) 16 V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 20 CV-0989 (EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 (E.D.N.Y May 10, 2022) 18 Scope of Review....................................................................................................................................... 19 Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023) 19 Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023) 20 Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023) .................. 21
ix B.D. v Eldred Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-03637 (PMH), 2023 WL 3025308 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2023) .......................... 21 ATTORNEY FEES 22 K.O. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 20-cv-10277 (LJL), 2022 WL 1689760 (S.D.N.Y. May 26, 2022) 22 N.G.B. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 20-cv-6571 (JGK), 2022 WL 800855 (S.D.N.Y Mar.16, 2022) ................... 25 S. J. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 21-240-cv, 2022 WL 1409578 (2d Cir. May 4, 2022) 27 H.C. v. New York City Dept of Educ., No. 20-CV-844 (JLC), 2021 WL 2471195 (S.D.N.Y. June 17, 2021) 28 ASSIGNED SCHOOL –NOTIFICATION 30 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023) 30 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021)................................................................. 31 V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ.,20 CV-0989 (EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 (E.D.N.Y. May 10, 2022) 32 BEHAVIOR 34 Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).............................................................................................................. 34 Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/20) .................................................. 34 Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) and/or Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) 35 L.J. B. v. North Rockland Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 21-CV-7028 (CS), 2023 WL 2692335 (Mar. 29, 2023) 35 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-083 (June 26, 2020) ................................................... 36 In Re Student with a Disability – District of Columbia State Agency – 9-14-2020 38 BULLYING....................................................................................................................................... 39 B.D. v Eldred Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-03637 (PMH), 2023 WL 3025308 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2023) .......................... 39 D.S. v. New York City Dept of Educ., et al., 600 F.Supp.3d 434, 439-451, 455-60 (S.D.N.Y. 2022) 42 T.K. and S.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 810 F.3d 869 (2d Cir. 2016) .......................................................... 46 E.L. and D.P. v. Bedford Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 18 Civ. 3062 (NSR), 2022 WL 3667189 (S.D.N.Y. Aug, 25, 2022) ..... 47 CHILD FIND 48 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023) .......................... 48 O.A. v. Orcutt Union Sch. Dist., 2:21-cv-02026-RGK-MAA, 81 IDELR 109 (C.D.Cal. May 27, 2022) ...................... 50 E.L. and D.P. v. Bedford Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 18 Civ. 3062 (NSR), 2022 WL 3667189 (S.D.N.Y. Aug, 25, 2022) 52 OSEP QA 21-05; August 24, 2021 ....................................................................................................................... 54 In re Toledo Pub. Sch., Ohio State Administrative Agency, CP-0117-2021, Dec. 1, 2021, 121 LRP 43127 56 KB, on behalf of SB v. Katonah Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 19-3946-cv, 847 Fed. Appx. 38 (2d Cir. Feb. 26, 2021)............................................................................................................................................................ 57 COMPENSATORY EDUCATION 58 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023) 58 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 23-022 (Mar. 17, 2023) ................................................... 58 R.T. v. Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-00437 (PMH), 2022 WL 16857176 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 2022) 60 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-091 at pp. 42-47, 48-50 62 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-091 at pp. 38-42, 48-50 63 O.A. v. Orcutt Union Sch. Dist., 2:21-cv-02026-RGK-MAA, 81 IDELR 109 (C.D.Cal. May 27, 2022) 64 Doe v. E. Lyme Bd. of Educ., 962 F.3d 649 (2d Cir. 2020) .................................................................................... 64
x VW v. New York City Dep’t of Educ, No. 21 Civ. 6317 (AT), 2022 WL 3448096 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2022) .............. 65 Z.Q. v. New York City Bd. of Educ., No. 1:20-CV-9866-ALC, 2022 WL 903003 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2022) 67 P.C.R. and A.D.R. v. Fla. Union Free Sch. Dist. and Orange Ulster Bd. of Coop. Edu. Services, No.16-CV-9778 (KMK), 2022 WL 337072 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2022) ................................................................................................. 68 Application of the Bd. of Educ., Appeal No. 20-112 (Sept. 1, 2020) 70 Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/20) .................................................. 70 CONSENT 71 COVID-19 71 Compensatory Education......................................................................................................................... 71 Z.Q. et al. individually and on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 22-939-cv, 2023 WL 1486387 (2d Cir. Feb. 3, 2023) 71 Eaton Community City Sch, Ohio State Educational Agency, Apr. 30, 2021 (121 LRP 20304) .............................. 72 In re Student with a Disability, Maine State Educational Agency, Feb 12, 2021 (121 LRP 9943) .......................... 74 New Mexico Complaint Resolution Report # C2021-05 (Oct. 5, 2020) 77 In Re Student with a Disability Wisconsin State Agency – 9-13-20 – 77 IDELR 173 ........................................... 78 In re Metropolitan Sch. Dist. of Pike Township, State of Indiana Education Agency, Feb. 26, 2021 (121 LRP 9939) 79 Implementation of IEP ............................................................................................................................. 80 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-152 (Jan. 13. 2023) ................................................................. 80 M.P. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 21 Civ.7439 (LGS), 2022 WL 4109774 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 8, 2022) 80 In re Student with a Disability, Maine State Educational Agency, Feb 12, 2021 (121 LRP 9943) .......................... 83 In Re Eastern Howard Sch. Corp. State of Indiana Education Agency, Feb. 26. 2021 (121 LRP 9941)................... 86 New Mexico Complaint Resolution Report # C2021-05 (Oct. 5, 2020) 87 In Re Student with a Disability – District of Columbia State Agency – 9-14-2020 ................................................ 88 In Re Student with a Disability Wisconsin State Agency – 9-13-20 – 77 IDELR 173 89 In Re Long Beach Unified School District /California State Agency/10-12-20; 120 LRP 33840 90 In Re Student with a Disability North Dakota State Agency 11-10-20;120 LRP 36828 ......................................... 91 In re Mahwah Twp. Pub. Sch. Dist. (State of New Jersey Education Agency, May 4, 2021 (78 IDELR 236) 92 In re Metropolitan Sch. Dist. of Pike Township, State of Indiana Education Agency, Feb. 26, 2021 (121 LRP 9939) 93 Miscellaneous .......................................................................................................................................... 94 In re Student with a Disability, Maine State Educational Agency, Feb 12, 2021 (121 LRP 9943) ......................... 94 Eaton Community City Sch, Ohio State Educational Agency, Apr. 30, 2021 (121 LRP 20304) .............................. 97 OSEP QA 21-05; August 24, 2021 99 New Mexico Complaint Resolution Report # C2021-05 (Oct. 5, 2020) .............................................................. 101 Application of a Child with a Disability, Appeal No, 20-195 at pp.13-20............................................................ 102 Provision of Educational Services: L.V. v New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 19-CV-05451 (AT)(KHP) 2020 WL 6782234........................................................................................................................................................... 103 SETSS Services at Home: Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-122 (Sept. 17, 2020) 104 Pendency Placement – Payment for Educational Services During COVID-19: Abrams et al. v. Carranza, et al. 2020 WL 6048785 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2020) ............................................................................................................... 105 Prospective Relief: Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/2020) 105
xi Tuition Reimbursement Equitable Considerations: Application of the New York City Bd. of Educ. Appeal No. 20131 (Sept. 10, 2020) 106 COMMITTEE ON SPECIAL EDUCATION (CSE) 106 Notice..................................................................................................................................................... 106 Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023) 106 Parent Participation............................................................................................................................... 108 T.K. and S.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 810 F.3d 869 (2d Cir. 2016) ........................................................ 108 A.D. v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 20-cv-2765 (BAH), 2022 WL 683570 (D.D.C. Mar. 8, 2022) 109 Mr. and Mrs. O v Glastonbury Bd, of Educ., No. 3:20-cv-00690 (VAB), 2021 WL 6134691, at *5, *8-*12 (D. Conn. Dec. 29, 2021).................................................................................................................................................. 110 B.D. by Davis v. Dist of Columbia, No. 15-1139 (RJL), 80 IDELR 38 (D. D.C. Dec. 21, 2021) 111 Parent Submitted Evaluations and Data ................................................................................................ 116 S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022).................... 116 Required Members 117 Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023) 117 S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022).................... 118 Rogich v Clark Co. Sch. Dist., No. 2:17- cv-01541-RFB-NJK. 2021 WL 4781515, at *2 -*8 (D. Nev. Oct. 12, 2021) 119 C.N. and M.N. v. Katonah Lewisboro Sch. Dist., No.-19-CV-6793 (CS), 2020 WL 7496435 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2020) 121 Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/20) 121 Interpretation Services .......................................................................................................................... 122 Y.A. v. New York City Dep’t. of Educ., No. 15-cv-05790 (CM), 2016 WL 5811843, at *2, *6, *13-*14, *19 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 21, 2016) 122 DECLASSIFICATION & TERMINATION OF SERVICES....................................................................... 124 Kevin T. v. Elmhurst Community Sch. Dist., No. 205, No. 01 C 0005, 2002 WL 433061 at *14 (U.S.D.C. Northern District of Ill. Eastern Division, Mar 20, 2002) 124 DISCIPLINE OF STUDENTS............................................................................................................. 124 Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) ...................................................................................... 124 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-091 at pp. 38-42, 48-50 124 Manifestation Determination ................................................................................................................ 126 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 11-034.......................................................................... 126 Miscellaneous ........................................................................................................................................ 128 OSEP Dear Colleague Letter on Implementation of IDEA Discipline Provisions, # 22-01 (July 19, 2022) 128 Timeout Rooms, Restraints, and Seclusion ............................................................................................ 129 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-091 at pp. 42-50 ...................................................... 129
xii Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-091 at pp. 47-48 ...................................................... 132 DUE PROCESS IMPARTIAL HEARINGS 134 Impartial Hearing Officers (IHO) ............................................................................................................ 134 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-054 (June 22, 2022) ................................................. 134 Bias - SRO: Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-083, June 26, 2020 135 Retrospective Testimony ....................................................................................................................... 136 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 22-153 (Jan. 2023) .............................. 136 Application of a Student with a Disability., Appeal No. 22-015 (Mar. 25, 2022) 136 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-035 (May 4, 2022) 138 Bd. of Ed. of the Mamaroneck Union Free Sch. Dist. v. A.D., No. 17-3462-cv, 739 Fed.Appx. 79 (2d. Cir. 2018) 139 Scope of Review..................................................................................................................................... 139 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-152 (Jan. 13. 2023) 139 Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022) ......................................... 140 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-054 (June 22, 2022) 141 Bd. of Ed. of the Mamaroneck Union Free Sch. Dist. v. A.D., No. 17-3462-cv, 739 Fed.Appx. 79 (2d. Cir. 2018) 142 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021)................................................................ 143 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-101, (8/3/20) 143 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-101 (8/3/20) 144 Sufficiency of Decision ........................................................................................................................... 144 Application of a Student with a Disability., Appeal No. 22-015 (Mar. 25, 2022) 144 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-083, June 26, 2020 145 Telephonic Hearings/In-Person Hearings............................................................................................... 145 “After Hours”: Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-009 (March 19, 2020) 145 ELIGIBILITY FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES 147 ............................................................................................................................................................... 147 Classification .......................................................................................................................................... 147 B.D. v Eldred Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-03637 (PMH), 2023 WL 3025308 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2023) 147 Carrillo v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-2639, 2023 WL 3162127 (2d. Cir. May 1, 2023) 147 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 22-153 (Jan. 2023) .............................. 148 S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022) 151 Maria Navarro Carrillo and Jose Garzon v. Richard Carranza. et al., No. 20 Civ. 4639 (CM), 2021 WL 4137663 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2021) 152 Application of the Bd. of Educ., Appeal No. 20-112 (Sept. 1, 2020) 153 Learning Disabilities............................................................................................................................... 154 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023) ........................ 154 S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022) 158 Twice Exceptional/Gifted Students........................................................................................................ 159
xiii Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 22-153 (Jan. 2023)............................. 159 EVALUATION AND REEVALUATION 161 Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023) 161 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-152 (Jan. 13. 2023) ............................................................... 162 S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022) 163 O.A. v. Orcutt Union Sch. Dist., 2:21-cv-02026-RGK-MAA, 81 IDELR 109 (C.D.Cal. May 27, 2022) 164 EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES 165 Luna Perez v. Sturgis Pub. Sch., 21-887, 2023 WL 2575928 (S.Ct. Mar. 21, 2023) 165 Z.Q. et al. individually and on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 22-939-cv, 2023 WL 1486387 (2d Cir. Feb. 3, 2023) 167 P.C.R. and A.D.R. v. Fla. Union Free Sch. Dist. and Orange Ulster Bd. of Coop. Edu. Services, No.16-CV-9778 (KMK), 2022 WL 337072 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2022) ............................................................................................... 168 Schneider v. Mahopac Cent. Sch. Dist, et al., 21-2201, 2022 WL 1316211 (2d Circuit May 3, 2022) 169 R.R. v. Greenwich Bd. of Educ., No.3:21-CV-00873 (JCH), 2022 WL 1443979, (D. Conn. May 6, 2022) 170 Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 137 S. Ct. 743 (2017).............................................................................. 172 Schneider v Mahopac Cent. Sch. Dist. et al, No. 20-CV-709 (CS), 2021 WL 3887913 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 31, 2021) 174 B.D. by Davis v. Dist of Columbia, No. 15-1139 (RJL), 80 IDELR 38 (D. D.C. Dec. 21, 2021) ................................ 176 Ventura de Paulino v New York City Dep’t of Educ. 959 F.3d 519 (2d Cir. 2020) ............................................... 177 G.B., et al. v. Orange South Supervisory District, 19-3502 cv Fed.Appx. (2020), 2020 WL 7227190 (2d Cir. Dec. 8, 2020).................................................................................................................................................... 177 EXTENDED SCHOOL YEAR............................................................................................................. 177 KB, on behalf of SB v. Katonah Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 19-3946-cv, 847 Fed. Appx. 38 (2d Cir. Feb. 26, 2021).......................................................................................................................................................... 177 KB v. Katonah Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 19-3946-cv, 2021 WL 745890 (2d Cir. February 26, 2021) 178 FREE APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION (FAPE) 179 Cumulative Procedural Violations.......................................................................................................... 179 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 23-039 (May 15, 2023).................................................. 179 Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023) 184 Endrew F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist. RE-1, 137 S.Ct. 9898 (2017) ...................................................................... 184 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021)............................................................... 185 Miscellaneous ........................................................................................................................................ 186 Doe v. E. Lyme Bd. of Educ., 962 F.3d 649 (2d Cir. 2020) 186 INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION AT PUBLIC EXPENSE (IEE) 187 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023) 187 B.D. v Eldred Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-03637 (PMH), 2023 WL 3025308 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2023) ........................ 188 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-127 (Dec. 2022) 189 Application of the Dept of Educ., Appeal No. 22-081 (Aug. 26, 2022) 190 Application of the Bd. of Educ., Appeal No 22-047 (June 30, 2022) .................................................................. 192 D.S. v. Trumbull 2020 WL 5552035 (9/17/2020) 194
xiv INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP) ............................................................................. 194 Amendment........................................................................................................................................... 194 Bd. of Educ. of Yorktown Cent. Sch. Dist. v. C.S., No. 19-270, F.3d – 2021 WL 800579 (2d Cir. Mar. 3, 2021) 194 Assistive Technology.............................................................................................................................. 195 L.J. B. v. North Rockland Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 21-CV-7028 (CS), 2023 WL 2692335 (Mar. 29, 2023) .................. 195 Goals and Objectives.............................................................................................................................. 198 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-127 (Dec. 2022) 198 Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022) ......................................... 198 Application of the Bd. Of Educ., Appeal No. 22-037 (June 9, 2022) 199 Evaluations............................................................................................................................................. 200 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-152 (Jan. 13. 2023) 200 O.A. v. Orcutt Union Sch. Dist., 2:21-cv-02026-RGK-MAA, 81 IDELR 109 (C.D.Cal. May 27, 2022) .................... 201 Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022) 202 Grouping ................................................................................................................................................ 203 Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023) ................ 203 Miscellaneous ........................................................................................................................................ 204 Retrospective Testimony: C.N. and M.N. v. Katonah Lewisboro Sch. Dist., No.-19-CV-6793 (CS), 2020 WL 7496435 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2020)..................................................................................................................... 204 Location ................................................................................................................................................. 205 Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022) 205 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021)............................................................... 206 V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ.,20 CV-0989 (EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 (E.D.N.Y. May 10, 2022) 207 Needs of Student ................................................................................................................................... 208 Application of the Dept of Educ., Appeal No. 22-081 (Aug. 26, 2022)............................................................... 208 Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022) 211 Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022) 212 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-035 (May 4, 2022) ................................................................ 212 Needs of Student: Methodology............................................................................................................ 214 Falmouth School Dep’t v. Mr. and Mrs. Doe, 44 F.4th 23 (1st Cir. 2022) 214 Parent Counseling and Training ............................................................................................................. 218 L.J. B. v. North Rockland Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 21-CV-7028 (CS), 2023 WL 2692335 (Mar. 29, 2023) .................. 218 Parent Concerns..................................................................................................................................... 220 Rogich v Clark Co. Sch. Dist., No. 2:17- cv-01541-RFB-NJK. 2021 WL 4781515, at *2 -*8 (D. Nev. Oct. 12, 2021) ........................................................................................................................................................................ 220 Placement .............................................................................................................................................. 222 J.D. and L.D. v. Rye Neck Union Free Sch. Dist., 22 CV 3039 (VB), 2023 WL 1797170 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2023) 222 Carrillo v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-2639, 2023 WL 3162127 (2d. Cir. May 1, 2023)....................... 225 E.H. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 164 F. Supp.3d 539, 551-54 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) 227
xv Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-127 (Dec. 2022) ....................................................... 229 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-127 (Dec. 2022) 230 Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022) 232 Rogich v Clark Co. Sch. Dist., No. 2:17- cv-01541-RFB-NJK. 2021 WL 4781515, at *2 -*8 (D. Nev. Oct. 12, 2021) 233 KB, on behalf of SB v. Katonah Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 19-3946-cv, 847 Fed. Appx. 38 (2d Cir. Feb. 26, 2021) 235 KB v. Katonah Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 19-3946-cv, 2021 WL 745890 (2d Cir. Feb. 26, 2021) 236 C.N. and M.N. v. Katonah Lewisboro Sch. Dist., No.-19-CV-6793 (CS), 2020 WL 7496435 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2020) 237 Bd. of Educ of the Wappingers Cent. Sch. Dist. v. D.M., 20-653-cv, 2020 WL 7418979, (2d Cir. Dec. 18, 2020) 238 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-101, (8/3/2020) ....................................................... 238 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-101 (8/3/2020) 238 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-122 (September 17, 2020) ....................................... 238 Predetermination................................................................................................................................... 239 J.D. and L.D. v. Rye Neck Union Free Sch. Dist., 22 CV 3039 (VB), 2023 WL 1797170 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2023) 239 Carrillo v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-2639, 2023 WL 3162127 (2d. Cir. May 1, 2023) 240 Application of the Bd. Of Educ., Appeal No. 22-037 (June 9. 2022)................................................................... 241 Maria Navarro Carrillo and Jose Garzon v. Richard Carranza. et al., No. 20 Civ. 4639 (CM), 2021 WL 4137663 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2021) .................................................................................................................................. 243 Maria Navarro Carrillo and Jose Garzon v. Richard Carranza. et al., No. 20 Civ. 4639 (CM), 2021 WL 4137663 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2021) 243 Mr. and Mrs. O v Glastonbury Bd, of Educ., No. 3:20-cv-00690 (VAB), 2021 WL 6134691, at *5, *8-*12 (D. Conn. Dec. 29, 2021) 244 B.D. by Davis v. Dist of Columbia, No. 15-1139 (RJL), 80 IDELR 38 (D. D.C. Dec. 21, 2021) 246 Present Levels of Performance .............................................................................................................. 250 Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022) ......................................... 250 Related Services..................................................................................................................................... 251 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023) .................................................... 251 Starting Date – When Required to be in Effect ...................................................................................... 253 E.L. and D.P. v. Bedford Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 18 Civ. 3062 (NSR), 2022 WL 3667189 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 25, 2022) 253 Transition Services................................................................................................................................. 254 Perkiomen Valley Sch. Dist. V. R.B., 18-3-009, 121 LRP 13443 (U.S. D.C. E.D.PA. (Apr. 13, 2021)) ..................... 254 R.B. v. New York City Dep’t Educ., No. 16-1952-cv, 689 Fed.Appx. 48 (2d Cir. Apr. 27, 2017) ........................... 256 Transportation ....................................................................................................................................... 257 VW v. New York City Dep’t of Educ, No. 21 Civ. 6317 (AT), 2022 WL 3448096 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2022)............ 257 VW v. New York City Dep’t of Educ, No. 21 Civ. 6317 (AT), 2022 WL 3448096 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2022) 257 Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-035 (May 4, 2022) 258 KB v. Katonah Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 19-3946-cv, 2021 WL 745890 (2d Cir. Feb. 26, 2021)........ 258 C.N. and M.N. v. Katonah Lewisboro Sch. Dist., No.-19-CV-6793 (CS), 2020 WL 7496435 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2020) 259 Bd. of Educ of the Wappingers Cent. Sch. Dist. v. D.M., 20-653-cv, 2020 WL 7418979, (2d Cir. Dec. 18, 2020). 260
xvi Procedural Violations............................................................................................................................. 261 Maria Navarro Carrillo and Jose Garzon v. Richard Carranza. et al., No. 20 Civ. 4639 (CM), 2021 WL 4137663 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2021) 261 Related Services..................................................................................................................................... 263 Application of the Bd. Of Educ., Appeal No. 22-037 (June 9. 2022) 263 Maria Navarro Carrillo and Jose Garzon v. Richard Carranza. et al., No. 20 Civ. 4639 (CM), 2021 WL 4137663 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2021) .................................................................................................................................. 266 LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT (LRE) 267 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-127 (Dec. 2022) ....................................................... 267 A.D. v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 20-cv-2765 (BAH), 2022 683570 (D.D.C. Mar. 8, 2022)................. 268 Yonkers (NY) Public Schools, 69 IDELR 18, 116 LRP 46675 (OCR 2016) 271 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No.20-083 (June 26, 2020) .................................................. 273 Prospective Relief: Application of a Student with A disability, Appeal No. 20-083 (June 26, 2020) ................... 275 MEDIATION 276 MOOTNESS .................................................................................................................................. 276 K.O. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 20-cv-10277 (LJL), 2022 WL 1689760 (S.D.N.Y. May 26, 2022) ................ 276 P.C.R. and A.D.R. v. Fla. Union Free Sch. Dist. and Orange Ulster Bd. of Coop. Edu. Services, No.16-CV-9778 (KMK), 2022 WL 337072 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2022) ............................................................................................... 277 B.D. by Davis v. Dist of Columbia, No. 15-1139 (RJL), 80 IDELR 38 (D. D.C. Dec. 21, 2021) 277 Pendency Placement: Mendez v. New York City Dept of Educ., 2020 WL 6048203, 19-cv-02945 (ALC) (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2020) .................................................................................................................................................. 278 PENDENCY PLACEMENT 279 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023) 279 Mendez v. Banks, No. 22-2663, 2023 WL 2903360 (2d Cir. Apr. 12, 2023) ........................................................ 281 Mendez v. Banks, No. 22-2663, 2023 WL 2903360 (2d Cir. Apr. 12, 2023) 282 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 23-022 (Mar. 17, 2023) ................................................. 283 In re student with a disability, Appeal No. 21-075, (June 24, 2021) .................................................................. 284 Application of a Child with a Disability, Appeal No, 20-195 at pp. 8-11 285 Payment for Educational Services During COVID-19: Abrams et al. v. Carranza, et al. 2020 WL 6048785 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2020) .................................................................................................................................................. 286 Mootness: Mendez v. New York City Dept of Educ., 2020 WL 6048203, 19-cv-02945 (ALC) (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2020) ............................................................................................................................................................... 286 Payment: Ventura de Paulino v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 959 F.3d 519 (2d Cir. 2020) 287 Ventura de Paulino v New York City Dep’t of Educ., 959 F.3d 519 (2d Cir. 2020) 288 Neske v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., Fed.Appx. – 2020 WL 5868279, No. 19-4068-cv (2d Cir. 2020) .......... 289 Arelis Araujo et al. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 20 Civ. 7032 (LGS) (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 24, 2020) 289 Injunctive Relief and Payment: Abrams et al. v. Carranza, et al. 2020 WL 6048785 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2020) 290 Injunctive Relief: Arelis Araujo et al. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 20 CIV 7032 (LGS) (SDNY Sept. 24, 2020) 290 PRIOR WRITTEN NOTICE .............................................................................................................. 291
xvii REMEDIES .................................................................................................................................... 291 Compensatory Education....................................................................................................................... 291 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023) 291 R.T. v. Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-00437 (PMH), 2022 WL 16857176 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 2022) 292 Direct Payment ...................................................................................................................................... 295 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023) .................................................... 295 Maysonet v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 22 Civ. 1685 (LGS), 2023 WL 2537851 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 16, 2023) 296 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-122 (9/17/20) .......................................................... 297 Injunctive Relief 298 Mendez v. Banks, No. 22-2663, 2023 WL 2903360 (2d Cir. Apr. 12, 2023) 298 Y.S. v. New York City Bd. of Educ., No. 1:21-cv-00711 (MKV), 2021 WL 1164571 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2021) ....... 299 EMC v. Ventura Unified Sch. Dist., Case No. 2:20-cv-09024-SVW-PD, 2020 WL 7094071 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 14, 2020) 300 Payment for Pendency Services: Abrams et al. v. Carranza, et al. 2020 WL 6048785 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2020)... 301 Pendency Placement: Arelis Araujo et al. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 20 CIV 7032 (LGS) (SDNY Sept. 24, 2020) ............................................................................................................................................................... 301 Prospective Relief .................................................................................................................................. 302 Application of a Student with a Disability., Appeal No. 22-015 (Mar. 25, 2022) 302 K.O. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 20-cv-10277 (LJL), 2022 WL 1689760 (S.D.N.Y. May 26, 2022) 303 Impact of COVID-19: Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/2020)............ 303 Least Restrictive Environment: Application of a Student with A disability, Appeal No. 20-083 (June 26, 2020) 304 Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/2020)............................................. 304 Remand.................................................................................................................................................. 305 R.T. v. Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-00437 (PMH), 2022 WL 16857176 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 2022) 305 Application of a Student with a Disability., Appeal No. 22-015 (Mar. 25, 2022) 306 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-054 (June 22, 2022) ................................................. 308 Mr. O. v. Glastonbury v. Bd. of Educ., No. 3:20-cv-00690 (VAB), 2021 WL 6134691 (D. Conn. Dec. 29, 2021) 309 V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 20-CV-0989 (EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 (E.D.N.Y. May 10, 2022) 310 Services.................................................................................................................................................. 311 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023) 311 Tuition Reimbursement ......................................................................................................................... 313 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023) .................................................... 313 Equitable Relief...................................................................................................................................... 314 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023) 314 SECTION 504 OF THE REHABILITATION ACT OF 1973 316 Damages ................................................................................................................................................ 316 Barnes v. Gorman, 122 S.Ct. 2097 (2002) 316 Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C., 142 S.Ct. 1562 (2022) .................................................................. 317
xviii Eligibility ................................................................................................................................................ 320 D.S. v. New York City Dept of Educ., et al., 600 F.Supp.3d 434, 439-451, 455-60 (S.D.N.Y. 2022) 320 Free Appropriate public education (FAPE) under section 504................................................................ 323 VW v. New York City Dep’t of Educ, No. 21 Civ. 6317 (AT), 2022 WL 3448096 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2022) ............ 323 Robert F. v. N. Syracuse Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 5:18-CV-00594 (LEK/ATB), 2021 WL 3569108 at *3-*5, *7-*8 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 12, 2021)................................................................................................................................... 324 Least Restrictive Environment ............................................................................................................... 325 Yonkers (NY) Public Schools, 69 IDELR 18, 116 LRP 46675 (OCR 2016) 325 Miscellaneous ........................................................................................................................................ 327 In Re Cent. Dauphin Sch. Dist. Pa. State Agency (Oct. 7, 2014) 114 LRP 47648 .............................................. 327 L.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 21 CV6626 (VEC), 2023 WL 1779550 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2023)..................... 328 S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022) 329 SERVICE ANIMALS........................................................................................................................ 330 C.B. by and through P.G. and D.G. v. Saucon Valley Sch. Dist., No. 5:21-cv-03956 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 18, 2021) 330 STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS 332 Tolling .................................................................................................................................................... 332 P.C.R. and A.D.R. v. Fla. Union Free Sch. Dist. and Orange Ulster Bd. of Coop. Edu. Services, No.16-CV-9778 (KMK), 2022 WL 337072 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2022) 332 L.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 21-CV-1033 (VEC), 2022 WL 704712 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 8) ............................ 333 N.J. and G.J, v NYC Dept. of Educ, et al, No. 18-CV-6173 (JMF), 2021 WL 965323 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 15, 2021) 334 Y.A. v. New York City Dep’t. of Educ., No. 15-cv-05790 (CM), 2016 WL 5811843, at *2, *4, *5, *8 -*10 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 21, 2016)................................................................................................................................................. 335 G.B., et al. v. Orange South Supervisory District, 19-3502 cv ,Fed.Appx. (2020), 2020 WL 7227190 (2d Cir. Dec. 8, 2020) 337 Miscellaneous ........................................................................................................................................ 337 D.S. v. Trumbull 2020 WL 5552035 (9/17/2020) 337 TUITION REIMBURSEMENT – UNILATERAL PLACEMENTS 338 Appropriateness of Placement............................................................................................................... 338 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023) .................................................... 338 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 22-153 (Jan. 2023) 340 Falmouth Sch. Dep’t v. Mr. and Mrs. Doe, 44 F 4th 23, (1st Cir. 2022) 342 T.K. and S.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 810 F.3d 869 (2d Cir. 2016) 342 M.P. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 21 Civ.7439 (LGS), 2022 WL 4109774 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 8, 2022) 343 S.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 221 Civ.9139 (LGS), 2022 WL 3997016 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 1, 2022) ............... 346 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-065 (July 25, 2022) 347 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-024, pp.7-16 (Mar. 17, 2021) 348 Application of a Child with a Disability, Appeal No, 20-195 at pp. 20-23........................................................... 349 Bd. of Educ of the Wappingers Cent. Sch. Dist. v. D.M., 20-653-cv, 2020 WL 7418979, (2d Cir. Dec. 18, 2020) 350 Application of the New York City Bd. of Educ., Appeal No 20-131 (Sept. 10, 2020)........................................... 350
xix Burden of Proof...................................................................................................................................... 351 C.N. and M.N. v. Katonah Lewisboro Sch. Dist., No.-19-CV-6793 (CS), 2020 WL 7496435 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2020) 351 Equitable Considerations ....................................................................................................................... 351 Z.A.R. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 19-cv-2615 (CBA)(PK), 2022 WL 4536241 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 20220) 351 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023) .................................................... 353 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023) ........................ 353 Maysonet v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 22 Civ. 1685 (LGS), 2023 WL 2537851 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 16, 2023) 354 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 22-153 (Jan. 2023) ............................... 355 T.K. and S.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 810 F.3d 869 (2d Cir. 2016) ........................................................ 356 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-065 (July 25, 2022) 357 R.G. v. New York City Dept. of Educ., No. 18-CV-11219 (JPC)(RWL), 122 LRP 3694 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 24, 2022). ..... 357 Donohue v New York City Dep’t of Educ., 120-CV-1942-ALC-KHP, 2021 WL 4481344 (S.D.N.Y. Sept 30, 2021) 361 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No, 21-024, p. 16 (Mar. 17, 2021) 362 Application of a Child with a Disability, Appeal No, 20-195 at pp. 23-24........................................................... 362 Application of the New York City Bd. of Educ. Appeal No. 20-131 (Sept. 10, 2020) 362 Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-101 (8/3/20) 363 Tutoring ................................................................................................................................................. 363 Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023) 363 Application of the Dept of Educ., Appeal No. 22-081 (Aug. 26, 2022)............................................................... 365 Speculation ............................................................................................................................................ 366 Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023) 366

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA)

Luna Perez v. Sturgis Pub. Sch., 21-887, 2023 WL 2575928 (S.Ct. Mar. 21, 2023)

Dispute: Whether a parent may obtain compensatory damages under the ADA.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court reserved the question.

Basis of the Supreme Court’s Decision:

In this case, the Supreme Court determined that where the student’s ADA claim requested compensatorydamages– aformofreliefthatwasnotprovidedforbythe IDEA,itwasnotrequired to exhaust the administrative remedies under the IDEA before commencing that claim.

The question was raised in the case as to whether the ADA may provide the remedy of compensatory damages in the first instance. In concluding its decision relating to the exhaustion of administrative remedies, the Court said that it was not deciding that question at this time.

L.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 21 CV6626 (VEC), 2023 WL 1779550 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the parents have stateda claim relatingto Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA.

Conclusion: The Court determined that the parents stated a claim relating to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

“To state a claim under the RehabilitationAct of 1973andthe ADAfor educational discrimination against a student with disabilities, a plaintiff must allege adequately (1) that [the student] is a qualified individual with a disability; (2) that [the district] is subject to one of the Acts; and (3) that [the student] was denied the opportunity to participate in or benefit from [the district’s] services, program, or activities, or was otherwise discriminated against by [the district], byreason of his disability”. To plead that the student was denied services because of his disability, “something more than a mere violation of the IDEA…” must be plead. In particular, “facts from which the Court can plausibly infer that [the district] acted in bad faith or with gross misjudgment when administering disability services” must be pled.

In this case, among other things, the district asserted that the parents “fail[ed] to state claims under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act because they do not allege that [the student] was treated differently from non-disabled students or denied reasonable accommodations based on his disability”.

TheCourtfoundthattheparent’spleadingsassertedfactstoshowthatthedistrictfailed“toprovide [the student] with a high school educationfor two years”. The Court said that “[s]uch an extensive absence from school purportedly due to [the district’s] violative conduct, which the Court must accept as true for purposes of [the district’s] motion to dismiss, is sufficient for the Court to infer

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gross negligence or reckless indifference. See Gabel v. Bd. of Educ. of Hyde Park Cent. Sch. Dist., 368 F. Supp 2d 313, 336 (S.D.N.Y. 2005); R.B. v. Bd. of Educ of City of New York, 99 F. Supp.2d at 411, 414-15, 419 (S.D.N.Y. 2000); Conway v. Bd. of Educ. of Northport-East Northport Sch. Dist., No. 13-CV-5283 (SJS)(WDW), 2014 WL 3828383, at *18 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 1, 2014).

Barnes v. Gorman, 122 S.Ct. 2097 (2002)

Dispute: Whether punitive damages are an available remedy under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 202 of the ADA.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that punitive damages are not an available remedy under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 202 of the ADA.

Basis of the Supreme Court’s Decision

The respondent in this case, a paraplegic, “suffered medical problems – including a bladder infection, serious lower back pain, and uncontrollable spasms in his paralyzed areas” as a result of a ride to the police station subsequent to his arrest and which “left him unable to work full time”.

Respondent brought suit against members of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and asserted discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 202 of the ADA. “A jury found petitioners liable”. It awarded over $1 million in compensatory damages and $1,2 million in punitive damages. “The District Court vacated the punitive damages award, holding that punitive damages are unavailable in suits under Section 202 of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973”. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the District Court. The Supreme Court took up the matter. It reversed the Eighth Circuit and held that punitive damages were not an available remedy under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 202 of the ADA.

Starting out, the Court said that Section 202 of the ADA prohibits discrimination against the disabled by public entities and that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against the disabled by recipients of federal funding, including private organizations. Both statutes, the Court said, “are enforceable through private causes of action” and “the remedies for violations of Section 202 of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are coextensive with the remedies available in a private cause of action brought under Title VI of the under Civil Rights Act of 1964”.

The Court said further that “[a]lthough Title VI does not mention a private right of action”, prior caselaw has found that “there is an implied right of action,” “leavingit beyond dispute that private individuals maysue to enforce Title VI”. However, the Court also said that it was “less clear what remedies are available in such a suit”.

The Court then moved on to say, importantly, that “Title VI invokes Congress’ power under the Spending Clause … to place conditions on the grant of federal funds”. It said that the Court has “repeatedly characterized” “Spending Clause legislation as much in the nature of a contract: in return for federal funds, the recipients agree to comply with federally imposed conditions”. And, “just as a valid contract requires offer and acceptance of its terms, the legitimacy of Congress’

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power to legislate under the spending power rests on whether the recipient voluntarily and knowingly accepts the terms of the contract”. “Accordingly”, the Court said, “if Congress intends to impose a condition on the grant of federal monies, it must do so unambiguously”. The Court continued, saythat while “all contract law rules” do not applyto Spending Clause legislation, “we have regularly applied the contract-law analogy in cases defining the scope of conduct for which funding recipients may be held liable for money damages”.

“The same analogy applies, the Court said “in determining the scope of damages remedies” and that a statute’s “contractual nature has implications for our construction of the scope of available remedies”. “One of these implications,” the Court believed, “is that a remedyis appropriate relief … only if the funding recipient is on notice that, by accepting federal funding, it exposes itself to liabilityofthatnature.Itcontinuedthat“[a]fundingrecipientisgenerallyonnoticethatitissubject not onlyto those remedies explicitlyprovided in the relevant legislation but also to those remedies traditionally available in suits for breach of conduct”.

Unlike compensatorydamagesthe Court citedtreatisestothe effect that “punitive damages,unlike compensatorydamagesand injunctionaregenerallynot available for breachofcontract”. Relating to the argument that “an implied punitive damages provision [can] reasonable be found in Title VI” and that “reasonablyapplied contractual terms are simplythose that comport with community standards of fairness”. The Court looked at these arguments and concluded that “[n]either approach wouldsupport the implicationhere ofa remedythat isnot normallyavailable for contract actions and that is of indeterminate magnitude”.

The Court said that punitive damages on top of compensatorydamages “could well be disastrous,” that it is “doubtful that funding recipients would have agreed to exposure to such unorthodox and indeterminate liability[, and] it is doubtful whether they would even have accepted the funding if punitive damages was a required condition”. With this in mind, the Court said that “it can hardly be said that community standards of fairness support such an implication” of punitive damages.

Its “conclusion” here, the Court said, was that it “is consistent with the well-settled rule that where legal rights have been invaded, and a federal statute provides for a general right to sue for such invasion, federal courts may use any available remedy to make good the wrong done”. More specifically, it said that “[w]hen a federal funds recipient violates conditions of Spending Clause legislation, the wrong done is the failure to provide what the contractual obligation requires; and that wrong is made good when the recipient compensates the federal government or a third-party beneficiary for the loss caused by that failure”. Here, the Court said that “[p]unitive damages are not compensatory, and are therefore not embraced…”

The Court held that “[b]ecause punitive damages may not be awarded in private suits brought under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it follows that that they may not be awarded in suits brought under Section 202 of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.”

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K.O. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 20-cv-10277 (LJL), 2022 WL 1689760

(S,D.N.Y. May 26, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the parent proved that its claim was a violation of the ADA.

Conclusion: The Court held that the parent did not prove that its claim was a violation of the ADA.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The parent “request[ed] a declaration from the Court that the [district’s] policies, practices, and procedures regarding implementation of [IHO decisions] are illegal and/or invalid and have discriminated against [the student] and similarly situated students under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)…”. The Court found that the parent offered no “evidence in support of that request”. The Court went on to say that “[t]he standards for claims under the ADA and under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are essentially the same”. The Court continued that “[b]ecause the ADA and Section 504 address discrimination against disabled students, rather than incorrect or erroneous special education treatments, as in the case of the IDEA, there must be something more than a mere violation of the IDEA … in order to show a violation of either statute in the context of educating children with disabilities”. According to the Court, “[t]hat something more isevidencethatthe defendant actedwithbad faithorgrossmisjudgment”. TheCourt pointed out that further, “[i]ntentional discriminationmaybe inferredwhena school district actswithgross negligence or reckless indifference in depriving a child of access to a FAPE”.

Regarding this case, the Court concluded that “[t]he undisputed facts” did not “establish the requisite something more”.

The parent asserts that the district’s “exclu[sion]” of the student “from the benefits of IDEA due process proceedings and determinations violated the ADA and that the Court does not need any further showing”. The Court said that “[a]lthough the evidence does tend to show that, for each succeeding school year after an IHO determined that [the private school] was an appropriate placement, [the parent] had to initiate a due process hearing to secure that [the private school] would be determined still to be an appropriate placement and would be paid under the IDEA. [the parent] has not offered any undisputed evidence to establish that the [district] acted in bad faith or with gross negligence and that [the parent] is entitled to declaratory relief.

The Court concluded the matter bydenying the parent’s motion for summaryjudgement under the ADA.

APPEALS TO THE STATE REVIEW OFFICER (SRO)

VIDENCE

Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the SRO should accept additional evidence.

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Conclusion: The SRO determined that she would accept some additional evidence and denied the receipt of other additional evidence.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“Generally, documentary evidence not presented at an impartial hearing may be considered in an appeal from an impartial hearing officer’sdecision onlyif such additional evidence could not have been offered at the time of the impartial hearing and the evidence is necessary in order to render a decision”.

“The factor specific to whether the additional evidence was available or could have been offered at the time of the impartial hearing serves to encourage full development of an adequate hearing record at the first tier to enable the IHO to make a correct and well supported determination and to prevent the partysubmitting the additional evidence from withholding relevant evidence during the impartial hearing, thereby shielding the additional evidence from cross-examination and later springing it on the opposing party, effectively distorting the State-level administrative review and transformingit intoa trial de novo”. “However,bothfederalandState regulationsauthorize SROs to seek additional evidence if necessary, and SRO’s have accepted evidence available at the time of the impartial hearing when necessary”.

In this case, the parents, in part, requested to submit as additional evidence “the results of the student’s performance on the fifth grade State ELA exam, along with correspondence with the IHO requesting that the IHO accept the exam results in evidence”. “The district has offered documents related to evaluations completed after the issuance of the IHO’s decision in this matter and a February2, 2023 CSE determination that the student was not eligible for special education”. In response to the district’s request, “the parents submit[ed] additional documents that they assert are required to complete the information considered by the February 2023 CSE”.

The SRO determined to exercise her discretion to accept additional evidence from the parents of the results of the student’s performance on the fifth grade State ELA exam and related correspondence to the IHO. The SRO pointed out that “the parents [offered] the other document atthetimeoftheimpartialhearing”andthat“theparents’proposedexhibitisrelevanttofashioning relief … and is therefore necessary in rendering a decision in this matter”.

“On the other hand, [the SRO concluded that] the district’s proposed additional evidence and the parents’ further additional evidence in response, is not necessaryto render a decisionin this matter as it all pertainsto a CSE meeting that took place after the conclusion of this proceedingand which may be the subject of a subsequent due process complaint notice if the parents disagree with the February 2023 CSE’s determination”.

Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/20)

Conclusion: The SRO used 8 NYCRR §279.10(b) (said section “permitting a State Review Officer to seek additional evidence if he or she determines that such additional evidence is necessary”) to request additional information from the district.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The SRO requested additional evidence from the district regarding “whether it conducted a CSE meeting for the student for a (subsequent) school year, and if so, to

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provide a copy of the IEP.” Upon the receipt of the requested information the SRO learned that “multiple assessments of the student were conducted” “that were not a part of the hearing record and were not available to the IHO”. Based in part on this information, the SRO decided that it would not consider prospective relief in the case but would “limit review of [the] matter to remediation of past harms that” were explored through the development of the underlying hearing record.

PROCEDURES

Application of the Bd. of Educ., Appeal No. 20-112 (Sept. 1, 2020) Dispute: Parents assert that they were not properly served. District asserts that proper service should be concluded.

Conclusion: The SRO held that the parents were not properly served and dismissed the district’s appeal.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The practice regulations before the Office of State Review at 8 NYCRR § 279.4(c) provides that in circumstances where the petitioner is a board of education, personal service on respondent parent is made by delivery of a copy of the notice of petition for review and petition for review to the parent. The practice regulations provide alternative ways to effectuate proper service if, upon diligent attempts, service cannot be made as required, including as directed, by a State Review Officer (SRO) (see 8 NYCRR § 279.4(c)).

In this case, the district served the notice of petition for review and the petition for review by overnight mailtothe attorneyfor the parent. Petitionerdistrict’spetitionfor reviewdid not comply with the length requirements of the practice regulations before the Office of State Review and was returned by that office. The district thereafter served and filed an amended notice of request for review and request for review upon counsel to the parent.

The SRO held that the district did not properly serve the parent. The SRO referenced the parent’s affidavit and concluded, among other things, that the parent was not personallyserved. Regarding the district’s claim that the parent was not prejudiced, the SRO advised that lack of prejudice did not nullify the requirement for proper service. The SRO pointed out that the district did not deny that it failed to make service as required. Regarding the district’s claim that parents’ counsel had consented to service by delivery to the parent’s attorney, the SRO pointed out that such allegation was conclusory. Additionally, and elsewhere in the decision, the SRO referenced an affidavit of the parent that he did not waive his right to be served or authorize anyone else to accept service.

The SRO concluded that the district failed to offer any explanation for its failure to properly serve the parents and that if it was unable to comply with this requirement, it was obligated to explain why it could not do so and, if necessary, pursue alternative service as provided for by the practice regulation including as required by a State Review Officer.

With respect to all of the above, the SRO concluded that “[g]iven the absence of any showing that the district served the parent with the request for review, obtained an agreed upon waiver of personal service, or obtained permission from an SRO for service by means other than service

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upon the parent it is an inescapable conclusion that the district failed to effectuate proper service…either pursuant to Part 279 or in another manner authorized by an SRO… and that the district’s appeal [should be] dismissed”

COPE OF REVIEW

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the question of hearing education services was within the SRO’s scope of review.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the question of hearing education services was outside the SRO’s scope of review.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“State regulations require that parties set forth in their pleadings a clear and concise statement of the issues presented for review and the grounds for reversal or modification to be advanced, with each issue numbered and set forth separately, and identifying the precise rulings, failures to rule, or refusals to rule presented for review and further specifythat anyissue not identified in a party’s request for review, answer, or answer with cross-appeal shall be deemed abandoned and will not be addressed by a State Review Officer. 8 NYCRR 279.8(c)(2), (4) (emphasis added).”

In thiscase, “the due processcomplaint notice includedanallegationthat the [IEP]wasinadequate based onitsfailure toinclude a recommendationfor hearingeducationservices”.“[T]hisissue was not addressed by the IHO.” “On appeal, the parent does not advance any argument that the IHO failed to make such determination or argue that the district’s failure to recommend hearing education services denied the student a FAPE.” The parent does not argue under a separately numbered issue in the pleadings “that the lack of hearing education services denied the student a FAPE or that the IHO erred in [not] addressing the issue”. The parent sets forth under his Statement of Pertinent Facts that the CSE “did not recommend hearing education services”. The SRO said that the “passing mention” to hearing education services in the statement of facts was “not sufficient to raise the issue for review.”

The SRO concluded that “the issue of hearing education services which was raised in the due process complaint notice but not addressed by the IHO and not raised on appeal is abandoned”.

B.D. v Eldred Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-03637 (PMH), 2023 WL 3025308 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2023)

Dispute: Whether an issue determined by an IHO which is not appealed to the SRO is final and binding upon the parties.

Conclusion: The Court held that in circumstances where an issue determined by the IHO is not appealed to the SRO, the IHO’s determination with respect to that issue is final and binding upon the parties and may not be considered by the SRO.

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Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The student in this case has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder, reading and writing impairments, and chronic kidney disease. The student is eligible for special education programs and services as a student with a disabilityand in particular a student with another health impairment.

Amongotherthings, the parents’due processcomplaint notice assertedthat the student wasdenied a FAPE during the 2018-19 school year because of bullying. The IHO agreed but did not award the parentsanyremedy1. The parentsappealed a number of IHO determinations totheSRO. They didnot, however, appealtothe SROthe IHO’sdeterminationnottoawardanyremedywith respect to the 2018-19 school year. As a consequence, the SRO did not review that determination but found the IHO’s determination final and binding upon the parties and not able to be reviewed by the SRO.

As part of its litigation before the Court, the parents now assert “that they are entitled to a remedy for the bullying that took place during the 2018-19 school year.

The Court first advised that in questions of law in IDEA cases, it is not required to give any deference to prior administrative determinations. The Court therefore reviewedthe questionoflaw and found that it agreed with the SRO’s conclusion.

The Court pointed out that IDEA requires that “any party aggrieved by the findings and decision of an initial administrative hearing to be able to appeal such findings and decisions to the State administrative agency”. See 20 U.S.C. 1415(g)(1). The Court went on to point out that the applicable federal regulations “require that anydecision not appealed to the SRO is final upon the parties”. See 34 CFR 300.514. See also 8 NYCRR 200.5(j)(5)(v). The Court concluded that because the IHO’s determination not to award a remedy regarding the 2018-19 school year was not appealed to the SRO that issue was “waived”.

Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021) Dispute: Which claims are properly before the State Review Officer (SRO).

Conclusion: A part of the Impartial Hearing Officer’s (IHO) decision was outside of the SRO’s review.

1 From the Court’s decision it appears that this was because the parents’ due process complaint notice did not seek a remedy with respect to the 2018-19 school year. It is not clear whether the parents enrolled the student in a private school when he left the district toward the end of the 2018-19 school year. If the student had attended a private school during that period the parents would have been eligible to seek a remedy of tuition reimbursement. Additionally, because one component of a successful bullying claim under T.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 779 F.Supp. 2d 289, 316 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) is that the bullying substantially restricts the student’s education opportunities, the parents could have sought compensatory education as a remedy. Moreover, in circumstances where bullying has denied the student a FAPE and the district does not appropriately respond, which could be a subject of a due process complaint notice and the remedies under the IDEA would be applicable. Note also here that bulling can serve as the basis of a violation of Section 504 and the ADA and the remedies for such claims would be available.

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Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

State Regulations covering practice before the Office of State Review set forth that any issue not identified in a party’s request for review, answer, or answer with cross-appeal shall be deemed abandoned and will not be addressed by a State Review Officer. Additionally, an IHO’s decision is final and binding upon the parties unless appealed to a State Review Officer.

Here, the district did not cross-appeal from the IHO’s determinations that the parents’ unilateral placement was appropriate and that equitable considerations weighed in favor of granting the parents’ requested relief.

Therefore, the above IHO’s findings have become final and binding on the parties and will not be reviewed on appeal.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-083, (June 26, 2020) Dispute: Which claims are properly before the State Review Officer (SRO).

Conclusion: Two of the claims raised by the parent in the due process complaint notice were not raised in the request for review before an SRO and therefore are outside of the scope of the SRO’s review. Additionally, one claim that was raised in the request for review before the SRO was not raised in the due process complaint notice, and therefore, was also outside of the scope of the SRO’s review. Further, the parent includes claims asserting that the district violated Section 504 and the ADA, which the SRO held were outside its jurisdiction.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: State Regulations governing practice before the Office of State Review (OSR) set forth that any issue raised by a parent in the due process complaint notice but not identified in a party’s request for review, answer, or answer with cross-appeal before an SRO are deemed abandoned. Additionally, and with respect to the second matter, State Regulations governingpractice before anSROalso setforth thatanyissue not raisedinthe parent’sdue process complaint notice maynot be raised for the first time on appeal to an SRO. With respect to this, the parent also did not seek the district’s agreement to expand the scope of the impartial hearing or file an amended due process complaint notice to add the claim, Furthermore here, as a matter of law, the district did not “open the door” to the claim by raising evidence as a defense to a claim that was not identified in the due process complaint notice. With respect to the parent’s 504 and ADA claims, State law, supported by relevant case law, limit the jurisdiction of a State Review Office to consider matters under the IDEA or its counterpart in State law and regulations.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-122 (September 17, 2020)

Dispute: Which claims are properly before the State Review Officer (SRO).

Conclusion: Several of the parent’s claims were outside of the SRO’s review.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The parent raised a number of claims in her due process complaint notice that were not addressed by the Impartial Hearing Officer (IHO) and the parent did not specifically appeal from the IHO’s failure to address those claims. With regard to this, State Regulations covering practice before the Office of State Review set forth that “any issue not

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identified in a party’s request for review, answer, or answer with cross-appeal are deemed abandoned and will not be addressed by a State Review Officer”.

APPEALS OF FEDERAL AND STATE COURTS

EFERENCE – HEARING OFFICER

L.J. B. v. North Rockland Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 21-CV-7028 (CS), 2023 WL 2692335 (Mar. 29, 2023)

Dispute: Should the Court defer to the SRO.

Conclusion: Based on the circumstances, the Court concluded that the SRO’s decision merited deference.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, among other things, the parent argued that the SRO “was silent on all the parent’s experts all together” and “disregarded the inherent difference between fact witnesses and expert testimony”.

The Court pointed out that the SRO discussed all of the parent’s experts save one. With respect to that expert, the Court stated that the SRO decision considered “the entire hearing record”. The Court also said that this expert’s testimony “would not change the ultimate conclusions reached by the SRO”. With respect to that parent’s expert, the Court said that he “did not offer any information on [the student’s] abilities that materially differed from what was already known”. The parent complained specifically that the expert’s opinions relating to whether an FBA was required and whether a recommendation for parent training was required to be a part of the IEP was ignored. The SRO pointed out, however, that neither of these opinions were supported by the IDEA. Finally, in such circumstances, the Court said that the fact “that the SRO did not explicitly address every witness’s testimony [did] not undermine the Court’s conclusion that the SRO’s decision was generally well-reasoned and persuasive”.

Relating to the claim that the SRO “disregarded the inherent difference between fact witnesses and expert testimony’, the Court said that “the SRO did not determine the credibility of any witness, fact or expert; it simplyrecounted the evidence on whichit reliedonin totality”. TheCourt further pointed out “that there [was] no requirement that an SRO give more weight to expert testimony than to that of fact witnesses … and that the SRO ultimately found the fact witnesses more persuasive does not suggest that the experts were not considered”. Moreover, the Court said that “[e]ven if the SRO gave greater weight to the [d]istrict’s experts, a court cannot choose between the competing views of experts on matters of educational policy or substitute its own judgement for that of the hearing officers which it reviews”.

The IHO’s decision was one page and did not cite to references in the record or to any law. That being the case, the Court said that “[t]o the extent that the parent believes the SRO improperly deferred to the IHO’s decision, this argument is without merit”. The Court pointed out that “the

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SRO acknowledged the various failures of the IHO and undertook an independent review of the record… resultingin a thorough,careful,reasonedandpersuasive 33-page decision.That the SRO ultimately reached the same conclusion as the IHO [did] not render the findings problematic”.

The Court concluded that “[b]ased on the evidence in the administrative record – all of which was also presented to the SRO … the SRO’s decision deserves deference from this Court.”

E.H. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 164 F. Supp.3d 539, 546-47 (S.D.N.Y. 2016)

Dispute: Whether and to whom deference is given.

Conclusion: The Southern District of New York summarizes relevant Supreme Court and Second Circuit cases regarding whether and to whom deference is to be given.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

Federal Courts reviewing administrative determinations under the IDEA “must engage in an independent review of the administrative record and make a determination based on a preponderance of the evidence.” M.H. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 685 F.3d 217, 240 (2d Cir. 2012) (citing Gagliardo v. Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist., 489 F.3d 105, 112 (2d Cir 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court must also consider “anyfurther evidence presented before the District Court by the parties” not presented to the SRO. Grim, v. Rhinebeck Cent. Sch. Dist., 346 F.3d 377, 380 (2d Cir. 2003). As the Supreme Court has concluded, this review of the record is “by no means an invitation to the courts to substitute their own notions of sound educational policyfor those of the school authorities which they review.” Bd. of Educ. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 206 (1982); Walczak v. Florida Union Free Sch. Dist., 142 F.3d 119, 129 (2d Cir. 1998)

Because “the role of the federal courts in reviewing state educational decisions under the IDEA is circumscribed,” the district court should not disturb the SRO’s decision if it is thorough, wellreasoned, and based on the record”. D.A.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 14-4119-CV, 630 Fed.Appx, 73, 75-76, 2015 WL 7273409 at *1 (2d Cir. Nov. 18, 2015) (citing R.E. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 694 F.3d 167, 189 (2d Cir. 2012); Grim 346 F.3d at 380-81; Walczak, 142 F.3d at 129); see also Gagliardo, 489 F.3d at 112-14; A.C. v. Bd. of Educ., 553 F.3d 165, 171 (2d Cir 2009).

By statute, reviewing courts afford such deference via application of the preponderance standard. 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii). However, the preponderance standard does not alone capture precisely how much deference to apply, when to apply more or less, and to whom. As between the conflicting opinions of an IHO and SRO, the reviewing federal court is generally required to defer to the SRO. See M.H. 685 F. 3d at 246. Conversely, where “the SRO’s determinations are insufficiently reasoned to merit that deference, and in particular where the SRO rejects a more thorough and carefully considered decision of an IHO, it is entirely appropriate for the court, having in its turn found the SRO’s conclusion unpersuasive even after appropriate deference is paid, to consider the IHO’s analysis, which is also informed by greater educational expertise than that of judges, rather than to rely exclusively on its own less informed educational judgement” Id.

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These inquiries ultimately translate to a review of the persuasiveness of the SRO’s decision. Id at 244. However, the persuasive inquiry“must also be colored byan acute awareness of institutional competence and role” Id. “mindful that the judiciary generally lacks the specialized knowledge and experience necessary to resolve persistent and difficult questions of educational policy” Walczak, 142 F.3d at 129 (quoting Rowley at 206, 208).

Different types of findings are also accorded different degrees of deference. The SRO’s findings regarding the IEP’s substantive adequacy command more deference that determinations regarding whether the IEP was developed according to proper IDEA procedures. M.H. 685 F.3d at 246; see also M.P. v. Carmel Cent. Sch. Dist., No 15 CV 3432 (VB), 2016 WL 379765, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 29, 2016) (“Courts should afford more weight to SRO determinations when they involve the substantive adequacy of an IEP.”). Determinations of appropriate methodology are accorded greater deference, while factual determinations of progress are afforded less. M.H., 685 F.3d at 246-47. Finally, more deference is due when [the] (c)ourt’s determination rests solelyon the same evidence presented to the SRO. Id

R.E. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 649 F3d 167, 189 (2d 2012) Dispute: When should a Court defer to state decision-makers.

Conclusion: In IDEA cases, the role of the federal courts in reviewing state educational decisions is circumscribed; keeping in mind that a court lacks the specialized knowledge and experience necessary to resolve questions of educational policy. Among other things, and as a general rule courts defer to the final decision of the state authorities (the SRO) but the deference owes to the SRO is determined by the quality of that decision and circumstances may occur where the court will defer to the IHO. Additionally, the courts should defer regarding the substantive adequacy of an IEPasopposed to a questionoflawandit isappropriate for the courttorelyona betterreasoned IHO’s decision in circumstances where an SRO decision is inadequately reasoned.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

[T]he role of the federal courts in reviewing state educational decisions under the IDEA is circumscribed. Gagliardo v. Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist., 489, F3d 105, 112-13 (2d Cir. 2007). We must give “due weight” to the state proceedings, mindful that we lack “the specialized knowledge and experience necessary to resolve … questions of educational policy”. Id. at 113. It is not for the federal court to “ch[oose] between the views of conflicting experts” on such questions (Grim v. Rhinebeck Cent. Sch., 346 F.3d 377, 383 (2d Cir. 2003)) When an IHO and SRO reach conflictingconclusions,“[w]e defertothefinal decisionofthe state authorities,” that is,the SRO’s decision, A.C., 553 F3d at 171. But the question remains: how much deference? In a recent opinion, this Circuit resolved the deference question now posed bythe parties. SeeM.H. v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Educ., 685 F.3d 217 (2d Cir 2012). Synthesizing our precedence on this issue, we concluded that the deference owed to an SRO’s decision depends on the quality of that decision. Reviewing courts must look to the factors that “normally determine whether any particular judgment is persuasive, for example, whether the decision being reviewed is well-reasoned, and whether it was based on substantially greater familiarity with the evidence and the witnesses than

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the reviewing court.” Id. at 244. However, courts must bear in mind the statutory context and the administrative judges’ greater institutional competence inmatters of educational policy. Id. at 244. The M.H. opinion offers several illustrative examples:

[D]eterminations regarding the substantive adequacy of an IEP should be afforded more weight than determinations concerning whether the IEP was developed according to the proper procedures. Decisions involving a dispute over an appropriate educational methodology should be afforded more deference than determinations concerning whether there have been objective indications of progress. Determinations grounded in thorough and logical reasoning should be provided more deference than decisions that are not. And the district court should afford more deference when its review is based entirely on the same evidence as that before the SRO than when the district court has before it additional evidence that was not considered by the state agency

Id. Where, as in our case, the IHO and SRO disagree, the general rule is that “courts must defer to the reasoned conclusions of the SRO as the final state administrative determination.” Id at 246. However,when… the district court appropriatelyconcludesthat the SRO’sdeterminations are insufficiently reasoned to merit that deference, and in particular where the SRO rejects a more thorough and carefully considered decision of an IHO, it is entirely appropriate for the court, having in its turn found the SRO’s conclusions unpersuasive even after appropriate deference is paid, to consider the IHO’s analysis, which is also informed by greater educational expertise than that of judges, rather than to rely exclusively on its own less informed educational judgment.

Id. Therefore, a court must defer to the SRO’s decision on matters requiring educational expertise unless it concludes that the decision was inadequately reasoned, in which case a better-reasoned IHO opinion may be considered instead.

V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 20 CV-0989 (EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 (E.D.N.Y May 10, 2022)

Dispute: When should the Court defer to state decision-makers.

Conclusion: Among other things, the court should generallydefer to the final decision of the state authorities (the SRO) and because of the specialized considerations involved, courts should defer to the SRO and IHO regarding the substantive adequacy of an IEP but to a lesser extent regarding whether an IEP was developed according to the proper procedures and onan issue oflaw. Further, courts should defer to the credibility determinations of the IHO.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

“The standard for reviewing administrative determinations requires a more critical appraisal of the agency’s determination than clear-error review but nevertheless falls well short of complete de novo review. M.H. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 685 F.3d 217, 244 (2d Cir. 2012)”.

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“In deciding an IDEAcase, a court will generallydefer to the final decisionof the state authorities. M.H. v. New York City Dept of Educ, 685 F.3d 217, 241 (2d Cir. 2012)” “Still, in policing the state’s adjudication of IDEA matters, a court must determine the weight due any particular administrative finding Id. at 244”. “Because of the specialized educational considerations involved, determinations regarding the substantive adequacy of an IEP should be afforded more weight than determinations concerning whether an IEP was developed according to the proper procedures. Id.” “Accordingly, review of the administrative decision is by no means an invitation to the courts to substitute to substitute their own notions of sound educational policy. Mr. P v. W. Hartford. Of Educ. 885 F. 3d 735, 748 (2d Cir. 2018)”. “Deference to an SRO’s decision is generally appropriate because the judiciary generally lacks the specialized knowledge and experience necessary to resolve persistent and difficult questions of educational policy. R.E. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 694 F.3d 167, 184 (2d Cir. 2012).” “District courts also apply a deferential standard of review to the IHO’s credibility determinations. See M.H. at 240”.

“The call for deference, however, does not apply to questions of law. See B.K. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 12 F. Supp. 3d 343, 356 (E.D.N.Y. 2014).”

DEFERENCE – OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS (OSEP) LETTERS

L.J. B. v. North Rockland Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 21-CV-7028 (CS), 2023 WL 2692335 (Mar. 29, 2023)

Dispute: Should the Court defer to the SRO.

Conclusion: Based on the circumstances, the Court concluded that the SRO’s decision merited deference.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, among other things, the parent argued that the SRO “was silent on all the parent’s experts all together” and “disregarded the inherent difference between fact witnesses and expert testimony”.

The Court pointed out that the SRO discussed all of the parent’s experts save one. With respect to that expert, the Court stated that the SRO decision considered “the entire hearing record”. The Court also said that this expert’s testimony “would not change the ultimate conclusions reached by the SRO”. With respect to that parent’s expert, the Court said that he “did not offer any information on [the student’s] abilities that materially differed from what was already known”. The parent complained specifically that the expert’s opinions relating to whether an FBA was required and whether a recommendation for parent training was required to be a part of the IEP was ignored. The SRO pointed out, however, that neither of these opinions were supported by the IDEA. Finally, in such circumstances, the Court said that the fact “that the SRO did not explicitly address every witness’s testimony [did] not undermine the Court’s conclusion that the SRO’s decision was generally well-reasoned and persuasive”.

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Relating to the claim that the SRO “disregarded the inherent difference between fact witnesses and expert testimony’, the Court said that “the SRO did not determine the credibility of any witness, fact or expert; it simplyrecounted the evidence on whichit reliedonin totality”. TheCourt further pointed out “that there [was] no requirement that an SRO give more weight to expert testimony than to that of fact witnesses … and that the SRO ultimately found the fact witnesses more persuasive does not suggest that the experts were not considered”. Moreover, the Court said that “[e]ven if the SRO gave greater weight to the [d]istrict’s experts, a court cannot choose between the competing views of experts on matters of educational policy or substitute its own judgement for that of the hearing officers which it reviews”.

The IHO’s decision was one page and did not cite to references in the record or to any law. That being the case, the Court said that “[t]o the extent that the parent believes the SRO improperly deferred to the IHO’s decision, this argument is without merit”. The Court pointed out that “the SRO acknowledged the various failures of the IHO and undertook an independent review of the record… resultingin a thorough,careful,reasonedandpersuasive 33-page decision.That the SRO ultimately reached the same conclusion as the IHO [did] not render the findings problematic”.

The Court concluded that “[b]ased on the evidence in the administrative record – all of which was also presented to the SRO … the SRO’s decision deserves deference from this Court.”

E.H. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 164 F. Supp.3d 539, 546-47 (S.D.N.Y. 2016)

Dispute: Whether and to whom deference is given.

Conclusion: The Southern District of New York summarizes relevant Supreme Court and Second Circuit cases regarding whether and to whom deference is to be given.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

Federal Courts reviewing administrative determinations under the IDEA “must engage in an independent review of the administrative record and make a determination based on a preponderance of the evidence.” M.H. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 685 F.3d 217, 240 (2d Cir. 2012) (citing Gagliardo v. Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist., 489 F.3d 105, 112 (2d Cir 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court must also consider “anyfurther evidence presented before the District Court by the parties” not presented to the SRO. Grim, v. Rhinebeck Cent. Sch. Dist., 346 F.3d 377, 380 (2d Cir. 2003). As the Supreme Court has concluded, this review of the record is “by no means an invitation to the courts to substitute their own notions of sound educational policyfor those of the school authorities which theyreview.” Bd. of Educ. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 206 (1982); Walczak v. Florida Union Free Sch. Dist., 142 F.3d 119, 129 (2d Cir. 1998).

Because “the role of the federal courts in reviewing state educational decisions under the IDEA is circumscribed,” the district court should not disturb the SRO’s decision if it is thorough, wellreasoned, and based on the record”. D.A.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 14-4119-CV, 630 Fed.Appx, 73, 75-76, 2015 WL 7273409 at *1 (2d Cir. Nov. 18, 2015) (citing R.E. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 694 F.3d 167, 189 (2d Cir. 2012); Grim 346 F.3d at 380-81; Walczak,

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142 F.3d at 129); see also Gagliardo, 489 F.3d at 112-14; A.C. v. Bd. of Educ., 553 F.3d 165, 171 (2d Cir 2009)

By statute, reviewing courts afford such deference via application of the preponderance standard. 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii). However, the preponderance standard does not alone capture precisely how much deference to apply, when to apply more or less, and to whom. As between the conflicting opinions of an IHO and SRO, the reviewing federal court is generally required to defer to the SRO. See M.H. 685 F. 3d at 246. Conversely, where “the SRO’s determinations are insufficiently reasoned to merit that deference, and in particular where the SRO rejects a more thorough and carefully considered decision of an IHO, it is entirely appropriate for the court, having in its turn found the SRO’s conclusion unpersuasive even after appropriate deference is paid, to consider the IHO’s analysis, which is also informed by greater educational expertise than that of judges, rather than to rely exclusively on its own less informed educational judgement” Id

These inquiries ultimately translate to a review of the persuasiveness of the SRO’s decision. Id at 244. However, the persuasive inquiry“must also be colored byan acute awareness of institutional competence and role” Id. “mindful that the judiciary generally lacks the specialized knowledge and experience necessary to resolve persistent and difficult questions of educational policy” Walczak, 142 F.3d at 129 (quoting Rowley at 206, 208).

Different types of findings are also accorded different degrees of deference. The SRO’s findings regarding the IEP’s substantive adequacy command more deference that determinations regarding whether the IEP was developed according to proper IDEA procedures. M.H. 685 F.3d at 246; see also M.P. v. Carmel Cent. Sch. Dist., No 15 CV 3432 (VB), 2016 WL 379765, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 29, 2016) (“Courts should afford more weight to SRO determinations when they involve the substantive adequacy of an IEP.”). Determinations of appropriate methodology are accorded greater deference, while factual determinations of progress are afforded less. M.H., 685 F.3d at 246-47. Finally, more deference is due when [the] (c)ourt’s determination rests solelyon the same evidence presented to the SRO. Id.

D.S. v. Trumbull 2020 WL 5552035 (9/17/2020)

Dispute: Whether Department of Education (DOE) OSEP policy letters are relevant to the issue of whether an FBA is the “equivalent of evaluations for purposes of triggering the right to an IEE” at public expense.

Conclusion: The Court of Appeals concluded that the text of the two OSEP letters cited were not due any deference.

Basis of the Court of Appeals’ Decision: The Court of Appeals rejected the relevance of such DOE policy documents because it concluded that the relevant OSEP letters “ignore[] the plain text of the statute and regulations.”

DEFERENCE – STATE REVIEW OFFICER

R.E. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 649 F3d 167, 189 (2d 2012)

Dispute: When should a Court defer to state decision-makers.

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Conclusion: In IDEA cases, the role of the federal courts in reviewing state educational decisions is circumscribed; keeping in mind that a court lacks the specialized knowledge and experience necessary to resolve questions of educational policy. Among other things, and as a general rule courts defer to the final decision of the state authorities (the SRO) but the deference owes to the SRO is determined by the quality of that decision and circumstances may occur where the court will defer to the IHO. Additionally, the courts should defer regarding the substantive adequacy of an IEPasopposed to a questionoflawandit isappropriate for the courttorelyona betterreasoned IHO’s decision in circumstances where an SRO decision is inadequately reasoned.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

[T]he role of the federal courts in reviewing state educational decisions under the IDEA is circumscribed. Gagliardo v. Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist., 489, F3d 105, 112-13 (2d Cir. 2007). We must give “due weight” to the state proceedings, mindful that we lack “the specialized knowledge and experience necessary to resolve … questions of educational policy”. Id. at 113. It is not for the federal court to “ch[oose] between the views of conflicting experts” on such questions (Grim v. Rhinebeck Cent. Sch., 346 F.3d 377, 383 (2d Cir. 2003)) When an IHO and SRO reach conflictingconclusions,“[w]e defertothefinal decisionofthe state authorities,” that is,the SRO’s decision, A.C., 553 F3d at 171. But the question remains: how much deference? In a recent opinion, this Circuit resolved the deference question now posed bythe parties. SeeM.H. v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Educ., 685 F.3d 217 (2d Cir 2012). Synthesizing our precedence on this issue, we concluded that the deference owed to an SRO’s decision depends on the quality of that decision. Reviewing courts must look to the factors that “normally determine whether any particular judgment is persuasive, for example, whether the decision being reviewed is well-reasoned, and whether it was based on substantially greater familiarity with the evidence and the witnesses than the reviewing court.” Id. at 244. However, courts must bear in mind the statutory context and the administrative judges’ greater institutional competence inmatters of educational policy. Id. at 244. The M.H. opinion offers several illustrative examples:

[D]eterminations regarding the substantive adequacy of an IEP should be afforded more weight than determinations concerning whether the IEP was developed according to the proper procedures. Decisions involving a dispute over an appropriate educational methodology should be afforded more deference than determinations concerning whether there have been objective indications of progress. Determinations grounded in thorough and logical reasoning should be provided more deference than decisions that are not. And the district court should afford more deference when its review is based entirely on the same evidence as that before the SRO than when the district court has before it additional evidence that was not considered by the state agency

Id. Where, as in our case, the IHO and SRO disagree, the general rule is that “courts must defer to the reasoned conclusions of the SRO as the final state administrative determination.” Id at 246.

However,when… the district court appropriatelyconcludesthat the SRO’sdeterminations are insufficiently reasoned to merit that deference, and in particular where the SRO rejects a more thorough and carefully considered decision of an IHO, it is entirely appropriate for

17

the court, having in its turn found the SRO’s conclusions unpersuasive even after appropriate deference is paid, to consider the IHO’s analysis, which is also informed by greater educational expertise than that of judges, rather than to rely exclusively on its own less informed educational judgment.

Id. Therefore, a court must defer to the SRO’s decision on matters requiring educational expertise unless it concludes that the decision was inadequately reasoned, in which case a better-reasoned IHO opinion may be considered instead.

V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 20 CV-0989 (EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 (E.D.N.Y May 10, 2022)

Dispute: When should the Court defer to state decision-makers.

Conclusion: Among other things, the court should generallydefer to the final decision of the state authorities (the SRO) and because of the specialized considerations involved, courts should defer to the SRO and IHO regarding the substantive adequacy of an IEP but to a lesser extent regarding whether an IEP was developed accordingto the proper procedures and onan issue oflaw. Further, courts should defer to the credibility determinations of the IHO.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

“The standard for reviewing administrative determinations requires a more critical appraisal of the agency’s determination than clear-error review but nevertheless falls well short of complete de novo review. M.H. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 685 F.3d 217, 244 (2d Cir. 2012)”.

“In deciding an IDEAcase, a court will generallydefer to the final decisionof the state authorities. M.H. v. New York City Dept of Educ, 685 F.3d 217, 241 (2d Cir. 2012)” “Still, in policing the state’s adjudication of IDEA matters, a court must determine the weight due any particular administrative finding Id. at 244”. “Because of the specialized educational considerations involved, determinations regarding the substantive adequacy of an IEP should be afforded more weight than determinations concerning whether an IEP was developed according to the proper procedures. Id.” “Accordingly, review of the administrative decision is by no means an invitation to the courts to substitute to substitute their own notions of sound educational policy. Mr. P v. W. Hartford. Of Educ. 885 F. 3d 735, 748 (2d Cir. 2018)”. “Deference to an SRO’s decision is generally appropriate because the judiciary generally lacks the specialized knowledge and experience necessary to resolve persistent and difficult questions of educational policy. R.E. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 694 F.3d 167, 184 (2d Cir. 2012).” “District courts also apply a deferential standard of review to the IHO’s credibility determinations. See M.H. at 240”.

“The call for deference, however, does not apply to questions of law. See B.K. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 12 F. Supp. 3d 343, 356 (E.D.N.Y. 2014).”

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Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023)

Dispute: Was it proper under the IDEA for the Court to consider the question of whether the grouping of students in the recommended class was appropriate.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the SRO, finding that the parents waived the issue of whether the grouping of students in the recommended class was appropriate and did not consider that issue.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

“The parentsargue[d] that the proposedclass groupingclearlyfailedtocomplywith the regulatory requirements and was not appropriate for [the student] because the students in the classrooms available for [the student] had a disparate and wide variance of academic characteristics, social development, physical development and management needs”. “The SRO found that the [p]arents waived this argument by not asserting it in its [due process complaint notice].” “The Court agree[d].”

In this case, the Court concluded that it was precluded from looking at this issue because it was not raised in the parents’ due process complaint notice. The parents argued that this argument was not waived and could be considered as they asserted in their due process complaint notice that the district “failed to recommend or offer a FAPE.” The Court concluded that the argument “proves too much” and that if this argument held, there would be no issue which would ever be waived. The Court said this would “undermine the very purpose of the [due process complaint notice]”. In this regard, the Court explained that the due process complaint notice “triggers a 30-dayresolution period, during which the school district can correct any deficiencies without penalty “. See R.E. v. New York City Bd. of Educ., 694 F.3d 167, 187 (2d Cir. 2012). The Court indicated if the due process complaint notice did not put the district on notice of a particular issue, then the district did not have the opportunity to address the issue during the resolution period, which would eliminate the very purpose of the resolution period. With this in mind, “the Court thus reject[ed] the parents’ argument that the mere assertion that [the student was denied a FAPE was sufficient to preserve their argument with respect to [the student’s] class grouping”.

The Court had previously advised that “[t]he Second Circuit has instructed that the waiver rule is not to be mechanically applied” and that “so long as the plaintiffs provide fair notice to the Department of their claim, a court should deem that claim properlyraised.” See C.F. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 746 F.3d 68, 78 (2d Cir. 2014)

Consistent with this and notwithstanding the above, the parents assert that the district “opened the door to the issue by allowing the [p]arents’ attorney to cross examine a witness about [the student’s] classgrouping”.The Courtpointedoutthat “[t]he SecondCircuit hasidentifiedanarrow exception to the waiver rule: if the [district] opened the door to an otherwise waived issue in the impartial hearing, then the parents would not be precluded from advancing the claim.” See M.H. v. New York CityDep’t of Educ., 685 F.3d 217, 250-51 (2d Cir. 2012). The Court pointed out that “[c]ourts have found that a party has opened the door to an issue that wasn’t raised in the original [due process complaint notice] if it raises the issue during the hearing and the issue comprises a

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COPE OF REVIEW

large part of the testimony presented at the hearing.” Bd. of Educ. of Mamaroneck Union Free Sch. Dist. v. A.D. 2017 WL 4466613 at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 5, 2017), aff’d, 739 F. App’x 79 (2d Cir. 2018)

Upon review, the Court concluded that the district “did not open the door” to address the issue of the student’sgrouping. It pointedout that “it wasthe parents’attorneywhobelatedly…attempted to broach the issue of … grouping during cross examination”. Further, while the district “later briefly posed two questions that might have been related to the grouping of the student” both of those questions addressed grouping in “the context” of the student’s private school and not the district’s recommended placement. The Court concluded that “[t]his level of engagement with the issue [was] insufficient to find that the [district] opened the door to the parent’s argument …”.

Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023)

Dispute: Wasthe Court precludedfrom addressingthe issue of whetherholdingthe district’sCSE meeting in June 2019, violated a timeliness requirement of the IDEA.

Conclusion: The Court held that it was precluded from addressing the question of whether the district’s June 2019 CSE meeting violated a timeliness requirement of the IDEA.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

Federal Courts are generally precluded from addressing a matter not set out in the due process complaint notice.In light oftheavailabilityofthe resolutionsession(see 20U.S.C.1415(f)(1)(B)), this ensures that the district will have the opportunity to address a matter in the first instance and that the district will not be required to address an issue at the hearing that it is unaware of. Consequently “the party requesting the due process hearing shall not be allowed to raise issues at the due process hearing that were not raised in the [due process complaint notice], unless the other party agrees otherwise”. Courts have agreed that this principle also applies in the context of judicial review and, in particular, that generally a court should not review a matter not found in the due process complaint notice, unless the other party agrees. See C.F. ex rel R.F. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 746 F.3d 68, 78 (2nd Cir. 2014)

At the same time, the Court pointed out that “the waiver rule is not to be mechanically applied”. In particular, in circumstances where “(1) the [due process complaint notice] provided fair notice to the [district] of the argument at issue; (2) both the IHO and SRO reached the issue on the merits, giving the federal court a record for review; or (3) the argument goes to the heart of [the] dispute”, an issue not set forth in a due process complaint notice will not be precluded from review. C.F., 746 F.3d at 78.

The question in this case was whether holding an “IEP meeting in June of 2019 violated a timeliness requirement of the IDEA”. The Court found that the general preclusion rule applied. The Court also found that the exception to the general waiver rule did not apply. In this regard, the Court pointed out that “the [p]arents did not raise the delay in holding the [CSE] meeting in their [due process complaint notice] and [thus] did not give the [district] notice of this [alleged]

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procedural violation”. The Court also pointed out that “[n]either the IHO nor SRO reached the issue and the argument does not go to the heart of the dispute”.

The Court found that therefore it was precluded from addressing the issue of whether the district’s June 2019 CSE violated a timeliness requirement of the IDEA.

Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023)

Dispute: Was it proper under the IDEA for the Court to consider the question of whether the student’s evaluations were appropriate.

Conclusion: The Court reversed the SRO, held that the parents did not waive the issue of whether the CSE properly evaluated the student, and considered the question.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

“[T]he parentsargue[d] that the CSE failed to conduct appropriate evaluations”. “The SRO found that the [p]arents’[due processcomplaintnotice]did not includeanyallegationsrelatedtoa failure of the district to evaluate the student and deemed the [p]arents’ argument waived”.

The Court advised that “[t]he Second Circuit has instructed that the waiver rule is not to be mechanically applied” and that “so long as the plaintiffs provide fair notice to the Department of their claim, a court should deem that claim properly raised.” See C.F. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 746 F.3d 68, 78 (2d Cir. 2014)

In this case, “the parents’ [due process complaint notice] alleged that the IEP was not the product of any individualized assessment of all of [the student’s] needs. The Court found that such a statement put the [d]istrict on notice that the [p]arents intended to make a procedural argument about the [district’s] failure to conduct the mandated evaluations of [the student].”

The above being the case, the Court reversed the SRO and considered the parents’ claim.

B.D. v Eldred Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-03637 (PMH), 2023 WL 3025308 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the issue of the student’s specific disability classification was waived.

Conclusion: The Court held that while the student’s disability classification was dealt with extensivelybythe SRO, since the matter was not raised before the Court anyargument concerning that issue was waived.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The student in this case has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder, reading and writing impairments, and chronic kidney disease. The student is eligible for special education programs and services as a student with a disabilityand in particular a student with another health impairment.

During a number of CSE meetings, the parents requested that the student’s classification be changed to a student with autism. During all relevant time periods, the CSE declined to do so. In

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the proceedings below, the SRO held that the disability classification of other health impairment as opposed to a student with autism did not deny the student a FAPE. Although the parents appealed other determinations of the SRO to the District Court, the parents did not appeal this classification determination. The Court, in turn, determined that “any argument concerning that issue is waived and cited to C.S. v. Yorktown Cent. Sch. Dist., 16-CV-9950 (KMK), 2018 WL 1627262 at *28 n.38 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2018) See also Palmieri v. Lynch, 392 F.3d 73, 87 (2d Cir. 2004)

ATTORNEY FEES

K.O. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 20-cv-10277 (LJL), 2022 WL 1689760 (S.D.N.Y. May 26, 2022)

Dispute: The extent and amount of attorney’s fees.

Conclusion: The Court found that it was appropriate to award attorney’s fees. It awarded less than the parent requested and more than that which was recommended by the district.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The Court pointed out that the IDEA provides for the opportunityfor a parent torecover attorney’s fees and that such assists in “ensuring that all children with disabilities have available to them a [FAPE] that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs”. In this case, the Court concluded that the parent was the prevailing partyand performed a service for the parent and for the child and is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

The “presumptively” reasonable attorneys fee is determined bya reasonable hourlyrate multiplied by the number of hours reasonably expended on the matter and that “no bonus or multiplier may be used in calculating the fees awarded.”

With respect to hourly rates, “the statute mandates that the fees awarded shall be based on rates prevailing in the community in which the action or proceeding arose for the kind and quality of services furnished”. “The reasonable hourly rate is the rate a paying client would be willing to pay …bearing in mind that a reasonable paying client wishes to spend the minimum necessary to litigate the case effectively.” “Within this framework, district courts determine a reasonably hourly rate by considering all pertinent factors, including the Johnson factors”.2

2 The Johnson factors are as follows: (1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions;

(3) the level of skill required to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the attorney’s customary hourly rate; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent;

(7) the time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved in the case and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the “undesirability” of the case;

(11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases. Johnson v. Georgia Hwy Express Inc., 488 F. 2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974), abrogated on other grounds by Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 109 (1989).

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The parent was represented by the Cuddy law firm. The Court concluded that the appropriate hourly rate for Andrew Cuddy was $ 420 an hour, for Jason Stern and Michael Cuddy, $ 400 an hour, for Benjamin Koop and Kenneth Bush, $ 250 an hour, and for Raul Velez $ 200 an hour. With respect to paralegal services, the Court found that Shobna Cuddyand Sarah Woodard should be paid $ 125 an hour and the other paralegals $ 110 an hour. The Court concluded that the rates were “consistent with the rates prevailing in the community in which the action or proceeding arose for the kind and quality of services furnished and with those the Court has found reasonable in the past for comparable work performed in the roughly comparable time period”. Moreover, the Court found that these rates “are consistent with the seniority and experience level of each of the professionals”. Regarding that, the Court pointed out that Andrew Cuddy had been employed at the law firm for 25 years, Michael Cuddy for 13 years, Benjamin Koop for 4 years that Jason Stern was employed at the firm for 15 years; Kenneth Bush was employed at the firm for 3 years, and Raul Velez was admitted to practice 3 years before. With respect to the paralegals, the Court found that Sarah Woodard and Shobna Cuddy were “comparativelysenior” and that the rest of the paralegals were “junior”. The Court further found that the rates for the attorneys were consistent with the Johnson factors. In particular, the Court concluded that “counsel frequentlyis required in due process hearings” and that the law firm took the matter on a “contingency basis and assumed some risk”. Additionally, the results obtained were “relevant.” However, the Court also pointed out that that “the questions presented were not particularly novel or complex” and that after the first impartial hearing the others were “somewhat rote”. Additionally, the Court said that “[a]lthough the law firm is entitled to some return on its investment in legal capital, and the approved rate must be sufficient to attract others to the practice, it nonetheless also is true that [the law firm] attorneys involved were able to recycle work that the firm previously had performed in orderto deliverthese services”. Also,“[t]he case wasnotthat particularlyunattractive”.The Court also said that the “fee must not be so disproportionate to rates available elsewhere in the market so as to deter others from entering the field” and that the fees suggested by the district were “not sufficient” “to further that important purpose”. The court further agreed that the rates were lower than set out in a report submitted by the parent’s “expert”. Regarding this, the Court described the report as “of limited weight” because it offered advice “on an ultimate issue before the court and was therefore not admissible”. The Court also said that the person who prepared the report “has not demonstrated he has any particular expertise on the issue of IDEA litigation and that opinion would be of limited weight”. Further, the Court said that that the underlying facts relied on by the author of the report do not support that [the law firm’s] rates are reasonable”. Regarding this, the Court pointed out that “[t]he question before the Court is not whether [the law firm] has been able to extract higher fees from paying clients than that which the Court has approved here but whether the fees it charges are the prevailing rates in the community”. Further, “[t]he fact that certain clients might have agreed at a point in the past that [the law firm] should be paid at a particular rate does not establish that rate is reasonable”. Regarding the three firms that the author of the report cited, the Court said that “the evidence before the Court fails to establish the work that they did was comparable to the work [the law firm] was required to do in this case”. Here, the Court said that “the evidence of fees sought in other cases is of limited weight because the evidence either does not substantiate that such rates were actually paid (verses claimed) or where rates are asserted to be actually paid, does not provide relative context for such rates billed”. The Court

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explained that the district argued for lower rates and relied “virtually exclusively on fees awarded on other IDEA cases”. The court said that such was relevant to the Johnson factors but “cannot alone determine” what is appropriate in this case” and that the district’s argument suffered from “the flaw of circularity”, meaning that if one just lookedat previous fees,then nocourt would have to ask what the reasonable rate in the community was and rates would stay the same and stagnate over time. Citing to authority, the Court said that “recycling rates” “maycreate disparitybetween compensation available under the fee shifting statute and compensation available in the marketplace” which would “defeat[] the objective of the fee-shiftingfeature of the IDEA to attract competent counsel to a field where many [parents] with meritorious cases could not afford to pay such counsel themselves”.

With respect to the number of hours reasonably expended, “[t]he Court’s task is to make a conscientious and detailed inquiry into the validity of the representations that a certain number of hours were usefully and reasonably expended”. Relative to this, a court should not become a “green-eyeshade accountant” forthegoal ofshiftingfeesistodo “roughjustice”andnot toachieve “auditing perfection”. It is the “fee applicant” who “bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an award and documenting the appropriate hours expended…”. In particular, upon review, the Court reduced the travel time in all circumstances to one hour in each direction and cited authority that this was “well-founded”. Further, the Court pointed out that in some cases the parent’s attorneys billed for administrative tasks which could have been done by a paralegal. The Court also found that the hours billed on the federal attorney’s fee litigation “were excessive”. Citing to the Supreme Court, the Court said that “the determination of fees should not result in a second major litigation”. With respect to the “instant motion” the Court found that the time spent to be “unreasonably high” in that the briefing “reiterates arguments made by [the law firm] in other cases”. The law firm is not entitled to be “paid repeatedly for essentially reiterating arguments it has made before”.

Regardingthe preparation of the papers between the time the summary judgment motion was filed and the time of the reply papers, the Court found that such time was “excessive”. With respect to the motion to compel, the Court said that the relevant information could have been obtained by telephone calls rather than to seek the Court’s intervention. With respect to the parent’s attorney’s 10-page reply memorandum and its 40 pages of declarations, the Court pointed out that the declarations were “in excess” of the page limits set by the Court for reply papers and “improperly included argument”. Additionally, the Court said that most of that argument “could have been submittedin connection with the [the parent’s openingpapers orif not should have been submitted only upon motion”. The Court said that most of the argument in the declarations were “repetitive” of that contained in the reply memorandum of law. Regarding time spent, the Court admitted that time could be spent “explaining why the hours spent at the administrative level and at the federal level were reasonable [b]ut those hours should not be many” and “it would not have taken research for counsel to recall how he spent time and why the request he had made was reasonable”.

The parent’s counsel argued that its “billed time or hourly rates” should not be reduced as the district “unreasonably protracted the final resolution of the action or proceeding”. The Court said that the asserted statute “does not entitle the parent to more than an award of reasonable attorney’s

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fees and costs. In any event, the Court said that the “undisputed evidence does not reflect that the [district] unreasonably protracted the proceedings”.

Regarding costs, upon challenge, counsel for the parent eliminated the request for reimbursement for lodging and meals as well as for faxing and applied a 70% reduction in travel expenses in the form of mileage, tolls, and parking. Copying costs were also reduced to 10 cents a page.

With respect to pre-judgment interest, the parent “argues that she should receive pre-judgement interest to account for the time-value of money and [the district’s] delay in paying the reasonable attorney’s fees to which [the parent] is statutorily entitled to”. Regarding this, the Court advised that it had previously “determined that pre-judgement interest is not available on an award of attorney’s fees under the IDEA”. The Court also said that “[e]ven if the Court has discretion to award pre-judgment interest, it would find that [the parent] is adequately compensated by the [attorney’s fee] award as modified. The parent was however entitled to post-judgement interest.

N.G.B. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 20-cv-6571 (JGK), 2022 WL 800855 (S.D.N.Y Mar.16, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the parents should receive attorney’s fees and costs in the amount requested.

Conclusion: The court granted the parents’ requests for attorney’s fees and costs but reduced the amount and type.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The Court explained that “under the IDEA, the court in its discretion, may award reasonable attorney’sfeesaspart ofthe coststoa prevailingpartywho isthe parent ofa childwitha disability, based on rates prevailing in the community in which the action or proceeding arose for the kind and quality of services furnished”. “Additionally, “[t]he court may award fees for work on the fee application itself”. “To calculate a presumptively reasonable fee, a court determines the appropriate billable hours expended and sets a reasonable hourly rate”. “In making these determinations, a court should step into the shoes of a reasonable, paying client who wishes to pay the least amount necessary to litigate the case effectively”. “However, trial courts need not, and indeed should not, become green-eyeshade accountants. The essential goal in shifting fees … is to do rough justice, not to achieve auditing perfection”. “A district court may exercise its discretion and use a percentage deduction as a practical means of trimming the fat from a fee application”.

In this case, “[t]here is no dispute that the parents were the prevailing parties and that they are entitled to recovery under the IDEA”. The dispute here is “whether the rates, hours, and costs billed by the [parents’ attorneys] were reasonable.” “The determination of a reasonable hourly rate contemplates a case-specific inquiry into the prevailing market rates for counsel of similar experience and skill to the fee applicant’s counsel, an inquiry that may include judicial notice of the rates awarded in prior cases and the court’s own familiarity with the rates prevailing in the district” “In determining a reasonable hourly rate, courts must also consider the factors articulated

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in Johnson v. Ga. Highway Express, Inc. 679 F.2d 714 (5th Cir, 1974).3” “A court need not make specific findings as to each factor as long as it considers all of them when setting the fee award”.

In this case, the parents seek fees for five attorneys. The first two included the founder and managing attorney” of the parents’ law firm who “[had been] litigating special education cases since 2001”. The second attorney “has concentrated in the area of special education law since 2005”. The parents requested hourly rates of $ 550 for these attorneys. The Court said that “[c]ourts in this district have awarded these attorneys and attorneys with similar levels of experience around $ 350 per hour in cases such as this one, where certain issues before the IHO were uncontested, the hearing was relatively short, and the [district] introduced no documentary evidence and few if any witnesses”. However, the Court said the parents’ attorneys “argue persuasively that some increase is appropriate in view of the passage of time and inflation”. The Court found that for these attorneys, “considering the parties’ arguments, the evidential submissions, and the Johnson factors, an hourly rate of $ 425 per hour [was] reasonable”.

With respect to the three other attorneys, the parents sought $ 425 per hour for the first and third attorneys and $ 400 per hour for the second. The first attorney “was first admitted to practice law in 2015 and worked at [the firm] from 2016 until his departure in January 2019”. The second attorney had the most experience in this group and had several years of specialized experience in special education law. The third attorney was “admitted to practice law in 2016 and worked for two years, practicing general litigation at a different firm” before joining the parents’ attorneys’ firm. Taking into account “the parties’ argument, the evidentiary submissions, and the Johnson factors, the Court found that the first and third attorneys should be paid at a rate of $ 225 per hour and the second attorney at a rate of $ 300 per hour.

The parents sought fees for three paralegals in the amount of $ 225 00 per hour. The Court said that one of the paralegals was defined as “a senior paralegal” who had “significant experience working as a paralegal and office manager” at the firm and that the other two “had relatively less experience” thanthe first. “[C]onsideringthe parties’arguments,the evidentiarysubmissions,and the Johnson factors, the Court decided that a rate of 125 dollars per hour was reasonable for the “senior” paralegal and a rate of $ 100 an hour was reasonable for the other two.

Regarding the attorneys and the time spent on the two matters, both for the administrative proceeding and the attorney’s fee action, the parents sought payment for 55.2 hours in connection with the administrative proceedings and 87.4 hours in connection with the federal action.

The Court found that the number “of hours billed in connection with the administrative proceedings [was] excessive and warrant reduction”. “In view of the brevity of the hearing, the [school board’s] decision not to submit evidence at the hearing, and the apparent lack of

3 These factors include (1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the level of skill required to perform the legal serviced properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the attorney’s customary hourly rate; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) the time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved in the case and the results obtained (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the undesirability of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases”.

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complexity of the matter” the Court found that “a twenty percent reduction of the hours spent in connection with the administrative proceedings, exclusive of travel, [was] appropriate”.

One of the attorneys billed ten hours for travel. The Court said that this should not be awarded at all “because a hypothetical reasonable client would not be willing to pay for such travel”. The Court reduced the amount to two hours.

With respect to the attorney’s fees action, the court held that the number of hours billed was “likewise excessive”. The Court held that “when considering all the relevant circumstances, a twenty percent reduction of time billed litigating [the attorney’s fees action] is appropriate”.

The parents sought, among other things, costs for copies, faxes, lodging and mileage. Regarding copying and fax charges, the Court said that the copyingcosts request bythe parents was “unlikely to be ordinarily charged to clients”. Being reasonable, the Court said that “the award for copying costs [was] reduced to 10 cents a page” instead of fifty cents a page. “Although courts have not paid for fax charges as documents can be e-mailed at no cost”, “the parents represent that [the district] and certain schools only accept necessary records requests via fax” and requested two dollars per page. The Court found this request unreasonable and reduced the amount charged for fax transmissions to ten cents per page. With respect to lodgingexpenses, Court said that “[c]ourts in this district routinely decline to award lodging expenses, explaining that a reasonable client would not agree to pay in-district attorney rates while also paying for extensive lodging expenses necessitated by out-of-district attorney’s travel” and deducted the request for lodging costs. Regarding mileage, the Court said that the parents’ request was unreasonable and that “[a] reasonable paying client would expect their counsel to take public transit or some form of commuter rail to attend any hearings, rather than drive long distances and to incur high mileage costs”. The Court reduced the mileage chargers to $ 60.

The parents also sought “pre-judgement interest” in the award of attorney’s fees and costs. The Court said that it “has taken any delay into account when determining the reasonable hourly rates that [the firm’s] attorneys and paralegals should be awarded”.

Regarding “post-judgment interest”, the Court granted the request as it held that “[p]ursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1961, the award of post-judgement interest is mandatory in awards in civil cases as of the date judgment is entered”.

S. J. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 21-240-cv, 2022 WL 1409578 (2d Cir. May 4, 2022)

Dispute: Did the District Court properly rule on plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees.

Conclusion: The Circuit Court held that the District Court properly ruled on plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The Circuit Court explained that it reviews a district court’s findings relative to an attorneys’ fees matter based on an “abuse of discretion” standard which is “highly deferential” to the district court and that in such a context, “appellate micromanagement” is not appropriate. “[A] district court abuses its discretion if it (1) bases its decision on an error of law or uses the wrong legal standard; (2) bases its decision on a clearly erroneous factual finding;

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or (3) reaches a conclusion that, though not necessarily the product of a legal error or clearly erroneous factual finding, cannot be located within the range of permissible decisions”.

The Circuit Court explained that generally in a proceeding brought under the IDEA a court “may award reasonable attorneys’ fees to a prevailing partywho is the parent of a child witha disability” and further, that “[s]uch fees must be reasonable and based on rates prevailing in the community inwhichtheactionorproceedingarosefor thekindandqualityofservicesfurnished”.“TheCircuit Court explained that “[w]ithin this framework district courts determine a reasonable hourly rate by considering all pertinent factors, including the Johnson factors as articulated in Johnson v. Georgia Hwy. Express Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974), abrogated on other grounds by Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 109 (1989) and then multiplythat rate bythe number of hours reasonably expended to determine the presumptively reasonable fee”.

With respect to the district court’s fee decision, the Circuit Court found “no abuse of discretion”. In particular, the Circuit Court found that “the hourly rates assigned to [the parent’s] attorneys, includingthe associates,[were]reasonableand alignwithwhat similarlyqualifiedattorneyswould receive in a matter of comparable complexity in the district”. The Circuit Court said that further, the “district court properlyexercised its discretion with respect to the rates byconsidering, among other things, the experience level of the attorneys as well as the fact that [the parent] prevailed in an uncontested proceedingthat lastedless thantwohoursandfocusedonrelativelystraightforward issues”. According to the Circuit Court, “[t]he district court also did not abuse its discretion in reducing the hours [the parent’s] attorneys billed to the federal litigation based on a finding that a competent attorney should not have needed more than this amount of time to litigate the fee petition”. The Circuit Court furtherconcludedthat “the district court waswell withinitsdiscretion in reducingthe award of photocopyingcosts, as well asdenying reimbursement for attorneys’ time toserve process”. The Circuit Court also heldthat there wasnobasis“todisturbthe districtcourt’s determination that, assuming the Court has discretion to award prejudgment interest, the Court agrees with the [Magistrate’s report and recommendation] that [the parent] is adequately compensated by the award as modified”.

H.C.v. New YorkCity Dept ofEduc., No.20-CV-844(JLC), 2021 WL2471195 (S.D.N.Y. June 17, 2021)

Dispute: Whether the requested attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $92,521.19 should be approved.

Conclusion: The Court approved attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $38,951.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: This case does not apply to the extent to which a parent has prevailed as both parties admit that the parents did so. The issue here is the amount of attorneys’ fees and costs that should be awarded by the Court to the parents. The court will calculate “a presumptively reasonable fee, reached by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate by the number of reasonably expended hours”.

First, with respect to hourly rates, courts need to consider both the prevailingmarket rates for such legal services as well as the case-specific factors articulated in Johnson v. Ga Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974). See also Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Ass’r

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v. City of Albany, 522 F.3.d 182, (2d Cir. 2008). Further, the Court pointed to Arbor Hill for the proposition that “a court must step into the shows of the reasonable paying client, who wishes to pay the least amount necessary to litigate the case effectively”.

The lead counsel in the two administrative proceedings and who was also the lead counsel in this attorneys’ fee proceeding was admitted to practice in June of 2011 and has practiced “litigation” since that time. The attorney joined the Cuddy Law Firm (CLF) in 2014 and specializes in special education law. The CLF requested $400/hr. for legal time and $200/hour for travel time. The Court considered the Johnson factors and awarded the attorney $300/hr. for legal time and $150/hour for travel time. The parents seek $500/hr. for three “senior attorneys”. The prevailing market rate for experienced special education attorneys in the New York-area circa 2018 is between $350 and $475/hr. Given that the administrative proceedings here were minimally contested, in accordance with the Johnson factors, the Court ordered an hourly rate of $360/hr. For associates with three or fewer years of special education experience courts have typically approved rates of $150-$275/hr. In this case, fees were requested for the work of an “associate” who was admitted to practice law in 2009, and who practiced general litigation from 2009 until joining CLFin 2018. Consistent with the Johnson factors, the court ordered payment for the work of this CLF associate of $200/hour. Regarding a second associate, both parties agreed that her work should be paid on the basis of $100/hr. The parents also seek fees for work performed by several paralegals. The court found that $100/hour to be a “reasonable” hourly rate.

Second, regarding hours spent, a court should compensate only for hours that were “reasonably expended”. It “should exclude excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary hours”; whether it was “particularly complicated” or “involved any significant legal issues”. Courts have “ample discretion. They should not become “green-eye accounts. To calibrate an appropriate award the court may either attempt to identify “specific hours that should be eliminated or it may simply reduce the award by a reasonable percentage”. For the first administrative proceeding, the Court reduced the number of attorneys’ fees hours requested by 20%. With respect to the first administrative proceeding, the Court found that a 20% reduction in the amount of time requested bythe parentswasappropriate.Thiswasbasedon the fact that the hoursspent preparingthe DPCN were excessive, several hours billed were for tasks that were “administrative and/or secretarial in nature”,andtime spent reviewingandeditingbillingstatementsfor“clarity” wasnot compensable. With respect to travel time” from Auburn to Brooklyn, the Court awarded 2.5 hours in each direction. Regarding the second administrative proceeding, the district requested a 20% reduction in the fee hours and the Court agreed. This represented a reduction in the hours billed due to the similarity in the due process complaint notices in the two proceedings, attorney billing for tasks that were “seeminglyadministrative or secretarial”; and the narrowed scope of the second hearing compared to the first. Regarding travel time, this was limited to five hours or two- and one-half hours in either direction.

With respect to the federal court attorneys’ fees litigation, the Court found that the hours billed to prepare the complaint was excessive and that a reduction of 20% was appropriate. The Court also found that no fees should be awarded for work done after October 7, 2020 because of the district’s

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$40,000 October 7, 2020 offer of settlement and the fact that the plaintiffs were entitled to $37,984.40 in attorneys’ fees and costs through October 7, 2020.

Regardingcostsand expensesa prevailing partyis entitledtoreasonable costs. The Court declined to award any lodging expenses. The Court rejected the parent’s request for transportation costs. The Court concluded that “legal counsel attending a hearing in Brooklyn would likely take public transit, commuter rail, or a short car ride”. The Court held that $50 each way to be reasonable transportation costs. The Court also denied the parent’s request for payment of parking costs. Regarding copying costs, the Court found the parent’s request for 50 cents per page “excessive” and ordered payment of 10 cents, which it found was ”entirelyreasonable”. The Court also found that the requested fax costs to be “unreasonable” as “modern copy machines” have the ability to scan documents so that they can be e-mailed, a procedure that costs “virtually nothing”.

Finally, and with respect to “post-judgment interest” the Court pointed out that “the award of postjudgment interest is mandatory on awards in civil cases as of the date judgment is entered”

ASSIGNED CHOOL –NOTIFICATION

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023)

Dispute: Was the parent’s lack of receipt of the bricksand mortar location ofthe special education program and related services in the student’s IEP a denial of FAPE.

Conclusion: The SROreversedthe IHO andconcludedthat the parent did not receive information setting forth the bricks and mortar location of the special education program and related services in the student’s IEP and thus there was a denial of FAPE.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“The parent asserts that the district’s failure to transmit a school location letter prior to the start of the … school year deprived him of a meaningful opportunityto participate in the placement of the student resulting in a denial of FAPE”.

“When determining how to implement a student’s IEP, the assignment of a particular school is an administrative decision, providedit ismade inconformance with the CSE’seducational placement recommendation.” And, “there is no requirement in the IDEA that a student’s IEP name a specific school location”. Further, “parents generally do not have a procedural right in the specific locational placement of their child”.

“On the other hand, there is [extensive] district court authority indicating that a parent has a right to obtain information about an assigned public school site ... in order to evaluate whether the IEP can be implemented at the proposed location”. See H.L. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ, 2019 WL 181307, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Jan 11, 2019); F.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ.,132 F. Supp. 3d 522, 538-45 (S.D.N.Y. 2015); V.S. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 25 F. Sup. 3d 295, 299301 (E.D.N.Y. 2014); C.U. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 23 F. Supp. 3d 210, 227-29 (S.D.N.Y. 2014). With this in mind, “although not explicitly stated in federal or State regulation,

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implicit in a district’s obligation to implement an IEP is the requirement that, at some point prior to or contemptuously with the date of initiation of services under an IEP, a district must notify parents in a reasonable fashion of the bricks and mortar location of the special education program and related services in a student’s IEP”. See T.C. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 2016 WL 1261137, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2016); Tarlowe v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 2008 WL 2736027, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. July 3, 2008). ”While such information need not be communicated to the parents by any particular means in order to comply with federal and State regulation…it none the less follows that it must be shared with the parent before the student’s IEP may be implemented”.

In this case, “the district did not offer evidence during the impartial hearing to demonstrate that it provided the parent with notice of the school to which it assigned the student prior to the [] school year”. The IHO found that a school location letter “would be futile”, because at the CSE meeting “the parent rejected any district public school placement. The SRO reviewed the facts and determined that the IHO’s finding was “not support[ed]” by the record. In this regard, “the parent [had] indicated that he had not yet received a school location letter and therefore had been unable to sufficiently evaluate a proposed placement”. The SRO pointed to the fact that ‘[t]here was no indication in the hearing record that … the district provided the parent with school assignment information for the student”.

The SRO concluded that “[b]ased on the above, there is insufficient evidence in the hearingrecord to show that the district met its obligation to notify the parent in some form regarding where or how the student could access his IEP services”. The SRO said that such “constitute[ed] a procedural error, which under the circumstances presented resulted in the parent being provided with too little information as to how or where the recommended special education program would have been implemented and, therefore, resulted in a denial of FAPE”.

Dispute: Whether the district provided the parents with notice of the student’s assigned school and if not, whether that deprived the student of a FAPE.

Conclusion: The SRO upheld the IHO’s finding that the district did not properly provide the parents with notification of the student’s assigned school and that this was a denial of FAPE.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

A district is required at some point prior to or contemporaneous with the date of initiation of services under the IEP to notify parents in a reasonable fashion of the bricks and mortar location of the special education program and services in the student’s IEP. As set forth below, the absence of such notification is a denial of FAPE.

The district held a CSE meeting “on December 11, 2019 to develop an IEP for the student for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year and a portion of the 2020-21 school year”. The student’s

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Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021)

mother testified that she never received a response to her August 2020 letter and that she did not receive the IEP or a school location letter. She testified that “she first saw the December IEP and the school location letter in April 2021, during the course of the impartial hearing”. She also testified that “there came a time when her husband did find the email from the district with the school location letter; however, but that because her husband had never been the point of contact for the district, and she had been”, her husband merely put it amongst his papers. Further, accordingtotheevidenceatthe hearing,“the district usedanincorrectemail addressfor themother and sent the student’s school location letter to that incorrect email address”.

The SRO also concluded that the IHO correctly found that the “district’s attempt to deliver the school location letter via email was not in accord with its own practices and was not reasonably calculated toprovide theparentswithnotice”. Inparticular,accordingtothe FAQson the district’s website, “documents maybe sent to a parent via email after getting the parent’s consent to receive documentsviaemail”.Thewebsite“furtherindicatedstepsthatshouldbetakentoobtainaparent’s consent for communication via email, including attempting to reach the parent by telephone” Here, “[t]he student’smothertestifiedthatthe CSE hadnot communicatedwiththe student’sfather toobtain hisemailaddressandconsent toprovide documentationbyemail”.“The student’smother also testified that the district had not ever requested permission or consent to communicate with her via email”. The record also showed that notwithstanding that the district had the parents’ mailing address and that it had previously provided “important” documents such as IEPs or school location letters “by mail”, in this case, the district appeared to have elected to only email those documents to the parents without even a follow-up telephone call.

The SRO concluded that “the district failed in its obligation to notify the parents, either in writing or orally, as to where or how the student could access his IEP services despite efforts made by the parents to obtain that information from the district.” The SRO held that this was a “procedural inadequacy” which “resulted in the parents being provided with too little information as to how or where the recommended special education program would have been implemented and therefore resulted in a denial of FAPE”.

V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ.,20 CV-0989 (EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 (E.D.N.Y. May 10, 2022)

Dispute: Does the proof show that the district issued a “school location letter” to the parent.

Conclusion: The proof did not show that the district issued the parent a “school location letter”.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The IDEA requires that the IEP include the frequency, location, and duration of the services to be provided. See 34 CFR 300.320(a)(7)”. Consistent with this, a school location letter advises the parent of which school the student is slated to attend. And “the Second Circuit has held that it is not a per se procedural violation for the IEP to omit the name of the specific school, with such information to follow. T.Y. New York City Dept of Educ., 584 F.3d 412, 419-20 (2d Cir. 2009); see also C.F. 746 F3d 68, 79 (2d 2014).” However, and citing cases, the Court concluded that the “school designation cannot come so late that it impedes the parents ’ability to participate meaningfully in the school selection process”. See S.Y. v. New York City Dept of Educ.,210

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F.Supp, 3d 556, 574-75 (S.D.N.Y. 2016); see also F.B. v. New York City Dept of Educ. 132

F.Supp. 3d 522, 541-43 (S.D.N.Y. 2015); C.U. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 231 F. Supp. 3d 210,227(S.D.N.Y. 2014) TheCourtalsoopinedthatit“[o]bviouslyfollows”thataschooldistrict commits a procedural violation when it fails to send a school location letter at all”. See C.U. 23 F.Supp. 3d at 228. The Court also cited to the SRO’s finding that “in light of the immense size of the district in this case, it [was] reasonable to hold that the district was required to notifythe parent where the IEP services would be implemented before the IEP went into effect as part of its obligations to implement the student’s services”4 .

In this case, the district asserts that it mailed a school location letter to the parent on July12, 2018. Meanwhile, the parent sets forth that she never received such a letter. In relevant part, the IHO and/or the SRO asserted that the evidence showed (1) the “actual mailing” of the letter on July 12 and (2) that the facts showed a presumption arising under New York state law that the letter had been mailed on July 12. Upon extensive review of New York state law, the Court found that the IHO and SRO did not have sufficient evidence to support the view that actual mailing of the letter had taken place or that the presumption of mailing the letter in accordance with New York state law applied. See V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 20 CV-0989(EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 at *7 - *11 (E.D.N.Y. May 10,2022). This being the case, the Court held that the record didnot showthat the district providedthe school locationlettertothe parentspriortothe beginning of the school year.

A procedural violation will deny the student a FAPE “if [it] impeded the child’s right to a free appropriate public education, significantly impeded the parents’ opportunity to participate in the decision-making process, or caused a deprivation or educational benefits”. The Court held that here, “the failure to identify any school at which the IEP services would be provided constituted a serious procedural error”. With appropriate citations, the Court held that “[m]oreover the failure to identify a school meant that [the parent] was unable to arrange for a visit to the school or to inquire about its facilities or programs (C.U. 23 F.Supp.3d at 228)4 or otherwise meaningfully participate in the school selection process”. (F.B. 132 F. Supp. 3d at 542)”.The Court concluded that “because this procedural violation significantly impeded [the parent’s] opportunity to participate in the decision-making process concerning the provision of a FAPE, this procedural violation constitute[d] a denial of FAPE

4Citing to relevant authority, the SRO has also found that the district has an “obligation to notify parents, either in writing or orally, as to where or how the student [can] access his IEP services” and that the failure to do this is a violation of the student’s right to a FAPE. See Application of the Dept of Educ, Appeal No. 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021); see also T.C. v New York City Dept of Educ., 2016 WL 1261137, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2016);,Tarlowe v. New York City Dept of Educ., 2008 WL 2736027 at *6 (S.D.N.Y. July 3, 2008); M.O. v. New York City Dept of Educ. 793 F.3d 236, 244-45 (2d Cir. 2015); H.L. v. New York, City Dept of Educ, 2019 WL 181307 at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 11, 2019); F.B. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 2015 WL 5564446 at *11-*18 (S.D. N.Y. Sept. 21, 2015); V.S. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ. 25 F.Supp. 3d 295, 299-301 ( E.D.N.Y. 2014); C.U. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 2014 WL 2207997 , at *14-*16 (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 2014).

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BEHAVIOR

APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS (ABA)

Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/20) Dispute: The parent submitted evaluative data to the CSE including a neuropsychological evaluation. The parent contended that, among other things, one of the submitted reports recommended, “’a therapeutic setting that specialized in the education of students with autism’” and that “the student needed to receive instruction ‘using a research and evidence based program such as ABA’ and “that the program needed to be provided in ‘a structured and predicable environment’”. The parent asserted that such a program ‘could only be found in a nonpublic school”. The parent also wanted ten hours a week of at-home ABA. The district contends that its IEP conforms “in practice” with the parent’s neurophysiological evaluationand setsout a program that is “functionally equivalent” to the recommendations in the neuropsychological report. The district asserts that the purpose of the home-based ABA was to generalize skills to the home environment and was therefore not appropriate in the IEP. There was no dispute that the student needed a 12-month program.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the evidence in the hearing record supported the IHO’s finding that the district’s IEP did not offer the student a FAPE.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The SRO reviewed the evaluative data submitted to the CSE bythe parent. Specific recommendationsthereinstatedthatthe student neededa program “suchasABA” or ABA instruction for, among other things, academics, skills and skill acquisition, prevocational skills and goals relating to academic and language skills. The SRO concluded that the district failed toexplain howits IEP addressed the student’s documentedneed for 1:1 intensive instruction throughout the dayfor skill acquisitionandtoachieve,amongotherthings,academicandlanguage skill goals. The SRO concluded that while the district might argue that its recommended paraprofessional may assist the student with respect to behavior, the IEP did not provide “for the student to receive 1:1 instruction to improve functional academics and pre-vocational skills” as recommended in the evaluative material provided to the CSE by the parent. The SRO explained that there was “nothingin the hearing record to indicate that the 1:1 paraprofessional was intended to provide instruction to the student”, and further, that state regulations provided that a paraprofessional could not independentlyprovide the recommended level of instructional services set out in the evaluations before the CSE. Additionally, the SRO indicated that while the district provided the CSE with certain limited and inadequate evaluative information, the CSE had “no independent source of information to support its position that the student did not require 1:1 instruction using ABA methods”. Lacking its own evaluations to support its recommendations that the student’s program did not require 1:1 instruction using ABA and keeping the above in mind, the SRO concluded that the hearing record supported the IHO’s finding that the IEP failed to offer the student a FAPE; a finding which included 10 hours a week of at home ABA and which amount was supported by the evaluative data submitted to the CSE by the parent.

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FUNCTIONAL BEHAVIOR ASSESSMENTS (FBA) AND/OR BEHAVIOR NTERVENTION PLAN (BIP)

L.J. B. v. North Rockland Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 21-CV-7028 (CS), 2023 WL 2692335 (Mar. 29, 2023)

Dispute: Whether in the circumstances of this case, the conducting of an FBA is necessary to provide the student with a FAPE.

Conclusion: Based on the circumstances,the Court concludedthat it wasnot necessaryto conduct an FBA in order to ensure that the student received a FAPE.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, the student has been diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. The student has speech-language deficits that make “it difficult for his verbal communication to be understood by an unfamiliar listener”. During the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 school years, the student was placed in a BOCES program’s “8:1+2 social communication special class, and qualified for extended school year services”. Because of the student’s language deficits, during this period, the CSE consistently recommended assistive technology (AT) for the student as well as an alternative augmentative communication (AAC) device.

The student “was involved in an isolated behavioral incident duringthe 2017-18 school year, eight such incidents during the 2018-19 school year and none during the 2019-20 school year”. The student’s “2018-19 IEP stated that [the student] had begun to show aggressive behaviors … [and that] “[t]his pattern hasescalated … It hasstartedtointerfere withhis progress”. However, another district witness “testified that it didn’t actuallyimpede his progress because [the student] was able to make progress toward his IEP goals”. Additionally, BOCES witnesses “testified that theywere able to contain the behavioral incidents through interventions in the classroom”.

Among other things the SRO found that the district’s “failure to conduct an FBA [functional behavioral assessment] and implement a BIP [behavioral intervention plan]” did not deny the student a FAPE. The parent challenges this conclusion.

The Court saidthat under State regulations, an FBAis required and a BIP must be conducted when “the student is exhibiting persistent behaviors that are impeding the child’s learning [or that of others] despite consistently implemented [general school-wide or classroom-wide] interventions”. In this case, the Court found that the student was not “exhibiting persistent behaviors that [were] impeding the child’s learning despite consistent interventions” and upheld the SRO’s conclusion to that effect. The Court further determined that this was “the type of educational policy determination that should be left to the SRO”.

The Court also concluded that “[e]ven if [the student] exhibited persistent behaviors that impeded his learning, such that an FBA was required under the [State] regulation, the district’s failure to conduct one does not render the IEPs legally inadequate and constitute a denial of a FAPE”. The Court said that “[t]hough the IDEA incorporates some but not all [S]tate law concerning special education, these regulations do not raise the IDEA bar by rendering IEPs developed without an

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FBA legally inadequate”. The Court said that the IDEA requires only that “in developing an IEP for a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning, the school district must consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports and other strategies to address that behavior”. See 34 CFR 300.324(a)(2)(i). The Court said that “[a]ccordingly, Courts have found that, if the [d]istrict fulfilled the IDEA procedural requirements with respect to students whose behaviors impede their learning, a failure to conduct an FBA, even if the FBA was required under [State] law will not constitute a denial of a free appropriate public education”. See A.C. v. Chappaqua Cent. Sch. Dist., 553 F.3d 165, 172 (2d Cir. 2009). On the other hand, “a failure to conduct an FBA constitutes a violation of the IDEA where … there was no evidence that the student’s interfering behaviors were being adequately managed”. R.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 09-CV-478, 2011 WL 1131492, at *18 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 21, 2011). With respect to this case particularly, the Court found “that the record shows the [d]istrict considered the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports and other strategies to address that behavior”. Regarding this, the Court found that the district “wasclearlyaware of [the student’s] behavioral issues … and clearly considered those issues, as evidenced by the CSE discussions that are documented in [the student’s] IEPs”. Further, the Court pointed out that the district’s witnesses “noted that [the student] responded positively to reward systems and constant positive reinforcements, that these interventions contained [the student’s] maladaptive behaviors, and that his outbursts could be successfully managed in the classroom”. The Court concluded that an FBA was not required in order to provide the student with a FAPE.

The parent also asserted that the SRO did not consider the parent’s “expert opinion”. With respect to this, there was a difference of opinion between the district and a parent witness on “how soon an FBA should be conducted after the student exhibited a challenging behavior”. The Court said that the SRO did not get involved with this “pedagogical dispute” after concluding that “[the student’s] behaviors were able to be managed with positive behavioral intervention supports and that [the student’s] behaviors were not persistent or ongoing” and that therefore an FBA was not necessary in order to ensure that the student was provided with a FAPE. The Court further said that it was not equipped to evaluate that dispute and that it did not have to as “the SRO decision was supported by the evidence”.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-083 (June 26, 2020)

Dispute: The parent maintains that the district should have conducted an FBA and developed a BIP for the student for both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. The district disagrees.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that for both school years the district should have pursued additional information to understand whether the supports being provided to the student were meeting the student’s needs and should have conducted an FBA and developed a BIP.

2018-19 school year

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: During the 2018-19 school year, the student was in the 6th grade and enrolled in a 12-month residential program at Green Chimneys. During this time, his behavior was such that it impeded his learning as well as that of other students. Further, the student failed torespond toschool-wide andclass-wide support systemsandindividual crisismanagement plans.

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The SRO concluded that by the time of the May and August 2018 CSE meetings, the district had “ample information to show that an FBA was warranted” and that this had been the case by November 2017. By2018, the school had recommended the development of a behavioral plan but the hearing record did not contain any additional information about that plan or its effectiveness. The SRO further reported that the school obtained some data from at least 8 “incident reports” but there wasnoindication that the school usedthe resultinginformationtocollect andreviewspecific relevant information. Between January and August of 2018, the SRO reported that the school made used of a “redirection room” more than 40 times, reason enough under State regulation that a BIP was required.

The SRO concluded that the district attempted to “supplant” the CSE’s obligations under State regulation regardingthe use of the redirection room and“offload[ed]” its responsibilityin the CSE process to review existingplans and develop anappropriate one toaddress the student’s behaviors. Regarding this, it is not clear that the CSE reviewed Green Chimney’s individual crises management plans. The SRO concluded that “the reports of the student’s sustained behaviors and the reported inconsistent progress in the behavioral area should have, at the least, triggered action by the CSE to pursue additional information to understand whether the supports being implemented were meeting the student’s needs.” The SRO pointed out, notwithstanding the parent’s request for a reevaluation, the record was silent whether the reevaluation was conducted or that a prior written notice had been provided setting forth why the requested reevaluation was unnecessary. The SRO concluded that given the fact that the SRO had also determined that there was insufficient information in the hearing record to support the student’s residential placement, “the district would have been in a better position to justify the CSE’s recommendations had it obtained additional evaluative information that explored the student’s social/emotional and behavioral needs and how those needs affected his ability to receive educational benefit”. The SRO also concluded that since “the information in the record was insufficient to establish that the student needed a residential placement, the district’s failure to conduct further evaluations including an FBA or develop a BIP constituted a serious procedural violation which contributed to a denial of FAPE for the student for the 2018-19 school year.”

2019-20 school year

Basis of the SRO’s decision: During the 2018-19 school year, the district did not conduct a reevaluation of the student in response to the parent’s request. Further, neither did the district conduct an FBA or develop a BIP despite the student’s interfering behaviors during the 2018-19 school year. These behaviors were documented by quarterly treatment reviews, childcare case conferences quarterly reports, reports of the student’s occupational therapy, and reports from the student’s teacher. The hearing record also shows that during this time, Green Chimneys reported 24 incident reports and 120 instances where the student was directed to the redirection room. The SRO concluded that as of February 2019, “all of the student’s behaviors had escalated to a point where all of his skills were considered inadequate.” The student’s behaviors continued despite the implementation of a sticker chart and a tally system as well as, among other things, an individual crises management plan and supplementing individualized behavior program, treatment meeting plans and individualized classroom management goals. According to the SRO there was no

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evidence that Green Chimneys or the district used the data from these interventions “to establish a baseline of the frequency, duration, intensity, or latency of the student’s maladaptive behavior or that it examined how the student’s behaviors varied across activities, settings people or times of day”.

During the May 2019 CSE meeting, among other things, a number of the student’s difficulties were discussed and a number were reflected in the resulting IEP. Consistent with the record, among other things, the IEP also concluded that the student’s “difficulties with emotional regulation and behavioral management had a significant impact on his involvement and progress in the general education curriculum”. At the same time, Green Chimneys had “determined that it could no longer meet the student‘s needs. With respect to special factors, the IEP advised that while the student needed strategies and supports to address behavior, the student did not need a BIP. The teacher testified that an FBA was not implemented in the 2018-19 school year because of the tally system, sticker charts and the provision of extra supports in the areas of need. The school’s assistant director agreed with the teacher. She also testified that an FBA was typically recommended in a school-based, public school or BOCES setting to address one or two behavior and that the student “experienced several behaviors” and that the purpose of “attending Green Chimneys’ therapeutic program was that the entire program worked toward behavior”.

The SRO concluded that “the district’s failure to conduct an FBA and develop a BIP constituted a procedural violation, which contributed to a denial of a FAPE during the 2019-20 school year, particularly given the insufficiency of the evidence in the hearing record to support the CSE’s continued recommendation of a residential placement.”

In Re Student with a Disability – District of Columbia State Agency – 9-142020

Dispute: Parent sets forth that the student was denied a FAPE and should be provided with compensatoryeducation because, among other things, behavioral support services (BSS) were not provided “as needed and agreed upon” and a BIP was not provided despite team agreement.

Conclusion: The administrative officer concluded, among other things, that the student should have received behavioral support services and a BIP sooner than they were provided and determined that a program of compensatory education was appropriate.

Basis of the Administrative Officer’s Decision: The district suspended in-person learning in mid-March 2020. The administrative officer concluded that the student was “very capable with propersupports”andwasmakingoverall progressbefore in-personlearningwassuspended. After the March suspension of school services, the student was provided with online services. “The student did not complete many assignments with distance learning at the end of 2019/20.”

The administrative officer concluded that at the April 24, 2020 team meeting, the school psychologist agreed that a BIP should be provided and the social worker was tasked to do that. A BIP was provided following the April 29, 2020 IEP meeting. However, the BIP “was not finalized or implemented until after [June 9, 2020]”. The administrative officer found that “the student needed a BIP to be added before the end of the 2019-2020 school year” and that “[t]his might well have assisted [the student] with distance learning as [the student] had an extremely difficult time

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staying on task and with self-initiation and was unable to complete many assignments with distance learning at the end of 2019/20”.

Regarding the provision of BSS, the administrative officer found that at the time of the April 29, 2020 IEP team meeting, the IEP team agreed that the student needed behavioral support and that there was enough information at that meeting to add BSS to the student’s IEP. However, BSS services were not added until the June 12, 2020 IEP. The administrative officer concluded that this delay was “an important missed opportunity to support [the student] in distance learning, which might have been pivotal as the student did not complete many assignments with distance learning at the end of 2019-/20”.

The administrative officer concluded “that taken together the delayin providing BSS and a BIP to [the student] are a denial of FAPE by not providing the support that [the student] needed when 2019-20 shifted to distance learning, causing educational harm” and therefore that the student’s April 29, 2020 IEP was not reasonably calculated to enable the student to make appropriate progress.

The administrative officer concluded that the student should receive compensatory education in the form of 150 hours of independent tutoring and 20 hours of counseling in the school setting.5

BULLYING

B.D. v Eldred Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-03637 (PMH), 2023 WL 3025308 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the district complied with its anti-bullying obligations and responsibilities.

Conclusion: The district complied with its anti-bullying responsibilities and obligations subsequent to the September 6, 2019 “safety plan”.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

Although the Second Circuit has not reached the issue (see T.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 810 F.3d. 869, 876 n.3 (2d Cir. 2016), Judge Weinstein of the Southern District of New York established a four-part test with respect to the circumstances under which bullying deprives a student of a FAPE. See T.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 779 F. Supp. 2d 289, 316 (E.D.N.Y. 2011). In particular, the four-part test is “(1) was the student a victim of bullying; (2) did the school have notice of substantial bullying of the student; (3) was the school deliberately indifferent to the bullying, or did it fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the bullying; and (4) did the bullying substantially restrict the student’s educational opportunities.” Accord e.g. T.J. v. Bd. of Educ. of Mt. Vernon City Sch. Dist., No. 17-CV-09592, 2019 WL 13170168, at *15 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2019).

5 The administrative officer also found that the student did not have appropriate academic goals for the first two terms of the 2019-20 school year and that this was a denial of FAPE for which the student should receive compensatory education. The administrative officer did not break out how much of the ordered 150 hours of tutoring and 20 hours of counseling was the result of this and how much of the ordered tutoring and counseling was the result of the district’s failure to provide the student with a timely BSS program and a timely BIP.

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The student in this case has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder, reading and writing impairments, and chronic kidney disease. The student is eligible for special education programs and services as a student with a disability and in particular Other Health Impaired.

On December 21, 2017 the parents filed a complaint to the district asserting bullying under the Dignity for all Student’s Act (DASA)6. “The complaint was investigated and deemed unfounded”. At a May 30, 2018 CSE meeting the parents “voiced concerns” regarding the student’s progress and the resulting IEP “first acknowledged [the parents’] concerns with bullying”.

Shortly after the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, which would have been the student’s seventh grade year, the parents filed a bullying report “about name calling, assaults, and peer pressure by another student”. A bullying report in October 2018 reporting that the student “was called vulgar names and physically assaulted by another student”. The student’s IEPs “continued to acknowledge problems identifying social cues and making friends”. “Early in 2019, the student began to have attendance issues at school”. The IEP for the January 17, 2019 CSE meeting “continued to indicate [the parents’] concerns with bullying and noted [the student’s] inability to identify social cues or make friends”. The March 15, 2019 IEP “focused substantively on social and emotional goals in light of ongoing concerns about [the student] in the school environment”. “The CSE introduced a plan to simplify and disseminate the IEP but [the parents] objected as it did not address why [the student] was having a meltdown at that time”. The parents filed a second DASA complaint on May 6 “alleging that another student was repeatedly harassing [the student] and calling him vulgar names”. On May 9, 2019, the school’s video monitoring system observed “[the student] and others walking down the hallway when another student approaches the student and pushes him to the ground”. “A further DASA complaint was filed … and the resulting investigation confirmed that a bullying incident had occurred”. Later that day the student was involved in an altercation with another student and given a five-day suspension. The district discussed the matter with the parents and offered to place the student in an out-of-district school. The parent did not agree and removed the student from the district for the balance of the 2018-19 school year. The CSE met on June 24, 2019, for the purpose of establishing an IEP for the 2019-20 school year. The parents, among other things, “expressed DASA concerns at that meeting”. The notes of the meeting “however” indicated that the focus of the meeting was on the student’s “academic progress and goals”. The resulting IEP “removed language included in previous IEPs that [the parents] had specifically expressed bullying concerns”.

The student did not return to school during the 2019-20 school year when he would have been in the eighth grade but attended a private school. The 2019-20 school year began on September 2, 2019. The district prepared a “safety plan” dated September 6, 2019 to address bullying of the student. According to the plan, its purpose was “to provide a safe and secure learning environment that is free from harassment, intimidation, or bullying of [the student]”. The plan

6 See N.Y. Educ Law, Sections 10-18.

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included a number of elements. Among other things, the plan “placed eleven obligations on district staff including [among other things] allowing [the student] the opportunity to leave class, call family, or contact other school staff members; letting [the student] out of class early and sending him to eat lunch separately to avoid contact with other students; mandatory monitoring and reporting of potentially problematic situations involving [the student] in school common areas, separation of [the student] and offending students during class and extra-curricular activities, and informing the school body at large about bullying policies and related issues”. “The plan, additionally, placed thee obligations on [the student] and two on [the parents] to help mitigate bullying issues”.

The parents filed a due process complaint notice on December 9, 2020 with respect to the 201819, 2019-20, and 2020-21 school years. Among other things, the parents sought tuition reimbursement for the 2019-20 school year asserting that bullying had denied the student a FAPE. The matter was appealed and cross-appealed to the OSR, which issued a final decision on January 5, 2022.7

As it related to bullying, the IHO and SRO both agreed that the issue before the Court was the applicability of the third prong of Judge Weinstein’s test, and in particular, whether the district was “deliberately indifferent to the bullying or did it fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the bullying”.

Both the IHO and the SRO concluded that during the four-day period from the September 2, 2019 beginning of the school year until the September 6 date of the action plan, the district failed to provide the student with a FAPE. Because of this, the IHO granted the parents a remedy of 25% of the student’s tuition for the 2019-20 school year. The SRO reversed the IHO’s decision in this regard because the safety plan was implemented only four days into the school year. The Court affirmed the SRO’s determination, pointing out that during the 2019-20 school year, the student did not enroll in the private school until November 2019, and that the parents did not seek specific, alternative relief for that four-day period of time.

With respect to the 2019-20 school year, after the implementation of the September 6, 2019 safety plan, the Court pointed out that both the IHO and SRO determined that the district satisfied its anti-bullying obligations and responsibilities because of the safety plan, accorded substantial deference to those determinations, and found that the parents did “not provide

7 Relative to the 2018-19 school year, apparently because the parents’ due process complaint notice did not request one, the IHO determined not to “award [the parents] any remedy”. The parents did not appeal that determination. As a consequence, the SRO advised that this determination was final and binding on the parties and it would not be considered. It is not clear whether the parents enrolled the student in a private school when he left the district toward the end of the 2018-19 school year. If the student had attended a private school during that period the parents would have been eligible to seek a remedy of tuition reimbursement. Additionally, because one component of a successful bullying claim under T.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 779 F. Supp. 2d 289, 316 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) is that the bullying substantially restricts the student’s education opportunities, the parents could have sought compensatory education as a remedy. Moreover, in circumstances where bullying has denied the student a FAPE and the district does not appropriately respond, which could be a subject of a due process complaint notice and the remedies under the IDEA would be applicable. Note also here that bulling can serve as the basis of a violation of Section 504 and the ADA and the remedies for such claims would be available.

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compelling legal or factual reasons to overturn the SRO and [did] not suggest any specific modifications to the safety plan that would make it more effective”.

The parents asserted that “one fault of the plan was that it placed the burden on the student not the school staff to ensure [the student’s] safety” and further that the plan “singled out [the student] by having him leave class early which would make [the student] a further target for bullying”. Regarding the first issue, the Court advised that “although the safety plan allowed for [the student] to report bullying, that was not the only mechanism put in place” by the action plan. Regarding the second issue, the Court said that the parents did “not explain how removing [the student] from potentially problematic situations in hallways between classes would lead to, rather than prevent, bullying. Most importantly, the Court said that the IHO and SRO “thoroughly considered those issues and determined that the safety plan was adequate”. The Court said that it “afford[ed] substantial deference to these determinations, which implicate matters of state educational policy” and said that the parents “[did] not provide compelling legal or factual reasons to overturn the SRO and do not suggest any specific modifications to the safety plan that would make it more effective”

Regarding the September 6, 2019 safety plan, the parents also contend, among other things, that the meeting relative to the safety plan “was not an official CSE meeting” and that there was no evidence that the safety plan was incorporated into the IEP. Consistent with the SRO’s conclusion, the Court said that there was no legal authority for the proposition that “schools only address bullying through the formal IEP process”, pointing out that such would “inhibit the ability to address bullying” and, citing to cases, said that courts “routinely assess steps taken by schools outside of the formal IEP process in determining whether a district has complied with its obligations to mitigate bullying”. The Court finally said that the parents did not “identify [any] plausible prejudice in the failure to hold a formal IEP meeting on the safety plan.”.

D.S. v. New York City Dept of Educ., et al., 600 F.Supp.3d 434, 439-451, 455-

60 (S.D.N.Y. 2022)

Dispute: Did the plaintiff set forth a violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Conclusion: The Court concluded that the plaintiff’s amended complaint set forth a violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

At all relevant time periods the student was 11 and/or 12 years old, in the sixth and/or seventh grades and enrolled in a district school. The student previously had surgery to remove a brain tumor,which,duringtherelevanttimeperiodherequiredfollow-upcaretomonitorforitspotential recurrence and to control seizures. The student “ha[d] been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, epilepsy, and various learning disabilities.” As a result of the student’sdisabilities, at all relevant times was onanindividualized education program (IEP).”

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The Court set forth the legal standard in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (hereinafter “Section 504”). That section provides that “[n]o otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States … shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under, any program or activityreceivingfederal financial assistance”. The Court went on to explain that to show a prima facie violation of a Section 504 claim, a plaintiff must show that (1) he is a disabled person under the Rehabilitation Act; (2) he is otherwise qualified for the program; (3) he is excluded from benefits solely because of his disability; and (4) the program or special service receives federal funding. C.L. v. Scarsdale Union Free Sch. Dist., 744 F.3d 826, 840-41 (2d Cir. 2014)….”

The Court pointed out that “in the school bullying context, the bullying itself need not be based on a disability – i.e., the object of the bullying need not be the victim’s disability. This is because in such cases, the claim focuses on a different harm: [t]he denial of the student’s right under the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] to an appropriate education … The Second Circuit has thus recognized that a Section 504 violation may be predicated on the claim that a disabled student was denied access to a free appropriate education as compared to the free appropriate education that non-disabled students receive.”

“Nevertheless, because the Rehabilitation Act addresses discrimination against disabled students rather than failures to provide special education services, a claim based on a denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) brought under Section 504 requires something more than a mere violation of the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)] … That something more is evidence that the defendant acted in bad faith or gross misjudgment … Put otherwise, discrimination sufficient to support a Section 504 claim may be inferred when there is evidence that a school district acted with deliberate or reckless indifference to the student’s federally protected rights or with bad faith or gross misjudgment”.

The Court concluded that “[i]n light of the student’s PTSD and learning disabilities, the student was entitled to special education and otherservices under the IDEA, includingan IEP.” As set out below and in his federal amended complaint, during the student’s sixth and seventh grade years, he was “ruthlessly” and incessantly bullied and harassed because he advised his class that he was gay and that his parents were gay and married. The amended complaint set forth that in the student’s sixth and seventh grade years, the parents attended IEP meetings, “raised concerns about how the bullying [the student] faced impacted his education” or “asked that his IEP be reopened and a new IEP meeting take place”. At IEP meetings, the amended complaint sets out that the district staff “refused to discuss the bullying and stated that it was not an appropriate topic to be included or addressed in an IEP”.

On or about June 2019, a parent requested an impartial hearing under the IDEA. The parent asserted in that administrative complaint that, among other things, the district had failed to “address [] the bullying [the student] faced at [the school] and its effects on his ability to learn”. Among other things, the impartial hearingofficer (IHO) concluded that “two years of bullyingthat [the student} was subjected to at [his school] and the apparently callous disregard of school staff contributed to the student’s deprivation of a FAPE.” The IHO further explained that “[t]he impact

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of the [s]tudent’s prior trauma was greatly exacerbated by the prolonged and intense bullying … and that the failure to address the bullying situation that the [s]tudent experienced constituted a deprivation of FAPE. In this regard, the IHO pointed out that “[i]n addition to not making academic progress, the [s]tudent actuallyexperienced substantial emotional, behavioral and social regression during his two years at [the school]” and that “[p]er the testimony at the hearing, the bullying constituted an additional and continuing trauma throughout the time of the [s]tudent’s attendance at the school”.

The district conceded at the impartial hearing that it had violated the IDEA and failed to provide [the student] a FAPE. Consistent with this, the district “did not contest or appeal” the IHO’s decision,”.

The parent filed a complaint of discrimination pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act on June 28, 2021, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Thereafter, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss in accordance with Federal Rule 12(b)(6). Regarding the rule, the Court noted that “[w]hen resolving a motion to dismiss, the Court must assume all well-pleaded factstobe true,drawingall reasonableinferencesinfavorofthe plaintiff”.

In this case, the court concluded that the amended complaint set forth facts sufficient to show that the district and relevant staff acted with deliberate indifference.

Upon a review of the amended complaint,the Court concludedthat the argument that the amended complaint does not adequately plead deliberate indifference “falls well short.” Among other things, the Court pointed out that plaintiff’s pleading set forth that “for years [the student] faced a steady stream of bullying and harassment from his peers. Almost immediately after coming out as gay and revealing the fact that his fathers are gay”, the amended complaint alleges that the student “was ruthlessly bullied within [his school] for his sexuality and gender expression. He was regular called derogatory names … ”. Sexually based “rumors spread” in the classroom. “Students made crude sexual jokes about [the student’s] means of dealing with the stress” “Even [the student’s] friends became subject to harassment due to their association with [the student]” and “[the student’s] and his fathers’ efforts to create a safe space for [the student] at school – a [Gay Straight Alliance] club were rejected in deference to other students’ potential offense at the club”. In response to this, the amended complaint alleges that the student “largelykept to himself. He began to lose sleep and miss school due to anxiety about the bullying, which in turn required multiple counseling sessions every week to deal with it all … And he developed suicidal ideations – making comments to that effect before both teachers and his parents”.

The Court concluded that “as pled”, the school and school officials “were on ample – indeed detailed – notice of [the students] claims of bullying and of its dire consequences for him” And that the student’s “parents put a broad array of [district] administrators on notice of the severe bullying that [the student] was experiencing”: notices to teachers and school administrators; information and complaints from parents “about the bullying and the need for effective innervation; demand for meetings with school officials to discuss their son’s harassment and find solutions”; ”logged in information” to school systems to communicate information to other staff;

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“[district] officials outside of the [school] met with the [student] and school officials to discuss his bullying and escalated the issue within [the district].”

The amended complaint also set forth that “the school failed to meaningfully respond to those pleasand[e]venwhen the school foundinstancesofbias-basedharassment” “school officialsoften did nothing or next to nothing in response”.

The district answered by alleging that the actions were “reasonably calculated to end the harassment”. “On thepleadingshowever,which,ona motiontodismissmust [asindicatedabove], be read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,” the Court said that “such a defense is unsustainable.” In particular, the Court said that the parent “plausibly pleads long running inattention, inaction, and deflection from the defendants, which was not close to offset by the school’s occasional logging of incidents, hosting of toothless mediations, and the like” and “the school’s efforts were not reasonably calculated to end the harassment”. The Court concluded that “the facts alleged make out a textbook case of deliberate indifference”.

The Court pointed out its agreement with the district and its officials that “courts as a general matter should refrain from second guessing the day-to-day disciplinary decisions they are charged with making”. But, the Court said, “that does not categorically insulate school officials from liability in well-pled cases of unreasonable official responses to a student’s harassment. And on the pleadings here”, the Court said that “the school’s failure to act to protect a known vulnerable student in the face of known severe bullying cannot be found reasonable so as to entitle it and its officials to any such solicitude”.

With respect to defendants’ case, the school and district officials first argue that the amended complaint “does not allege that [the student] was bullied because of his disabilities”. The Court replied that even if true it made no difference as “Section 504 claims do not require such a factual basis”. In fact, the Court said that the district and district officials and staff in fact “acknowledge” that “a Section 504 claim may be based on the denial of a FAPE so long as the school acted with gross negligence or reckless disregard in so denying”.

Second, the district, its officials, and staff assert that they “went to great lengths in their attempts to mitigate the alleged bullying”. The Court said that the plaintiff’s pleadings “forcibly contradicted that”. The Court pointed out that it was “largely undisputed at this stage – that: (1) the school deprived [the student] of a FAPE” as [the IHO found] and the district did not challenge;

(2) the deprivation was based on the bullying [the student] experienced at the school; (3) the bullying substantially interfered with [the student’s] educational opportunities; and (4) the school did not account for the bullying in the student’s IEP, which lacked an anti-bullying plan or the provision of reasonable services to stop (or mitigate) the bullying.” Regarding the latter and as indicated above, the amended complaint set forth that district staff “refused to discuss the bullying and stated that it was not an appropriate topic to be included or addressed in an IEP and refused to include in the IEP any services or supports to mitigate the effects bullying had on the student”.

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And with respect to the “deliberate or reckless indifference” required of a 504 claim, the Court concluded that the amended complaint “adequately alleges that defendants were deliberately or recklessly indifferent to their response to [the student’s] bullying”.

The Court denied “defendant’s motion to dismiss the Section 504 claim”.

T.K. and S.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 810 F.3d 869 (2d Cir. 2016) Dispute: Whether the district denied the student a FAPE by refusing to discuss bullying with the student’s parents despite their reasonable concern that the severe bullying that the student endured could prevent her from receiving a FAPE.

Conclusion: The Circuit Court held that the district denied the student a FAPE by refusing to discussbullyingwith the student’sparentsdespitetheirreasonable concernthatthe severe bullying that the student endured could prevent her from receiving a FAPE.

Basis of the Circuit Court’s Decision:

“[T]he IDEA requires States to provide parents with the opportunity to participate in the decision making process regarding the provision of a FAPE to the parents’ child”. 20 U.S.C. 1415(f)(3)(E)(ii). In order for there to be a violation of a FAPE, this and other procedural violations of the IDEA must “significantly impede the parents’ participation rights, impede the child’s right to a FAPE, or cause a deprivation of educational benefits”.

Because the Circuit Court had not discussed the issue before, and because the district conceded that bullying “can be an appropriate consideration when it reaches a level where a student is substantially restricted in learning opportunities”, the Court assumed as much without deciding. The Court also gave a nod to the United States, an amicus to the appeal, which had said “that bullying can interfere with a disabled student’s ability to receive a FAPE”.

The Circuit Court concludedthat thedistrict “denied[the student]a FAPE byviolatingherparents’ procedural right to participate in the development of her IEP”. The Court pointed out that “[a]t two separate meetings, both of which were integral to the development of [the student’s] IEP [the parents] sought to discuss bullying but school officials refused to do so”.

According to the Circuit Court, the “undisputed record evidence confirms that in asking to speak with the officials about the bullying, [the students’] parents had reason to believe that the bullying would interfere with [the student’s] ability to receive meaningful educational benefits and could prevent [the student’s] public education from producing progress, not regression.” “For example [a staff member assigned to the student] reported that bullying negatively affected [the student’s] ability to initiate, concentrate, attend, and stay on task with her homework assignments and activities after school”. Additionally, there was “undisputed evidence that [the student] dreaded going to school, counted the days until the end of school, and was frequently tardy arguably due to her fear of being bullied”. The student’s father testified that the student was “emotionally unavailable to learn” and that “she came home crying and complaining about bullying on a near daily basis.” Further, three of the staff assigned to help the student “confirmed that [the student]

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was constantly teased, excluded from groups, and subjected to a hostile environment”. Moreover, “a doctor familiar with [the student] testified that [the student’s] her classroom behavior and demeanor had regressed from the prior year”. The Court further said that “given the school’s lack of cooperation about the bullying, [the parents] could not reasonably be confident that they had been informed about the full scope of the bullying or its effects on [the student]”.

The Court found that “[t]he Department’s persistent refusal to discuss [the student’s] bullying at important junctures in the development of [the student’s] IEP significantly impeded [the parents’] right to participate inthe development of[the student’s]IEP… that constituteda procedural denial of a FAPE.

“The [district] argued that the [parents] suffered no harm arguing that the student’s IEP already discussed bullying as it included goals for improving the student’s behavior that might reduce further bullying … and that some anti-bullying strategies are better addressed through channels other than the IEP”. The Court was clear that it was “not persuaded” and that “[d]enying [the student’s] parents the opportunity to discuss bullyingduringthe creation of [the student’s] IEP not only potentially impaired the substance of the IEP but also prevented them from assessing the adequacy of their child’s IEP”.

The Court concludedthat“the parents’were reasonablyconcernedthat bullyingseverelyrestricted [the student’s] educational opportunities and that concern powerfully informed their decisions about [the student’s] education. By refusing to discuss that bullying during the development of the IEP, the [district] significantlyimpeded [the parents’] abilityto assess the adequacyof the IEP and denied [the student] a FAPE”.

E.L. and D.P. v. Bedford Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 18 Civ. 3062 (NSR), 2022 WL 3667189 (S.D.N.Y. Aug, 25, 2022) Dispute: Whether bullying interfered with the student’s ability to receive a FAPE.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the IHO and SRO and concluded that the alleged bullying did not interfere with the student’s opportunity to receive a FAPE.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

“[B]ullying can interfere with a disabled student’s ability to receive a FAPE” (T.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 810 F.3d 869, 876 [2d Cir. 2016]). “Thus, the Second Circuit has found a denial of FAPE when a school refused to discuss bullying during development of a student’s IEP and resulted in a significant impediment to the parents’ ability to assess the adequacy of the IEP” (id ).

In this case, the IHO and the SRO reviewed evidence of alleged bullying relative to an incident on a school bus, during recess, and in a prior year involving the threat of a BB gun. Both the IHO and the SRO agreed that there was nothing about the referenced incidents that bullying occurred and that this impacted the student’s ability to receive a FAPE.

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Initially, the Court noted that “[w]here the IHO and SRO agree, the district court’s deference to the administrative proceedings is heightened”. The Court concluded that it “therefore gives due deference to the SRO’s through and well-reasoned analysis, which upheld the IHO’s finding”.

The Court reviewed the record and agreed that it did “not support a finding that the student was denieda FAPE due toinstancesofbullying”. The Court saidthat“[u]nlike inTKwhere theparents had reason to believe that the bullying would interfere with the student’s ability to receive meaningful educational benefits and the school officials refused to discuss the bullying with the parents, here the record show[ed] that the [principal of the student’s public school] investigated and discussed the alleged bullying incidents with the [parents] and uncovered no evidence that the incidents were related to [the student’s] disability or affected [the student’s] ability to receive educational benefits. Further, “[a]though the parents argue[d] that the alleged bullying had an impact on their decision to privately place the student, the Court pointed out that they admitted at the time that they didn’t know if the student was being bullied because of his learning disabilities but only that they “suspected that may be the case”. Finally, among other things, the Court noted that the parents “did not raise these issued at the CSE meetings”.

CHILD IND

Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023)

Dispute: Did the district violate its obligation relative to child find.

Conclusion: The SRO affirmed the IHO’s determination that the district violated its child find obligation.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“The purpose of the child find provisions of the IDEA are to identify, locate and evaluate students who are suspected of being a student with a disability and thereby may be in need of special education and related services, but for whom no determination of eligibility as a student with a disability has been made. The IDEA creates an ongoing affirmative duty upon a local education agency to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services. Because the child find obligation is an affirmative one, the IDEA doesnot require parentsto request that thedistrictevaluate theirchild. Tosatisfythe requirements, a board of education must have procedures in place that will enable it to identify, locate, and evaluate such children. This child find obligation applies to children who are suspected of being a child with a disability … and in need of special education even though they are advancing from grade to grade. Thus, Courts have held that the child find duty is triggered when there is reason to suspect a disability, and reason to suspect that special education services maybe needed to address that disability. To support a finding that a child find violation has occurred, school officials must have overlooked clear signs of disability and been negligent in failing to order testing, or have no rational justification for deciding not to evaluate the student. States are encouraged to develop effective teaching strategies and positive behavioral interventions to prevent over-identification

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and to assist students without an automatic default to special education. Additionally, … a school district must initiate a referral and promptly request parental consent to evaluate a student to determine if the student needs special education services and programs if a student has not made adequate progress after an appropriate period of time when provided instruction in a school district’s response to intervention (RtI) program.”

In this case, “[d]uring the 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 school year the student received support in reading as part of the district’s multi-tiered RtI program. On December 10, 2019, a privately obtained psychoeducational evaluation of the student was conducted by a private psychologist”. Among other things, the psychological evaluation “offered a diagnosis of specific learning disability in reading (decoding)”. Relative to this, and among other things, the district did not conduct its own psychological examination. On September 3, 2020, when the student was in the fourth grade, the parents provided the private evaluation to the assistant director of special education and requested a CSE meeting. “By notice dated October 23, 2020. The parents were invited to a CSE meeting…on November 6, 2020”. The CSE convened on that date and by prior written notice after the CSE meeting, the district summarized the CSE’s recommendation that the student was not eligible for special education services.

“By amended due process complaint notice dated April 14, 2022, the parents alleged that the district failed to offer the student a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for the 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years”. Amongotherthings,“[t]he parentscontendedthat the district violated itschild findobligations…asearlyas first grade,the 2017-18school year,whichresulted in a denial of a FAPE to the student”. “According to the parents, they voiced concerns regarding the student’s lack of progress throughout her time in the district’s public schools.

By IHO decision dated January 10, 2023, the IHO found that the district violated child find from February 2, 20208 through November 6, 2020, when the CSE convened to determine the student’s eligibility for special education. “In particular, the IHO faulted the district for failing to submit progress monitoring records to show the student’s progress while receiving RtI. Among other things, the IHO remanded the matter to the CSE to make another determination of eligibility.

Both parties appealed the IHO’s decision to the OSR. In the first place, the district claimed “that RtI services are general education supports that are outside the jurisdiction of the IHO and, by extension, an SRO under the IDEA and State law”. The SRO disagreed and in summary stated that “the student’s participation in the district’s RtI progress [was] central to determining whether the district met its child find obligations”.

The SRO extensively reviewed the State RtI process and requirements as well as the district’s RtI procedures. See pp.13-18. Regardingthe district’srequiredwrittenpolicy,the SRO, amongother things, determined that, contrary to State policy, the district did “not identify specific supports availableat different tiers, [but]instead refer[ed] to core instruction,targetedacademic instruction,

8 The February 2, 2020 starting date relative to the IHO’s determination of a violation of FAPE reflected the IHO’s determination that the parents’ claims accrued two years before the date of the initial due process complaint notice, dated February 2, 2022. Neither the parents nor the district appealed this aspect of the IHO’s decision and so this finding was final and binding on the SRO. See 34 CFR 300.514; 8 NYCRR 200.5(j)(5)(v); M.Z. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 2013 WL 1314992 at *6-*7 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 21, 2013).

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and intensive academic instruction”. Further, and also contrary to State policy, the SRO determined that “[t]he district’s written policydoes not include a recommended length of time that a student is supposed to spend receiving intensive academic instruction.

After a thorough and detailed review of the student’s participation in the RtI process (see pp. 1825), the SRO concluded that “the evidence shows that the district’s implementation of its written RtI policy did not complywith State regulations or State guidance”. “In particular”, the SRO said that “the district did not present much evidence of progress monitoring beyond the charting of a single measure of oral reading fluency; the district did not demonstrate how the student’s progress was monitoredon anongoing basis and how decisions were made toeithercontinue or discontinue specific interventions and intervention tiers. In addition, [the SRO said that] the student’s teacher appearedto paint an optimistic view of the student’s abilities inclass. [Her] report cards stated that she was predominantly meeting State and district level standards, and the district’s witnesses testified that her scores on RtI assessments were on grade level; however, the data included in the hearing record does not correlate the student’s rubric grades or assessment scores to grade-level equivalents. The only objective assessment included in the hearing record that could correlate to grade level standards was the March 4, 2020 midyear assessment usinga State assessment reading passage, onwhichthe student earned11out of 20pointsfor a test scope of55percent. The witness testimonyand the timelinecreatedbythe district school psychologist demonstrate[d]that,contrary to State guidance, the student was repeatedly dismissed from Tier 2, without ever establishing well-defined achievement or that she had mastered the targeted skills. In addition, [the SRO said that] the district failed to demonstrate that it relied on a combination of CBMs [curriculum-based measurement] and informal, ongoing assessments (checklists, reading inventories, running records) completed byteachers to monitor progress so that the use of CBM was not the sole index of progress.”

Further, the SRO concluded that “[a]s cautioned against in State guidance … the district’s reliance on a single, curriculum-based measure of oral reading fluency led to unintended consequences such as the student being fast and accurate in word reading but inattentive to the meaning of what is read”.

Based on the above, the SRO stated herconclusion that she “agreed with the IHO that the district’s failure to present evidence of the data collected as part of its RtI process resulted in a lack of evidence regarding the student’s progress for the extended period of time that she was receiving tiered support outside of core instruction; and thus the district violated its child find obligations and failed to establish that the student should not have been referred for special education as of February 2020”.

O.A. v. Orcutt Union Sch. Dist., 2:21-cv-02026-RGK-MAA, 81 IDELR 109 (C.D.Cal. May 27, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the District conducted evaluations that assessed the student in all areas of suspected disability and otherwise adequately evaluated the student.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the ALJ and determined that the District appropriately evaluated the student during his kindergarten year but did not do so during his first-grade year.

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Basis of the Court’s Decision:

Prior to offering a student special education services, a District must conduct a full and individual initial evaluation meant to ensure that the student receives an assessment in “all areas of suspected disability” See 20 U.S.C. Section 1414(a)(1)(A), 1414(b)(3)(B). Additionally, the IEP Team is to develop an IEP in considerationof, interalia,the strengthsofthe child,the concernsof the parents, the results of the initial evaluation or most recent evaluation of the child, and the academic, developmental and functional needs of the child. See 20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(3). Further, in circumstances of a reevaluation, the student must also be evaluated in all areas of suspected disabilities. See 20 U.S.C. 1414(b)(3)(B)

In this case, prior to the beginning of the student’s kindergarten year, the student’s pediatrician referred the student to a psychologist to see if the student should be formallydiagnosed for autism. The psychologist was unable to complete his analysis because of the student’s behavior. The CSE met duringthe first part ofthe student’skindergarten year. Afterthe parentreachedout, the district conducted a “Multidisciplinary Psychological Evaluation.” The district assessed the student for ADHD which was the primary issue identified in medical records and by District employees. As a result of this assessment the District, in an October 31, 2017 meeting, offered the student an IEP.

The parent asserts that the district should have evaluated the student for autism. The ALJ found that the district was not on sufficient notice to have an obligation to assess the student for autism or its related symptoms. The Court upheld the ALJ’s findings. It found that the student’s medical records reflected that the student’s primary diagnosis and educational concern was ADHD. Further, as indicated, while the parent hadconsulteda psychologist to assess the student for autism prior to the beginning of the school year, the Court pointed out that the psychologist was unable to complete the autism assessment and did not qualify the student for autism services at that time. Additionally, the Court pointed to the fact that while the student was observed by District employees to have an inability to stay on task, the student could be redirected back, which, based on the record, indicated symptoms of ADHD and not autism.

The parent further asserts that the student should have been assessed for autism during the balance of his kindergarten year. The ALJ disagreed. The Court agreed with the ALJ. It reasoned that for all of the prior reasons plus the fact that throughout the student’s kindergarten year, District staff observed “continued progress” in the student’s education and also because the student had made several friends as he grew accustomed to the school environment there was insufficient reason to suspect that the student had autism. The Court also pointed out that neither the student’s parents nor his teachers requested a reassessment for autism.

The parent also asserts that the student should have been assessed for autism during his first-grade year. The ALJ agreed and the Court upheld that determination. Regarding this, the Court specificallypointed tothe fact that bythis time the student’s psychologist had provided the student with a formal diagnosis of autism prior to first grade and that, additionally, the parents had officially requested that the student be assessed for autism. The Court advised that these factors put the District on notice of the student’s autism.

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E.L. and D.P. v. Bedford Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 18 Civ. 3062 (NSR), 2022 WL 3667189 (S.D.N.Y. Aug, 25, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the district was in violation of its child find obligation.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the SRO and concluded that the district violated its child find obligation.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The IDEAcreatesa dutyupona localeducationagencytoidentify,locate,andevaluate allchildren with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services. This child find obligation applies to children who are suspected of being a child with a disability and in need of special educationeven though theyare advancingfrom grade tograde. Thus, Courts have held that the child find duty is triggered when there is reason to suspect a disability, and reason to suspect that special education services may be needed to address that disability.

In March 2014, whenthestudentinthiscase wasinthe secondgrade,the parentsobtaineda private psychoeducational evaluation of the student. As a result of the evaluation, the psychologist diagnosed the student with a specific learning disability with impairments in reading rate, accuracy. She also provided “a rule out” of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – primarily inattentive type and recommended monitoring of the student’s attention/executive functioning skills. The psychologist observed that while the student possessed strong nonverbal reasoning skills, his visual processing skills were poor, making reading and to some extent writing, more difficult tasks for the student. The psychologist also opined that across domains, the student’s processing speed was an area of weakness in his profile.

The psychologist included in her evaluation a series of recommendations regarding the student’s education programming. She noted that the parents “might want to share this evaluation with the student’s CSE to determine if he would qualify for a classification as a student with a learning disability”.

The parents shared this evaluation with the CSE at the start of the 2014-2015 school year and, in particular,inSeptember2014. Neithertheparentsnoranyschool districtpersonnel made areferral to the CSE as recommended bythe private psychologist. Instead, at a meetingbetween the parents and school personnel, the parents were advised that the student’s placement in a “co-teach class” and the provision of regular reading assistance sessions in the third grade would be sufficient to enable the student to succeed in third grade.

Because of the student’s continuing difficulties, the parents referred the student to the CSE on October 20, 2015. As a result of a subsequent CSE evaluation as well as an additional private evaluation,theCSE,atitsJanuary14,2016CSEmeetingclassifiedthestudentaslearningdisabled and recommended special education services.

The IHO, upon review of a due process complaint notice, ultimately concluded that the school district did not violate its child find obligations prior to October 2015. Upon its review, the SRO reversed the IHO’s finding that the school district complied with its child find obligations during the 2014-15 school year and a portion of the 2015-16 school year. However, the SRO concluded

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that since the parents had not requested any relief for the child find violation prior to the time that the district classified the student as a student with a disability and the child find violation had ended, the SRO did not award any monetary relief to the parents.

In Court, the parents seek review of the SRO’s finding that they failed to request relief for the district’s child find violation. The district maintains that there was no child find violation.

In relevant part, the Court pointed out that the SRO found that the school district violated its child findobligationonthebasisthattheMarch2014,privateevaluationwassufficienttoprovidereason to suspect a disability and that the school district was in violation of its child find obligation upon receipt of the report in the fall of 2014 up through the parents referring the student to the CSE in October 2015. The Court said that it should defer to the SRO’s “reasoned conclusions in matters requiring educational expertise” in circumstances where a violation was supported by a preponderance of the evidence. With respect to this, the Court said that the March 2014 report by the private psychologist “unequivocally triggered” the school district’s child find obligation and agreed with the SRO that the district had violated its child find obligation.

With respect to a remedy for the child find violation, the Court agreed with the SRO that apart from testimony at the hearing, the parents did not request any relief for the child find violation.

Notwithstanding its finding that the district violated its child find obligation, the Court found that this did not involve the violation of a FAPE. In support of this conclusion, the Court asserts that this procedural violation did not significantly impede the parent’s opportunityto participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of a FAPE and claims that “[t]o the contrary, the student’s parents participated in every CSE meeting and had unimpeded opportunity to participate in the development of the student’s IEPs”.

However, it should be pointed out that as a result of the child find violation, during the period September 2014 to January 2016, the district failed to provide the parents with any IEP to discuss and comment about.

With no explanation, the Court also suggests that the district’s child find violation does not “deprive the student of important educational benefits entitled by law”. Here again, it should be pointed out that the student – who was eligible for special education did not receive any special education services during the period September 2014 to January 2016. This was surely a deprivation of educational benefits to the student.

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OSEP QA 21-05; August 24, 2021

Subject: Questions and Answers re Child Find and COVID-19

On August 24, 2021 OSERS issueda letterregarding current federal guidance relatedtochild find. Among the topics it addressed were a series of questions and answers related to the COVID-19 pandemic.9 The specific questions and answers are set forth below10:

Q-C-1. Whataresomeoftheuniquechallengesforconductingchildfindwhenchildrenparticipate in on-line or virtual learning?

Generally, children who attend virtual schools or, as experienced during the pandemic, receive instruction virtually, do not have the same degree of face-to-face interactions and in-person contacts with a teacher or other school staff as children who attend brick- and-mortar schools on a full-time basis. As such, teachers of these students have limited opportunityfor casual observation of a child’s learning abilities and early recognition of issues that may impact their learning. Child find procedures that rely mainly on informal teacher observation and referral may require additional consideration for such children. Where virtual instruction limits or prevents the teacher’sinteractionandcontact withachild,theSEAand LEA11 shouldexamine whetherexisting child find policies and procedures are effective in meeting the State’s responsibilities of identifying, locatingand evaluating children who mayneed special education and related services, such aspublic awarenesscampaignsbythe LEAor inpartnershipwitha school’sPTAthat include information provided in languages spoken in the communityand target a wide audience including parents and families, day care and early childhood education providers, summer camps, medical providers, homeless shelters, religious institutions, and kindergarten roundup (i.e., events hosted by elementary schools to facilitate a child’s transition from home to formal education). For older children, activities can include locally administered assessments that measure student academic growth, screening private school students and home school students, meeting with mental health practitioners, sharinginformation with nonprofit organizations that focus on familiesand children, and coordinating with State agencies that provide services to children and young adults. Also, the LEA’soutreach effortsandinteragencycollaboration withhousingprograms,suchasthose funded by HUD can help to identify children who are homeless and may be in need of special education. With the increased use of social media, SEAs and LEAs should consider postingchild find notices on their websites and social media pages. In general, as child find is an SEA and LEA responsibility, LEAs serving children virtuallyshould not relysolelyon referrals byparents as the primary vehicle for meeting IDEA’s child find requirements.

9 The balance of the questions deals with “general child find requirement” and “referral and initial evaluation”.

10 Where appropriate, the answer to questions C-1 and C-2 repeat the referenced language set forth in the answer to question A-5.

11 The acronym “SEA” means State Educational Agency; the acronym LEA means local educational agency see 34 CFR 300.28 and 300.41. See also note 4 to guidance document.

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Q-C-2. How might States and LEAs enhance their child find activities during the 2021-2022 school year to address the challenges resulting from educational disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

SEAs and LEAs should reexamine the efficacy of their existing child find practices and initiate new activities in light of the educational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, LEAs may have to conduct additional screenings of children whose academic and behavioral needs may require an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education and related services consistent with 34 CFR 300.304 through 300.311. Additional effortscan be made in increasing awareness of special education supports for students of all ages through coordinated efforts with SEAs, LEAs and associated pubic agencies to highlight the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on academic performance and social-emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs. Further, efforts can be made to increase awareness of and access to develop-mental screenings by placing information booths and providing information about the screening process in settings frequentedbyfamilies(e.g.,healthdepartments,physicianoffices,public parks,amusement parks, shopping malls, and children’s stores), conducting social media campaigns on multiple online platforms, partnering with other stakeholders such as the PTA, or holding screening events in the community. Additional examples of child find activities include public awareness campaigns by the LEA or in partnership with a school’s PTA that include information provided in languages spoken in the community and target a wide audience including parents and families, day care and early childhood education providers, summer camps, medical providers, homeless shelters, religious institutions, and kindergarten roundup (i.e. events hosted by elementary schools to facilitate a child’s transition from home to formal education). For older children, activities can include locallyadministeredassessments that measure student academic growth, screeningprivate school students and home school students, meeting with mental health practitioners, sharing information with nonprofit organizations that focus on families and children, and coordinating with State agencies that provide services to children and young adults. Also, the LEA’s outreach efforts and interagency collaboration with housing programs, such as those funded by HUD can help to identify children who are homeless and may be in need of special education. With the increased use of social media, SEAs and LEAs should consider posting child find notices on their websites and social media pages.

Q-C-3 If a student has received limited instruction due to educational disruptions as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic and also made little academic progress, should the student be referred for an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education and related services?

Not necessarily. Levels of student performance primarilyattributable to limited instruction do not mean the student requires special education and related services under IDEA. IDEA’s child find and eligibility procedures are designed to identify, locate, and evaluate students with a suspected disability to determine whether, as a result of the disability, the student requires special education and related services. IDEA’s regulations in 34 CFR 300.306 (b) specifically state that a child must not be determined to be a child with a disability if the determinant factor is due to a lack of appropriate instruction in reading or math. LEAs must examine individual referrals for special education and should work with families to determine additional general education supports and

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interventions that can appropriately meet the child’s needs that are attributable to limited instruction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and not because the child is suspected of having a disability under IDEA. LEA staff should document these supports when they provide prior written notice to parents under 34 CFR 300.503, explaining the reasons why the LEA will not conduct an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education and related services for their child.

Q-C-4. When a parent shares that their child contracted COVID-19, has “long COVID”, or has other post-COVID conditions, and the symptoms of the child’s condition (such as fatigue, mood changes, or difficulty concentrating) are adversely impacting the child’s ability to participate and learn in the general curriculum, must the child be referred for special education and related services?

Yes. If a child experiencing symptoms from “long COVID” is suspected of having a disability (e.g., other health impairment) and needs special education and related services under IDEA, they must be referred for an initial evaluation to determine the impact of the “long COVID” symptoms and the child’s academic and functional needs.

Note herethat theQandAdocumentincludesa numberoffoot notessettingforthwhere additional information can be found.

In re Toledo Pub. Sch., Ohio State Administrative Agency, CP-0117-2021, Dec. 1, 2021, 121 LRP 43127

Dispute: Was the district in violation of its Child find responsibilities.

Conclusion: The state administrative agency found that the district was in violation of its Child find responsibilities.

Basis of the State Administrative Agency’s Decision: The parent sets forth a complaint to the state administrative agency to the effect that the district had violated the federal Child find regulation at 34CFR 300.111. Thisregulationistomake sure that all districts“musthave ineffect policies and procedures to ensure that all children with disabilities” “regardless of the severity of their disability, and who are in need of special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated”.

The administrative agency determined that the district was in violation of its Child find responsibilities. The administrative agency cited to the fact that (1) “the [s]tudent earned 0 credits and obtained Fs in all of his classes for both semesters duringthe 2020-2021 school year”, (2) “the [s]tudent’s records also demonstrated concerns in the areas of attendance and behavior”, and (3) “the [d]istrict denied a request to evaluate and stated that it did not suspect a disability due to a lack of intervention and excessive absenteeism”.12 The administrative agency said that (3), above, wascontraryto State regulationproviding that “a school district maynot use interventionstodelay

12 Among other things, the state administrative agency also found that the student had a section 504 plan and diagnoses of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

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unnecessarilya child’s being evaluated to determine eligibility for special education services” and that “[i]fsuchinterventionshavenotbeenimplementedpriortoreferralforevaluation,appropriate interventions shall be implemented during the same sixty-day time frame during which the school district conducts a full and individual evaluation”.

Note here that the state administrative agency’s finding with respect to (3), above is consistent with federal Department of Education guidance. In particular, OSEP opinion letter 11-07 sets forth, among other things, that States and local educational agencies “have an obligation to ensure that evaluations of children suspected of having a disability are not delayed or denied because of implementation of an RTI strategy” and more bluntly that “[t]he use of RTI strategies cannot be used to delay or deny the provision of a full and individual evaluation”.

As a consequence, the state administrative agency required the district to implement a corrective action plan. Among other things, the corrective action plan provided that the district receive appropriate training from the state administrative agency and that the student be evaluated in accordance with state regulations.

KB, on behalf of SB v. Katonah Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 193946-cv, 847 Fed. Appx. 38 (2d Cir. Feb. 26, 2021)

Dispute: Did the district comply with its Child Find obligation?

Conclusion: The district complied with its Child Find obligation.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The Court set forth that a district complies with its Child Find obligation upon a showing by a preponderance of evidence that “school officials overlooked clear signs of disability and were negligent in failing to order testing or that there was no rational justification for not deciding to evaluate”. The Court continued that because a violation of Child Find is “procedural”, relief is obtained “onlyif the violation (1) impeded the child’s right to a Free Appropriate Public Education or FAPE, (2) significantly impeded the parent’s opportunity to participate in the decision -makingprocess regardingthe provision of a FAPE to the parents’ child or(3)causedadeprivationofeducationalbenefits”;whichistosaythat“theparentsmustarticulate how a procedural violation resulted in the ... substantive inadequacy of the education offered to the child or affected the decision-making process”.

With the above in mind, the Appeals Court held that the parent “did not adequately explain how any alleged violation of the district’s Child Find obligation deprived (the child) of educational benefitsorimpeded(theparents’) abilityto participateinthe decision-makingprocess”. The Court also advised that the parent did “not identify an appropriate remedy” for the claim.

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COMPENSATORY EDUCATION

Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023)

Dispute: May a district be required to provide both tuition reimbursement and compensatory education during the same time period.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that, in the circumstances of this case, it would be appropriate for the student to receive both tuition reimbursement for tutoring services and compensatory education during the same period of time.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In this case, the SRO found that the student was eligible to reimbursement for tutoring expenses and also for compensatory education. The district had argued that the parents were “double dipping by seeking both reimbursement for private reading instruction and compensatory education for the same time period”.

The SRO first pointed out that compensatory education is “an equitable remedy that is tailored to meet the unique circumstances of each case”. With respect to caselaw, the SRO pointed out that “[s]ome courts have held that compensatory education is not available as an additional or alternative remedy when reimbursement for the costs of a unilateral placement is also at issue for the same time period” and cited to two cases decided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The SRO also cited to a case in the Southern District of New York, which had overruled a previous SRO decision, for the proposition that “awards of tuition reimbursement and compensatory education are not mutually exclusive and that an award of both education placement and educational services may be necessary to provide a particular student with a FAPE”. See V.W. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 2022 WL 3448096, at *5-*7(S.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2022).

After further discussion, the SRO concluded that “it would appearthat an award of reimbursement for unilaterally obtained services and an award of compensatory reading instruction based on the same denial of FAPE for the same school years, under the circumstances presented in this matter would not be duplicative”. Consistent with this, based on “the totality of the evidence in the hearing record”, the SRO determined that “the parents’ unilaterally obtained reading instruction delivered during the 2021-22 school year, while appropriate, was insufficient to remedy a denial of FAPE beginning in February 2020 and continuing through the 2021-22 school year”.

The SRO found that “a reasonable award of compensatory education [was] 360 hours of direct reading instruction”.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 23-022 (Mar. 17, 2023) Dispute: Should compensatoryeducationbe awarded onthe basisofa lapse of pendencyservices.

Conclusion: The SRO vacated the IHO’s decision and concluded that based on the failure of the district to provide pendency services the student should be awarded compensatory services.

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Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In this case, among other things, the parties agreed that the student’s pendency placement for the summer portion of an extended school year program included PT, speech-language therapy, and OT as related services. Such summer services, however, were never delivered as the district was not able to find related service personnel to provide the required services. Therefore, the district informed the parent that “make-up” services would be provided over the course of the regular school year. Regarding this, the IHO read the terms of the pendencyagreement to provide for this and that to do under in such circumstances would not be violated. Regarding compensatory services, the IHO found “that it was unnecessary to award compensatory education on top of the make-up related services provided to the student …”.

The SRO did not agree. He construed the pendency agreement to allow for rescheduled and make up sessions “when a related service provider may have scheduled a session to work with a student but that due to illness or other similar reason the session might have to be rescheduled and made up”. In this case, the SRO pointed out that “no provider schedules were established for the entire summer because the district was unsuccessful in its efforts to have providers at all despite the parties’ agreement that 12-month services were required”. The SRO said that “there were no scheduled sessions, no cancellations,andnomakeupsscheduledandremediationofthe lost related services did not begin until after the regular school year commenced … “ Consistent with this, the SRO found “that the placement as implemented without the provision of the related services constitute[d] a failure to maintain the student’s educational placement under pendency, notwithstanding the district’s intentions to provide make-up related services at a later time during the regular 10-month portion of the school year.” As a consequence, the SRO reversed the IHO and vacated the decision in that regard.

Regardingcompensatoryservices,TheSROcitedtoSecondCircuitforthepropositionthat“where a district fails to implement a student’s pendencyplacement, students should receive the pendency services to which they were entitled as a compensatory remedy”. See Doe v. East Lyme Bd. of Educ., 790 F3d 440, 456 (2d Cir. 2015); See also Student X v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 07CV-2316 (NGG)(RER), 2008 WL 4890440, *25-*26 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 30, 2008). The SRO also cited to the Second Circuit for the proposition that “[i]n calculating a compensatory education award for a lapse inpendency…the purpose ofthe stayput provisionto guarantee thesame general educational program should be taken into account”13 Doe v. East Lyme Bd. of Educ., 962 F.3d 649, 665-66 (2d Cir. 2020). In this case, the SRO said that “the compensatory education award should include the compensatorypendency services owed or [if the student’s needs have changed] analogous educational services appropriate to the student’s needs”. See East Lyme 790 F.3d at 456-57. Reflecting the fact that the parties had agreed in the pendency agreement “that cancelled related service sessions could be made up at a later date”, the SRO saw “little reason not to order similar relief for services that were never scheduled in the first place due to the failure to locate providers”.

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13 In this case, since the pendency agreement in relevant part provided for related services, “the same general educational program” here would also be related services.

With all of this being the case, the SRO “order[ed] the district to provide compensatory pendency services on an hour for hour basis to remedy the number and type of missed sessions required pursuant to the pendency agreement” and ordered the district “to provide the compensatory services to the extent that it has not already done so” and that to be “completed within one year of the date of [the SRO’s] decision”.

R.T. v. Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-00437 (PMH), 2022 WL 16857176 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 2022)

Dispute: Was the student eligible for compensatory education

Conclusion: The Court reversed the SRO and determined that the matter should be remanded to the IHOto supplement the recordanddetermine anappropriate compensatoryaward, ifapplicable.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The IHO determined for the period of time March 14, 2018 through June 30, 2019 the student was not denied a FAPE. The SRO reversed the IHO’s decision and determined that during that period the district denied the student a FAPE.14 At the same time, the SRO determined that the parents were not entitled to compensatory education because their request for an award of prospective placement of another year at the student’s private school was “speculative” and that the parents’ conduct “weighed against granting relief”.

The plaintiffs commenced an action in District Court challenging, among other things, the SRO’s decision that the student should not be granted compensatory education. At that time, the district had dropped its contention that it had offered the student a FAPE during the above time period. Therefore, this was not an issue before the Court.

The Court held that “[i]n enacting the IDEA, Congress did not intend to create a right without a remedy”; that “[t]he IDEA allows an IHO or SRO to fashion an appropriate remedy for students not provided a FAPE [;] and [that] the Second Circuit has held that compensatory education is an available remedy under the IDEA to make up for a denial of a FAPE” Moreover “[s]uch compensatory education must be reasonably calculated to provide the educational benefits that likelywould have accrued from special education services the school district shouldhave supplied in the first place”. “In some situations, where the record reflects that the alleged deficiencies suffered by the student have already been mitigated (or even totally alleviated), an award of compensatory education may not be required”.

The Court determined that here, it was “not clear” that the latter was the case and that “[a]bsent factual findings that there [was] no plausible way to remediate the nearly year and a half denial of FAPE … [the]Courtisnot preparedtoprematurelyshut the dooron[the parents’] claim for relief”.

With respect to the parents’ request for prospective relief of another year at the student’s private school, the Court held that “[g]enerally SRO determinations with respect to prescribing

14 This was based on the fact that the district had failed to conduct an FBA/BIP and the CSE’s recommendation to continue the student in an ICT classroom for the remainder of the 2017-18 school year when the student’s teachers had already concluded that he was clearly failing to progress.

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compensatory education plans are entitled to significant deference because such determinations involve matters of educational policy”. The Court therefore found that “the SRO’s determination that an additional year at [the student’s private school] is inappropriate to compensate [the student]” for the [d]istrict’s prior denial of a FAPE is affirmed”.

At the same time, the Court found that “the SRO’s inquiry should not have ended there” as the parents requested before the SRO “any other, further, or different compensatory education as deemed appropriate”. Regarding this, the Court found that “[t]he SRO should have considered whether any such compensatory education could be reasonably calculated to compensate [the student]”. The Court said further “[t]he fact that [the district] conceded that there was a violation of the IDEA and a subsequent denial of a FAPE satisfies the [parents’] burden of proving entitlement to a properly crafted compensatory award”. With respect to the parents’ obligation to propose “a well-articulated plan that reflects the student’s current education abilities and needs and is supported by the record, [the patent] need not have a perfect case to be entitled to a compensatoryeducationaward”. The Court wrote that “once a [parent] hasestablished entitlement to an award, simply refusing to grant one [is inappropriate]”. Moreover, the Court stated to the Court-developed principal that “an IHO mayprovide the parties additional time to supplement the record if they believe there is insufficient evidence to support a specific award [;] but simply choosing instead to award [the parent] nothing does not represent the qualitative focus on the child’s individual needs” and so was also inappropriate.

The Court also did not “agree with the SRO’s second purported basis for denying relief” which was that the parents’ “conduct precluded it”. The Court said that it “decline[d] to afford deference to the SRO’s single paragraph analysis of [the parents’] conduct”. The Court saidhere that “[o]nly a thorough and careful equities analysis would be entitled to deference”. The test, the Court said, was that parental conduct “should not preclude relief” unless such was “uncooperative, obstructive, or otherwise unreasonable”. Contrary to this, the Court found that the parents’ decisions “were made with [the student’s] best interests in mind and that any delay in conducting evaluations resulted primarily from the [d]istrict’s own conduct”.15

The Court further found that “[t]o the extent that the SRO’s decision to deny relief was based on its assertion that [the student’s] lack of progress was never due to anyacademic needs or cognitive delays and solelythe result of interferingbehaviors, that [this] alone does not render impracticable an award of compensatory education. The Court said that “[w]hether compensatory education for [the student] would address academic needs, interfering behaviors, or any other needs is not relevant to its plausibility as there are a wide range of services that can be implemented as compensatory education”.

The Court additionally found that “[t]he paucity of the record before this Court on the issue [of compensatory education] precludes crafting such a remedy at this stage”. It concluded that “[t]he IHO, however, after supplementation of the record, will be in a better position to structure a plan appropriate for [the student] including similar kinds of services or others”. The Court also felt that “remanding to the IHO is appropriate because the Court [believed] that the IHO should provide

15 That there is a connection between an award of compensatory education and equitable considerations is not clear.

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[the parents] with an additional opportunity to supplement the record with evidence necessary to support a compensatory award that is reasonably calculated and individually tailored to [the student’s] needsanddemonstratesa causalrelationshipbetween[thestudent’s]current educational deficits and his earlier denial of a FAPE”.

The Court concluded that “[t]he SRO’s determination that no remedy is warranted for the denial of a FAPE to [the student] from March 2018 to June 2019 is, accordingly, reversed and remanded to the IHO to supplement the record and determine an appropriate compensatory award, if applicable.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-091 at pp. 42-47, 48-50

Dispute: Whether compensatory education was appropriate as a result of the student’s unlawful removal to a time out room.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that compensatory education was appropriate as a result of the student’s unlawful removal to a time out room.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“Compensatoryeducation is an equitable remedy that is tailored to meet the unique circumstances of each case.” “The purpose of an award of compensatory education is to provide an appropriate remedy for a denial of a FAPE.” “Likewise, SRO’s have awarded compensatory services to students who remain eligible to attend school and have been denied appropriate services, if such deprivation of instruction could be remedied through the provision of additional services before the student becomes ineligible for instruction by reason of age or graduation.” “Accordingly, an award of compensatory education should aim to place the student in the position he or she would have been in had the district complied with its obligations under the IDEA”.

In this case, the SRO concluded in relevant part that the student had been unlawfully removed to a time-out room and that this was a denial of a FAPE. As a remedy for this, the parent requested 57.8 hours of compensatory education, which was based on the student’s being removed to the timeoutroom for57.8hoursoftime.The SROpointedoutthatthedistrict“failedtoput incontrary evidence regarding an appropriate compensatory education award”. Only arguing that it provided the student with a FAPE for the years in question, the SRO concluded that the district” failed to address its burdens as required under the due process procedures set forth in New York State law”. The SRO concluded that “[g]iven the district’s failure to meet its burden of production or persuasion ontheissue of compensatoryeducationservices,thecalculationsput forthbythe parent are unrebutted”.

With respect to the issues relating to the time out room, the SRO awarded the student 57.8 hours of compensatory tutoring. Since the student’s “primary area of need is behavioral”, unless the parties agree otherwise, the SRO ordered that the “compensatory tutoring services awarded be provided by either a special education teacher or a [Board Certified Behavior Analyst]”.

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Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-091 at pp. 38-42, 48-50

Dispute: Whether compensatory education was appropriate as a result of the student’s unlawful placement in an intensive day treatment program, which was an interim alternative educational placement.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that compensatory education was appropriate as a result of the student’s unlawful placement in an intensive day treatment program.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“Compensatoryeducation is an equitable remedythat is tailored to meet the unique circumstances of each case.” “The purpose of an award of compensatory education is to provide an appropriate remedy for a denial of a FAPE.” “Likewise, SRO’s have awarded compensatory services to students who remain eligible to attend school and have been denied appropriate services, if such deprivation of instruction could be remedied through the provision of additional services before the student becomes ineligible for instruction by reason of age or graduation.” “Accordingly, an award of compensatory education should aim to place the student in the position he or she would have been in had the district complied with its obligations under the IDEA”.

In this case, the SRO concluded in relevant part that the district assigned the third-grade student to an intensive day treatment program (IDT), which was an interim alternative educational setting (IAES), without first being ordered to by an IHO and further, without a subsequent manifestation determination review. The SRO also concluded that this was a denial of a FAPE.

As a remedy for this, the parent requested 37 days of compensatory education, which was based on the student’s being placed in the IDT for 37 days. The SRO pointed out that the district “failed toput in contraryevidence regardinganappropriatecompensatoryeducationaward;”onlyarguing that it had provided the student with a FAPE for the years in question. The SRO concluded that the district “failed to address its burdens as required under the due process procedures set forth in New York State Law”. The SRO further concluded that “[g]iven the district’s failure to meet its burden of production or persuasion on the issue of compensatory education services, the calculations put forth by the parent are unrebutted”.

With respect to the issue relating to the assignment of the student to the IDT, the SRO awarded the student “an equitable award” of 37 hours of compensatory education, which was an hour of compensatory education for each day of unlawful placement. The SRO pointed out here that although the student was assigned to the IDT for 37 days, while at that program, the student “worked at goals, received behavioral and therapeutic interventions, and made progress”. As support for thisaward,the SROcitedtooutofcircuitcasesforthe propositionsthat “compensatory education should be denied when the deficiencies suffered have already been mitigated” and that “an award of compensatory education is not mandatory in cases where a denial of FAPE is established”. Since the student’s “primary area of need is behavioral” unless the parties agree otherwise, the SRO ordered that the “compensatory tutoring services awarded be provided by either a special education teacher or a [Board Certified Behavior Analyst]”.

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O.A. v. Orcutt Union Sch. Dist., 2:21-cv-02026-RGK-MAA, 81 IDELR 109 (C.D.Cal. May 27, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the ALJ properly calculated the number of hours of compensatory education due the student whether she set forth an appropriate period of time for the student to use those hours.

Conclusion: The Court found that the ALJ did not properly calculate the number of hours of compensatory education due the student and adjusted those hours upwards. The Court also found that it was equitable for the student to be provided with additional time to use the awarded compensatory education.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

“The decision whether to award compensatory educational services is an equitable one, and it requires an exercise of fact-specific discretion.” Reid v. District of Columbia, 401 F.3d 516, 523 (D.C. Cir. 2005).

Among other things, the ALJ awarded the student 82 hours of compensatory one on one instruction.

The Court agreed with the ALJ’s position that the student should be provided with an hour of oneto-one compensatory education for each day the student was denied a FAPE. With regard to this, the Court said that the record showed that the student “learns best in a one-to-one setting and is most engaged with a high degree of adult attention in awarding one on one compensatory education, because that form of education is most likely to catch [the student] up to where he should have been”. However, regarding the actual number of one-to-one hours of compensatory education tobeawarded,the Court concluded that,andtakingintoaccountthedaysthat the student did not attend school, the student did not receive a FAPE for a total of 137 days. The Court therefore increased the hours of compensatory instruction from 82 to 137.

The student also argued that the ALJ should have provided more than “slightly more” than two years for the student to use the compensatory education awarded. In particular, the student requested a five-year extension of the deadline because of COVID closures. The Court agreed that an extension oftime wasequitable giventhat it hadincreasedthe numberofhoursofcompensatory education awarded andthat the original deadline to use those hourswasnowonlya half yearaway, the latter due to the prolonged pendency of the litigation. However, it also said that the five-year extensionrequestedbythestudentwasnotnecessarybutthatitwasequitabletoprovidethestudent three years from the date of its decision to access his award of compensatory education.

Doe v. E. Lyme Bd. of Educ., 962 F.3d 649 (2d Cir. 2020)

Dispute: To what extent may limitations be placed on escrow agreements relating to compensatory funds in an escrow account

Conclusion: The Circuit Court held that the powers of escrow agreements relative to compensatory funds in escrow accounts can be appropriately limited.

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Basis of the Second Circuit’s Decision:

The formation and operation of an escrow account is an appropriate mechanism to structure an award of post-special education eligibility compensatory education to a student for the failure of a district to provide the student with the appropriate level of stay-put services. In this case, the district court ordered the district, among other things, to place $192,066.02 for compensatory education into an escrow account to be used on behalf of the student. The district court set certain limitations on the use of the escrow account including a time limit, the use of an escrow agent for determining payouts and a refund of unused funds to the school district. The parent argued that this structure wasinequitable. The Circuit Court pointed out that the parent requestedthe structure and that the district court granted her proposal and also selected her proposed escrow agent. The Circuit Court further pointed out that the structure of the escrow agreement was similar to others and that the Circuit Court had specifically pointed to this type of structure as an example of what could be used.

The parent also argued that the award’s six-year time limit was unduly short compared to other circuit court caselaw and further objected to the requirement that she coordinate the student’s service providers. Here again, the Circuit Court pointed out that the time limit and the autonomy to select the student’s providers had been requested by the parent. With respect to other case law, the Circuit Court indicated that such was based on a summary order and therefore did not control the district court’s discretion. The parent also argued that the compensatory award should not overlap with the student’s final year of IDEA eligibility. The Court stated here that the district court would be used in addition to the student’s IEP and that the parent pointed to no evidence showing duplication of benefits.

The Circuit Court said, however, that two of the parent’s arguments regarding the escrow agreement had merit. In the first place, the escrow agreement allowed the escrow agent to have final decision-making authority and unilaterally reduce the student’s access to the award. The Circuit Court held that this violated the IDEA’s requirement that, upon obtaining final relief, the parent’s award may not be modified by either party absent a new hearing.

The escrow agreement also required that the parent pay for one-half of the administrative fee relative to the escrow account. Pointing to the fact that the IDEA seeks to ensure a “free” education, the Circuit Court said that the parent “should not be required to pay for a portion of the cost of managing a fund for educational services that the district should have provided and that making the parent “payfor the maintenance of a compensatoryeducation account would make the student’s access to appropriate education dependent upon the parent’s ability to front its costs; which was improper.

VW v. New York City Dep’t of Educ, No. 21 Civ. 6317 (AT), 2022 WL 3448096 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2022)

Dispute: Can compensatory education be provided at the same time for which a student is receiving tuition reimbursement.

Conclusion: The Court reversed the SRO and concluded that compensatory education can be provided at the same time for which a student is receiving tuition reimbursement.

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Basis of the Court’s Decision: In this case, an IHO determined that the district did not provide the student with a FAPE for the 2016-2017, 2017-2018 and 2018-19 school years. The IHO held that a private school was an appropriate placement for the student and ordered tuition reimbursement. Among other things, the IHO also ordered the district to provide the student with compensatory home-based ABA. The district appealed the IHO’s determination to the SRO. The SRO held that the IHO’s award of compensatory education consisting of home-based ABA services was inappropriate on the grounds that the student could not receive compensatory education for the same school year in which the student received tuition reimbursement for a unilateral placement. The SRO also concluded that awarding prospective services “has the effect of circumventing the statutory process, pursuant to which the CSE is tasked with … periodically assessing the student’s needs”.

Initially, the Court pointed out that because the SRO based his decision on a matter of law, it need not defer to the SRO’s holding. With respect to the question at issue, the Court said that first, it rejected “the conclusion that compensatory education is foreclosed by an award of tuition reimbursement”. The Court said that the caselaw cited bythe DOE and the SRO did not stand for the contrary proposition and considered specific circumstances different than the case at issue. With respect to cited caselaw, the Court held that in light of applicable caselaw from the Second Circuit, the Third Circuit caselaw relied upon by the SRO was neither persuasive nor binding. Relative to this, and citing to Doe v. E. Lyme Bd. Of Educ., 790 F.3d 440, 445 (2d Cir. 2015) the Court pointed out that the Second Circuit had “specifically held that an award of both compensatory education and tuition reimbursement for a single school year can be appropriate under certaincircumstances andthat suchcircumstances were not dissimilar tothose here. On this basis, the Court found that “the SRO improperly concluded that awarding both tuition reimbursement and compensatory education for one school year is inappropriate.

Second, the Court found “that the SRO mischaracterized the IHO’s award of home-based ABA services as a prospective remedy that circumvents the statutory process requiring a CSE to periodically review a student’s needs”. To the contrary, the Court pointed out that “[t]he IHO awarded home-based ABA as compensatory education due to the denial of a FAPE for the student for the 2019-20 school year and that compensatoryeducation isa retrospective and in-kindremedy for the failure to provide an appropriate education for a period of time”. With respect to the district’s similar argument that the IHO’s award of home-based ABA is prospective and that the parent’s appropriate remedy is to file a due process complaint, the Court pointed out that such is exactly what the parent did. Finally, the district argued that since tuition reimbursement had already been awarded the student for the 2019-2020 school year “therefore no additional services, including home-based ABA [were] necessary to provide the student with a FAPE”. Regarding additional services, the Court pointed out that “the IDEA defines a FAPE as inclusive of special education and related services… and the term related services includes services that may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education”. This being the case, the court concluded that “both educational placement and additional services may be necessary to provide a particular student with a FAPE and the award of tuition reimbursement in this case [did] not necessarily mean that additional services, such as home-based ABA [were] inappropriate”.

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The Court previously pointed out that in circumstances where it “appropriately concludes that the SRO’s determinations are insufficiently reasoned to merit [] deference, and in particular, where the SRO rejectsa more thorough and carefullyconsidered decision ofan IHO, the Court maydefer to the IHO’s analysis”. With respect to this, the Court said that in this case it was deferring “to the IHO’s reasoned judgment based on facts in the hearing record”.

Z.Q. v. New York City Bd. of Educ., No. 1:20-CV-9866-ALC, 2022 WL 903003 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2022)

Dispute: In a case involving plaintiffs’ and putative class members’ request for compensatory relief following COVID-19, did the plaintiffs exhaust their administrative remedies.

Conclusion: The Court held that the plaintiffs did not exhaust their administrative remedies, and therefore did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the action and that it must be dismissed.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: “This action is about the delay in the provision of compensatory education services for students with disabilities in New York City following the COVID-19 outbreak.”

In a June 20, 2020, guidance document relating to CIVID-19, the State advised, among other things, that “CSE’s would need to consider newly identified needs when determining the appropriate special programs and services to be recommended for the 2020-2021 school year, and that recommendations for children with disabilities may include a range of remedies including compensatory services”. The State issued additional COVID-19 related guidance on June 2021, which. among other things “remind[ed] CSE’s of their responsibility to make an individualized determination asto whether and to what extent compensatoryservices maybe neededfor a student with a disability to make up for any skills that may have been lost when FAPE could not be provided.”

Here, the plaintiffs commenced a putative class action alleging that the State and City “failed to meet their legal obligations to implement students’ IEPs during periods of remote learning”. In particular, they allege that the State and City “have failed to provide services and programs that are consistent with students’ IEPs, especiallyduring periods of remote learning”. Theyalso allege that the State and City “have failed to provide technology, translation, and interpretation services to families of students in need of remote learning resources”. Theyfurther allege that “[w]hen inperson opportunities resumed, the [State and City] failed to provide the in-person component of students’ IEPs”.

The plaintiffs “seek the creation and implementation of a specific process and plan to remedy the denials of plaintiffs’ and Class members’ rights, which will promptly afford these students the education to which they are legally entitled – before they fall any further behind”. They seek a plan that “would be an expedited alternative to seeking compensatoryservices through the current impartial hearing process”.

The Court said that in this case, the plaintiffs do not allege that they have exhausted their administrative remedies. None have “filed an administrative due process complaint, requested an impartial hearing, or sought any of the relief provided for in the COVID-10 guidance document

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from [the State] regarding compensatory services”. The plaintiffs set forth instead that exhaustion is not required because “(1) they allege systemic violations about [the City’s and State’s] implementationofIEPsduringthe pandemic, and(2) the current hearingsystem cannot adequately address these systemic failures”.

Citing to the Second Circuit Court, the District Court explained that “there are three exceptions to the IDEA exhaustion requirement: (1) it would be futile to resort to the IDEA’s due process procedures; (2) an agency has adopted a policy or pursued a practice of general applicability that is contrary to law; or (3) it is improbable that adequate relief can be obtained by pursing administrative remedies”. TheCourtpointedoutthat inthiscase,theplaintiffs“failtodemonstrate futility, fail to identifyany specific policy or practice of general applicabilitythat violates the law, and fail to make a showing that it would be improbable to seek adequate relief through the administrative process”.

Regarding futility, the District Court again cited to the Second Circuit Court for the proposition that “[t]he common element among cases where administrative remedies would be futile involve allegations that the framework and procedures for assessing and placing students in appropriate educational programswere at issue or because the nature andvolume ofcomplaintswere incapable of correction by the administrative hearing process”. “Neither situation applies here” the Court said.

The Court also found that “[t]he [a]dministrative [p]rocess [ex]pressly [p]rovides the [r]elief [s]ought.” In the first place, the Court pointed out that the complaint specifically admitted “that state and local administrative authorities can remedy the alleged injuries, specifically regarding the provision of compensatory services”. And, the Court said “speed[ing] up the process” makes no difference. The Court said that “[c]ompensatory services are well within the purview of the impartial hearing system and constitute an available remedy under the IDEA” and that “each student’s IEP would be implicated in determining whether, and to what extent, to furnish an award”. This case, the Court said “reflects a plaintiff-specific dispute over the quality or methodology of services, which is routinely and properly resolved through the administrative process” and in fact, which the Court said is “better dealt withthrough the administrative process”. Moreover, the Court said, “[i]f the plaintiffs exhausted the administrative process, each student would reap the benefits of agency expertise, from CSEs and hearing officers alike, in developing reasonably calculated compensatory services fit for the individual student”; something the Court said was an “important purpose of the exhaustion requirement”.

P.C.R. and A.D.R. v. Fla. Union Free Sch. Dist. and Orange Ulster Bd. of Coop. Edu. Services, No.16-CV-9778 (KMK), 2022 WL 337072 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the SRO’s compensatory education awards merited deference and should be upheld.

Conclusion: The Court concluded that the SRO’s determination of the amount and type of compensatory education merited deference and should be upheld.

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Basis of the Court’s Decision: In a decision dated October 6, 2016, the SRO reduced the IHO’s awards of the amount and type compensatory education and, in a decision dated December 29, 2017, agreed with the IHO’s decision to limit the compensatory education award to only a part of the 2016-17 school year. In each case, the Court concluded that the parents “failed to meet their burden” of demonstrating that the SRO’s decisions did not “merit deference”. The Court pointed out that the parents failed to identify specifically why they believed that the SROs decisions were “erroneous:” and that their argument was limited to simply asserting that the SRO did not grant what the parents requested. Upon review, the Court found the SRO’s decisions to be “thorough and careful” and advised that it “would defer” to the SRO’s findings.

The SRO’s October 6, 2016, decision reduced the IHO’s award of 100 hours of compensatory special education and 50 hours of ABA services to 39 hours of compensatory special education. With respect to this, the Court found that the SRO “applied the correct legal standard” in determining the amount of compensatory education to provide which was “to place the student in the position that he or she would have been in had the district complied with its obligations under the IDEA”. The Court concluded that in determining that 39 hours of compensatory special education was appropriate to do this, the SRO “went through a detailed examination of [the student’s] history and success (or lack thereof) with home instruction, identifying the specific periods in which [the student] did not receive any academic instruction and the methods of instruction with which [the student] had made the most progress in managing his behaviors”. The Court concluded that “it was with these considerations in mind” that the SRO “determined that one hour of special education services for each school day from February 10, 2016 through April 12, 2016”, which was the period of time in which the student “either did not receive anyacademic instruction or received inadequate academic instruction”, “was sufficient to place [the student] in the position that he would have been in had he been provided with a FAPE”. With respect to the balance of the school year, the Court pointed out that during this period the student was making “some progress”.

Regarding the reasons why the SRO rejected the IHO’s decision to award 50 hours of ABA services, the Court looked to the SRO’s finding that the parents’ evidence failed to “articulate why [the student] required instruction using ABA or provide support for [the parents’] claim that ABA services were necessary to provide [the student] with educational benefit”. That being the case, the SRO again concluded that “given that an award of additional services should aim to place the student in the position he or she would have been in had the district complied with its obligations under the IDEA, the hearing record [did] not support an equitable remedy in the form of ABA services”. The Court found that “the SRO’s educational judgments [sic] in taking account of [the student’s] overall education setting, needs, and services rather than rotely prescribing services from which the student would achieve no meaningful benefit [was] entitled to deference”.

The SRO’s December 29, 2017, decision rejected the parents’ argument that the student “was entitled to compensatory education” to cover the entire 2016-17 school year”. Here again, the Court concluded that the SRO “identified and applied the correct legal standard” and “again, engaged in a thoughtful and thorough review of the hearing record to arrive at her decision”. In thiscase,theSROupheldtheIHO’sconclusiontoendthestudent’scompensatoryeducationaward

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on January 27, 2017 as subsequent to this date, the parents had removed the student from school. The Court found that “here again” the SRO’s “educational judgments to be worthy of deference”.

Application of the Bd. of Educ., Appeal No. 20-112 (Sept. 1, 2020)

Dispute: Whether the IHO determined the appropriate amount of compensatory education.

Conclusion: The SRO determinedthat the IHO correctlydeterminedthe amount of compensatory education due the student.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The IHO determined that the denial of FAPE as a result of the CSE’s failure to classify the student with an emotional disturbance and a specific learning disability required that the student be provided with 540 hours of academic remediation. The IHO also allowed the district a credit or offset toward the 540 hours to the extent that the district provided the student with services subsequent to the IHO’s interim decision. Upon appeal, the district asserted, without further explanation, that the IHO did not take into account the amount of instruction that it had provided to the student. The SRO reviewed the IHO’s determination regarding the amount of compensatoryeducation that should be provided to the student and found that there was no evidence in the hearing record to change the IHO’s determination.

Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/20)

Dispute: The parent requests 250 hours of compensatory education. The district opposes the request.

Conclusion: The SRO upheld the hearing officer’s conclusion that the student should receive 250 hours of compensatory education.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The SRO granted the student’s request for 250 hours of compensatory education in a 1:1 setting using a multisensory Orton Gillingham approach starting in February 2019 and running for a period of 25 weeks. In response to the district’s assertion that the compensatory education being provided was an Orton Gillingham program of instruction and not the ABA program recommended by the student’s neuropsychologist, the SRO explained that “the district did not offer any information to refute the parent’s evidence that the 1:1 multisensory instruction was appropriate to meet [the student’s] needs” and also that the student “demonstrated progress using that method”. Regarding the ABA instruction recommended by the neuropsychologist, the SRO wrote that that recommended instruction also “incorporated the need for thestudenttoreceive 1:1instruction”. With thisinmind,the SROconcludedthat“theevidence in the hearing record does not provide a basis to depart from the IHO’s award of 250 hours of compensatory tutoring using multisensory methods to remedy the denial of a FAPE”.

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CONSENT

There is no update at this time, check back for later versions for any update.

COVID-19

COMPENSATORY EDUCATION

Z.Q. et al. individually and on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 22-939-cv, 2023 WL 1486387 (2d Cir. Feb. 3, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the plaintiffs have exhausted their administrative remedies with respect to their claim that appropriate compensatory services should be provided to address the education of students with disabilities during the periodof remote learningcausedbythe COVID-19 pandemic.

Conclusion: The Second Circuit determined that in light of the “sparse record” before it, it was inappropriate in relevant part to grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss on the basis of exhaustion of administrative remedies and reversed the district court’s decision to do so; and remanded the matter to that court for further proceedings.

Basis of the Second Circuit’s Decision:

A group of parents commenced a class action lawsuit alleging that the New York City and New York State failed to provide a FAPE to thousands of students with disabilities in New York City during the period of remote learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The parents requested that the district court put in place a specific mechanism which was separate and distinct from the administrative hearings procedure to evaluate the need for compensatory services for special education students who, because of remote learning, fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district court “dismissed the plaintiffs’ federal claims for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies because they did not seek compensatory services through [the New York City Department of Education’s] complaint resolution process before filing [the] action”.

The parents argued “that it would have been futile” to exhaust their administrative remedies and that therefore they should be excused for not doing so.

The Appeals Court pointed out that “IDEA’s exhaustion requirement will be excused in those circumstances where exhaustion would be futile”. To “demonstrate futility”, the Appeals Court said that a plaintiff “must demonstrate that adequate remedies are not reasonably available or that the wrongs alleged could not or would not have been corrected by resort to the administrative hearing process”. The Appeals Court went on to say that, among other things, futility “may arise where the complaint alleges systemic violations that the administrative review process had no power to correct.”

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Withrespect “tothe extent”thattheplaintiffswere arguingthat“exhaustionwouldbefutile merely because the administrative process cannot order the process-oriented remedy that [the plaintiffs] seek, …” the Appeals Court said this was “unpersuasive”.

The district court concluded that plaintiffs did not allege any systemic violation and dismissed the claims. The Appeals Court disagreed saying that it has “recognized that exhaustion may be futile if administrative bodies persistently fail to render expeditious decisions as to due process complaints within the required timeframe”. It said that the complaint here in relevant part “sets forth precisely this allegation of systemic delay”. It pointed out that the plaintiffs asserted that the New York City Department of Education “systemically fails to resolve due process complaints within the required [75-day] time frame and cannot adequately handle the volume of plaintiffs’ complaints”. The Appeals Court pointed out that the plaintiffs had also “allege[d] that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the [New York City Department of Education] faced more than 10,000 open complaints, nearly 70% of which had blown past the legal deadline for resolution, forcing families to wait months or even years before receiving the special education services they need”.

Defendants “argue[d] that exhaustion was not futile because the New York City Department of Education had put into place an individualized and IEP-based “new program for provision of compensatory education” which “offers the exact relief that plaintiffs seek and allows families to obtain compensatory services outside of the administrative hearing process” The defendants argue that “plaintiffs’ claims are moot because the [New York City Department of Education’s] program offers plaintiffs the relief they seek”.

Uponreviewof the papers,the AppealsCourt saidthat the plaintiffsraisednumerousfactsrelevant to the ability of the “new program” to achieve the plaintiff’s relief as well as to address the largescale delay in the provision of compensatory services.

The Appeals Court determined that on the “sparse record” before it, and in the context of a motion to dismiss, it could not “conclude that New York City’s 2022-23 new program moots plaintiff’s claims or undermines the sufficiency of their futility allegations.

The Appeals Court concluded that the defendants could raise their arguments in the district court “with further development of the record” and that the plaintiffs could amend their complaint, if necessary, to address the defendants’ allegations that the “new program” is effective in addressing the need for compensatory services as a rejlt of the remote services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Court vacated the judgement of the district court and remanded the matter to it.

Eaton Community City Sch, Ohio State Educational Agency, Apr. 30, 2021 (121 LRP 20304)

Dispute: In light of COVID-19 did the district provide the student with a timely functional behavioral assessment and a timely behavioral intervention plan?

Conclusion: The state educational agency determined that the district did not provide the student with a timely functional behavioral assessment and a timely behavioral intervention plan.

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BasisoftheStateEducational Agency’sDecision: Federalregulationat34C.F.R. 300.530(f)(1) provides that in circumstances where the local educational agency, the parent, and relevant members of the IEP Team make a determination that relevant student conduct is a manifestation of the child’s disability, the IEP Team must either (i) conduct a functional behavioral assessment, unless the district had conducted a functional behavioral assessment before the relevant date and implement a behavioral intervention plan for the child or (ii) if a behavioral intervention plan already has been developed, review the behavioral intervention plan, and modify it as necessary, to address the behavior.

In this case, the parent requested an initial special education evaluation on February 25, 2020. The student was involved in a “disciplinary incident” on March 4, 2020. A manifestation review meeting was held in March 2020. As a result of this meeting, it was found that “the behavior leading to the disciplinary removal [was] a manifestation of the student’s disability”. At the time of the meeting the student had neither a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) nor a behavioral intervention plan (BIP). “The initial consent for evaluation was signed by the parent on March 9, 2020 with a due date for completion by May 8, 2020. “The [IEP Team] began the process of conducting an evaluation, including areas of behavior, in March of 2020…”. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, byorder of the Governor the district’s schools were closed byMarch 16, 2020. The “student began receiving services remotely on March 16, 2020 with his peers.” According to the state educational agency, “[f]ederal and state directives indicate that if classroom observation or face to face testing are required, evaluations should be delayed until schools reopen to allow for these required evaluation components”. On April 20, 2020, by prior written notice, the district proposed to extend the timeline for the initial evaluation “as quickly as possible once schools are reopened bythe State”. “Students were permitted to receive services in-person and inbuildings daily at the start of the 2020-2021 school year.” Parental consent for an FBA “was obtainedon October1, 2020”.The student’sevaluation,includingtwoclassroom observationswas completed in November 2020. The [s]tudent was determined eligible as a student with a disability on November 16, 2020. “The [d]istrict provided a copy of an FBA, with a meeting date of December 10, 2020. The student’s initial IEP was completed on December 15, 2020. “[O]ther than what was contained within the safety plan or the IEP”, the district did not submit a BIP to the state educational agency for review.

The state educational agency found that the district was in violation of 34 CFR 300.530[f][1]. In this regard, as indicated above, it concluded that “[t]he district did not obtain consent for the FBA until October of 2020 and the FBA was not completed until December of 2020. With respect to the BIP, the state educational agency pointed out that, as indicated above, the district “did not create a BIP but instead incorporated goals from the FBA in the student’s initial IEP.” The state educational agency concluded that “[w]hile the pandemic made the ability to conduct an FBA more difficult, the [d]istrict returned to in-person learning at the start of the 2020-2021 school year’. This being the case, the state educational agency concluded that “[t]he FBA should have been completed as soon as in-person learning resumed and a BIP should have been put into place prior to the December 2020 IEP. As a remedy, the state environmental agency agreed with the district that the student should receive 10 hours of compensatory education, that district staff should receive training, and that a BIP should be provided to the student.

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In re Student with a Disability, Maine State Educational Agency, Feb 12, 2021 (121 LRP 9943) Dispute: Did the district provide the student with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Conclusion: The state educational agency determined that the district did not provide the student with a FAPE in the LRE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basis of the State Educational Agency’s Decision: On March 15, 2020, the Governor of Maine proclaimed a state of civil emergency to protect public health in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Immediately thereafter, most schools in the state, including the student’s, suspended in-person instruction. On March 31, the Governor issued a “stay at home order” prohibiting K-12 schools from providing in-person classroom instruction through May 1, 2020. On April 7, the Maine Commissioner of Education recommended that districts extend their remote learning plans through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The student was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder with accompanying language impairment. Autism rating scales show the student fell within the “moderate to severe” range of concern.

At the time of the March 15, 2020, Governor’s proclamation, the student’s IEP provided that the student receive 3 X 30 minutes per week of speech and language services, 5 X 3 hours per week of behavioral health day treatment, assistive technology, and transportation, 2 X 45 minutes per week of occupational therapy (OT) services, and 1 X 30 minutes per month of OT consultation. At the time of the Governor’s March 15 announcement, the student attended a program within a district school.

“The student received no services between March 15, 2020 and April 15, 2020.” On or around April 14, the student began speech and language teletherapy. During this time, the student did not receive any OT services and no specially designed instruction. On or around May 11, the district began offering the student “live,” “remote,” “telehealth” instruction which was composed of 30 minutes per day of “group circle time” with an estimated 20 other children. During “circle time” there was no individualized instruction, nor any specially designed instruction towards IEP goals. “At some point in May 2020, the student received some OT teletherapy services” which the OT therapist explained were “largely ineffective due to the student’s difficulty maintaining attention on a screen for any length of time.” As a consequence, the therapist spent most of the time coaching the parent to provide “support and guidance”. The district began to provide the student with in-person OT services in Julyof 2020. By agreement on June 18, 2020, the student’s IEP was amended to include extended school year services.

As of October 2020, the student had not received any specially designed instruction since March of 2020 and had not been receiving district speech therapy since the COVID shutdown in March 2020. Regarding this, the student had “tried to access some [specially designed instruction] remotely during the March June shutdown but had difficultyparticipating” in that in the context of remote learning. Nor did the district enter into any “specific discussion” with the parents about

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what remote specially designed instruction might look like. And other than the large group zoom meetings, the student was never offered remote specially designed instruction.

With respect to the least restrictive environment (LRE), the parent requested that the student be provided with instruction with a staff to student ratio of less than 1:1. The student’s occupational therapist also provided information to the district that the student’s progress in reaching goals indicated a readiness for a lesser level of support. Further, a review of the level of services provided to the student before the school closure indicated that the program being provided to the student was not exclusively at a 1:1 ratio but sometimes was less than that. However, the distinct felt that a remote services environment was not conducive to an evaluation of an appropriate staff to student ratio for the student and that such decision should await the student’s return to in-person programming. The student andthe district continuedtodiscussissuesrelatingtothe student’s LRE from October 29, 2020 to December 1, 2020. On occasions the parents and the district discussed the possibilitythat the student would return to in-person district programs. At each such occasion the parents were advised that all programswere filled and maintained waitinglists. The reopening date of the program that the student had attended before the pandemic was pushed back a number of occasions. In September 2020, the parents were informed that there was no longer space for the student in that program.

The parents filed a complaint on December 14, 2020. At the time of the complaint the student had not been placed into a program and was not receiving specially designed instruction in any form. The student was receiving home-based occupational therapy services and speech and language services.

According to the state educational agency, OSEP guidance relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, provided that once a district begins to provide educational services to the general student population, the district “must make every effort to provide special education and related services in accordance with each student’s IEP and in a manner that ensures a free appropriate public education for all eligible students”. At the same time, the state educational agency advised that the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) have stated that “ensuring compliance with the IDEAshouldnot prevent anyschool from offeringeducational programsthroughdistance instruction” and that “it is important to emphasize that federal disability law allows for flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. The determination of how FAPE is to be provided may need to be different in this time of unprecedented natural emergency”. Further, the state educational agency cited to OSEP guidance that in such times, it is “not required to provide the exact service hours of the IEP but should develop plans that are appropriately designed to support student learning in an alternative context”. Cited OSEP guidance also provided “that in situations where special education is unavoidably delayed due to alternative instructional models during the COVID-19 pandemic or where specialized services cannot be adequately delivered in an alternative method, once schools resume normal operations, IEP teams must make an individualized determination as to whether compensatory services may be required”.

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Consistent withthis, the state educational agencypointed out that once the district beganproviding remote services to students it was required to provide a FAPE to the student. The state educational agency concluded that the “limited remote services” provided to the student “did not satisfy the requirements of the student’s IEP” and that “therefore [the district] was required to reconvene an IEP Team meeting because the student’s services dramatically changed the substance of special education instruction [to the student] outside of the IEP process”. Regarding “circle time,” the state educational agency pointed out “that this was not specially designed to meet IEP goals or needs” and that “the services provided were simply inaccessible to the [s]tudent”. Due to age, maturity, and to disabilities, the [s]tudent could not engage in a large group setting with more than 20 peers and an unfamiliar teacher on a computer screen”.

The state educational agency concluded that because the IEP was not able to be implemented, the district had “a responsibility to reconvene the IEP Team and identify alternative service options” to “meet the student’s needs during the COVID-10 pandemic” and that [the IEP] team could have considered other options, such as remote 1:1 specially designed instruction, specially designed instructional packets prepared specifically for the [s]tudent, or remote coaching services provided to the parents”. In this case “the IEP team meeting was never held and none of these options were considered”.

The state educational agency also concluded that since “no IEP meeting was held despite a fundamental change in the student’s services there was no opportunity for parent input or objection”.

The state educational agency also found that the district did not provide the student with a FAPE because the district failed to implement the student’s IEP in a “material” way. In this regard, the student was never provided FAPE during the “the end of the 2019-20 school year because “the [s]tudent was never offered specially designed instruction or given a generalized form of remote instruction that was accessible to [him]”. Rather, the remote instruction provided “did not address the student’s IEP goals and did not provide opportunities for the student to progress in light of [the student’s] unique circumstances”. Further, the state educational agency pointed out that the studentwaswithoutanyservicesduring2020’sextendedschool yearnotwithstandingthestudent’s eligibility for such services.

The State educational agency also found that the district was not educating the student in the LRE. It found that, notwithstanding the failure of the district to provide the student with a FAPE for nearly a full year, the student had “changed and developed immensely” “as a result of engagement with related service providers and as a result of developmental transition” “Additionally other members of the IEP Team including the parent, case manager and former teacher all submitted perspectives indicating that the student’s LRE likely required reexamination.” The state educational agency found that the fact that the district was “not currently providing the student with an educational environment while simultaneously insisting that the [s]tudent needed to be engaged in an in-school educational environment before LRE could be discussed and reconsidered by the IEP Team” was an transition “untenable position” The state educational agency was clear that“the IEPTeammust be permittedto collect data,perhapsthrougha re-evaluation,and consider the question of whether the student’s IEP reflects … the least restrictive environment”.

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The state educational agency required that the district engage in a “corrective action plan”. This plan included the reconvening of the student’s IEP Team “to determine a plan for delivering speciallydesigned instructionwhile the student remainsonthe wait list for variousspecial purpose private schools”. The plan for specially designed instruction was to be “in keeping with the [s]tudent’s current needs and must consider all options for the possible delivery of services including, but not limited to, receiving 1:1 instruction at a non-educational remote site” such as district offices, “receiving 1:1 synchronous remote instruction, and receiving 1:1 asynchronous remoteinstruction”. The IEPTeam wasrequired“toconsiderthe [s]tudent’slearningneeds” when adopting its plan and that if, during this time, the IEP Team anticipated “further delay” it would be required to determine “what additional compensatory services” were owed to the student.

Regarding the LRE, the state educational agencywas to “engage in a meaningful discussion about the [s]tudent’s least restrictive environment and, if the parents consent, take steps to re-evaluate the student.

The state educational agencydetermined that in thiscase an award of compensatoryeducation was appropriate. This included 270 hours of compensatory specially designed instruction, an additional 10 hours of compensatory occupational therapy and an additional 10 hours of compensatory speech and language services.

New Mexico Complaint Resolution Report # C2021-05 (Oct. 5, 2020) Dispute: Whether the district complied with its obligations under the IDEA during the COVID19-related school closure in the provision of special education and related services.

Conclusion: The administrative agency determined that the district did not.

Basis of the Administrative Agency’s Decision: The district’s schools were closed from March 16 to the end of the 2019-2020 school year. By executive order on March 26, 2020 the schools were required to provide remote learning for the balance of the 2019-20 school year. The 2020-21 school year began with all students receiving instruction virtually or through a hybrid format.

First, during the spring 2020, school closure beginning in March 2020, special education students unilaterally received a reduction in special education and related services in proportion to the amount of general education services for all students. That being the case, the proportionate reduction of special education and related services was based on the amount of special education and related services that students’ IEPs required. While IEP meetings were held, there was no indication that individualized determinations with respect to whether such a reduction in special education was made or that parents were provided with meaningful participation. While prior written notices were provided, there was nothing that indicated how the reduction of services ensured a FAPE. When the 2020-21 school year began, pre-COVID-19 services were provided to all students online or by hybrid methods. Students were “continually monitored” and such monitoring should have provided information that IEP teams should have reviewed to determine whether the spring 2020 reduction in educational services provided a FAPE or if compensatory education was needed. Second, while the district held IEP meetings prior to the implementation of the school closure-related reduction of services, decisions related to compensatory education were put off until students’ annual IEP meetings, which was a denial of FAPE. The agency

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concluded that since students were being “continually monitored” and that changes in IEPs were being made on an as needed basis, there was sufficient information available to make appropriate decisions regarding compensatory education. Third, the agency concluded that the proportionate reduction in services disregarded the individualized analysis required by the IDEA and did not meet the district’s obligation to provide FAPE. The agency found that the implementation of the reduction in services prevented parents from effective participation in the development of IEPs and that this also was a violation of FAPE. Further, while the district continually monitored the students and modified IEPs as needed, it failed to determine on an individual basis whether the reduction in services provided FAPE or indicated a need for additional services/supports. The district’s claim that it lacked sufficient data to provide compensatory education services, the agency found, raised the question of whether the students’ IEPs enabled each student to make progress. The agency also concluded that the district had an obligation to monitor students’ progress and modify IEPs as necessary and that such information should allow determinations regarding students’ need for compensatory services at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

In Re Student with a Disability Wisconsin State Agency – 9-13-20 – 77 IDELR 173

Dispute: Whether the district during the 2019-20 school year properly implemented the individualized education program of a student with a disability

Conclusion: The State agencyheld that the district failed to implement the student’s IEP and that the district should conduct an IEP meeting to determine the extent of additional services required as a result of this failure

Basis of the Agency’s Decision: On March 12, 2020, the district’s IEP team met to determine the student’sIEPand placement. Amongotherthings,the IEPteam determinedthatthestudent should receive homebound services, would meet with teachers once a week to go over weekly assignments, and that tests would be read out loud when the purpose of the test is not to assess the student’sreadingability. The student’s IEPwas tobe implementedonMarch13,2020. As a result of the COVID-19 health emergency, on March 18, 2020 the district began providing all students “distance learning via virtual instruction”. Relying on federal guidance, the state agency advised that “[s]chool districts must provide equal access to educational opportunities to students with disabilities if those opportunities are provided to the general student population during that time, including the provision of a [FAPE]. When a school has been closed according to a statewide order each student with a disability must be offered the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP to the greatest extent possible”.16

During the period March 18, 2020 to the end of the school year the district provided the student with general education instruction and specially designed instruction in accordance with his IEP until the end of the 2019-20 school year. However, the district did not arrange for the student to

16 The decision after complaint cited to Department of Education fact sheets dated March and March 21. See Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak, United States Department of Education, (March 2020); Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools while Serving Children with Disabilities, United States Department of Education (March 21, 2020).

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meet virtually with a teacher each week to discuss assignments as provided for in the IEP. Nor did the district have the student’s tests readaloud as set forth in the IEP. The state agencyheld that the district should have “arranged to implement the student’s IEP to the greatest extent possible” and that to do both was reasonable.

The state agency advised the district that it “must conduct an IEP meeting with the parents to determine the extent of the additional services required for the failure to implement the student’s IEP”.

In re Metropolitan Sch. Dist. of Pike Township, State of Indiana Education Agency, Feb. 26, 2021 (121 LRP 9939)

Dispute: Was the district required to provide compensatoryeducation services whenthe student’s IEP was not fully implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Conclusion: The district was required to provide compensatory education services when the student’s IEP was not fully implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basis of the state agency’s decision: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor of Indiana issued executive orders on March 19, and April 2, 2020 closing all public schools in the state and requiring them to provide instruction via remote learning for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. By letter dated April 13, 2020, the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township (the district) notified parents that students with IEPs would have their plans implemented “to the best of the (IEP Team’s) ability” and that “how” the plans would be implemented “would be proportionate to the remote learning schedule and setting”. Prior to the pandemic, in accordance with the student’s IEP, the student’s program had included seven classes during the day. These classes included “small group intensive readingand writinginstruction in an English language arts lab classroom once a day for 45 minutes,” “small group math instruction in a math lab classroom once a day for 45 minutes”, “and “classroom assignment and homework assistance in a resource classroom once a day for 45 minutes”.

During the district’s remote learning days and after the district’s April 13, 2020 letter, live virtual instruction “was not routinely conducted’. Additionally, the student did not receive small group instructional services including “classroom assignment and homework assistance” once a day for 45 minutes from a resource room teacher. Further, the student did not receive his IEP-required “small group intensive reading and writing instruction in the English language arts lab classroom’, or his ‘small group math instruction in the math lab classroom’.

The state administrative agency found that the district “did not implement the student’s IEP as written, nordid itconvene the student’s(IEPTeammeeting)torevieworrevise the student’sIEP”. Consequently, the state administrative agency concluded that the district’s IEP Team would need to consider whether the student should be provided with compensatory education services. In making this decision, the district was required to consider the “actual amount of service hours missed and the level of specialized instruction that would have been provided”, “the student’s capacity to receive education hours, considering the age of the student, the severity of the disability,the cognitive and/orattentionalability,the physical/mental staminato receive additional

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instruction outside of the school day, and other mitigating factors”, and the extent to which there had been “a negative impact on the student’s progress.

IMPLEMENTATION OF IEP

Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-152 (Jan. 13. 2023) Dispute: Whether the IEP should have addressed how remote instruction would have been provided.

Conclusion: The SRO agreed with the IHO that the IEP should have addressed how remote instruction would have been provided.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In thiscase, it is“uncontestedthatthe student needed a fulltime 1:1`paraprofessional due tohealth and safety concerns because the student frequently had seizures during the school day.” The paraprofessional would also address the student’s “significant medical concerns”. Regarding this, “[t]he IEPindicatedthat theparaprofessional wouldmonitoranddocument the student’sseizures.” and the paraprofessional would “provide the student with 1:1 health support” to address the student’s significant medical concerns.

At the same time, during the 2020-21 school year, the district’s testimony was that because of the Covid Pandemic “only remote instruction was being provided” and in fact the CSE meeting was also held remotely. Notwithstanding the fact that the student’s instruction would be remotely, the IHO pointed out that the student’s IEP “failed to address remote instruction”. Based on this, the IHO held that the district failed to provide the student with a FAPE.

Regarding the student’s need for full time 1:1 paraprofessional assistance, the SRO pointed out that “the principle testified, generally, that all our teachers and our classes that had students that needed a paraprofessional, they were able to assist the students remotely”. At the same time, the SRO indicated that the principal “did not provide a specific explanation as to how this service could have been provided for this student remotelyduring the 2020-21 school year. The SRO also said that the IEP for this student “should have included an explanation as to how the May 2020 IEP recommendation for 1:1 support to address the student’s health and seizure disorder would have been implemented”. The SRO concluded that the fact that this explanation was not provided as a part of the IEP “[left’] a gap as to how the student’s health and safety needs would have been met by the district during the 2020-21 school year”.

This being the case, the SRO found that “the district has not presented a sufficient argument to depart from the IHO’s determination that the district failed to provide the student with a FAPE for the 2020-21 school year”.

M.P. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 21 Civ.7439 (LGS), 2022 WL 4109774 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 8, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the parent’s unilateral placement was appropriate.

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Conclusion: The Court reversed the SRO and concluded that the parent’s unilateral placement was appropriate to the extent that the district should pay 3/8 of the student’s tuition costs.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

During the 2020-21 school year, the student was classified as a student with Autism.

The student received remote instruction due to COVID-19 from March 23, 2020 to September 4, 2021 when the Governor authorized schools to reopen for in-person instruction. During the 202021 school year the student continued to receive remote instruction upon the election of the parents, who were concerned about the safety of the student and with the consent and cooperation of the unilateral placement.

Duringthe period March 16, 2020 through the end of August 2020, the student received two hours a day of remote instruction including speech-language, occupational therapy, and ABA instead of an eight-hour school day. During the balance of the 2020-21 school year, the student received three hours of remote instruction instead of eight hours a day of in-person instruction. She was given videos and assignments to do at home for the balance of the school day.

The IHO found that the parents’ unilateral placement “had provided [the student] with educational instruction specially designed to meet her unique needs and supported by such services as were, and are, necessaryto permit the student to benefit from instruction”. The IHO, however, approved a reduced amount of tuition reimbursement based on a pro rata amount of remote instruction. More specificallythe IHO found that during the period of time that the student received two hours of at-home remote services, the student would receive 2/8 of the school’s cost of tuition. During the time that the student received three hours of at home, remote instruction the IHO found that the student should receive 3/8 of the tuition costs of the private placement.

The SRO reversed the IHO’s determinations. The SRO denied any tuition award on the basis that the parents “had failed to meet their burden of showing that [the private school] had addressed the student’s special education needs”. The SRO questioned the fact that the parents’ elected to continue remote instruction notwithstanding that the Governor had reopened schools as of September 4, 2020,and concluded that “[the parents] were required todemonstrate at the impartial hearing that the instruction and related services that were delivered remotely to the student constituted specialized instructionthataddressed the student’sunique needs”. Withrespect tothis, the SRO pointed to the fact that private school staff testified that the student “needed full adult support … throughout the day, direct instruction … and continuous full day 1:1 instruction …”. Needing this, the SRO found that “it was difficult to envision, without further evidence, how the remote program was appropriate for the student”. As indicated, while “[the private school] provided the student with assignments and videos for the remainder of the school day, the SRO “found the record devoid of any testimonial or documentary evidence concerning the content of the assignments or videos, how the student accessed these materials or whether the student was assessed with respect to the completion ofanyassignment or engagement with videos”. “The SRO acknowledged that [the student] met 33 short-term objectives on [the school’s] IEP, that some skills continued to be a challenge” but that the student “was nevertheless making real progress” including those in the ADL domain. The SRO also found that the hearing record did not contain

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information regarding how the student’s remote instruction was modified from her direct, in person-instruction.

Upon review, the Court reversed the SRO. It found that for a number of reasons, the parents were “entitled to partial reimbursement” of tuition. Importantly, the Court’s decision makes reference to a “June 2021 Progress Report”17. The Court states that because the SRO did not have access to this report showing the student’s substantial progress during the period, that the SRO’s decision should be given “less deference” “and the SRO’s decision was “inadequately reasoned”.

Citingto the proposition that progress is persuasive but not dispositive, the Court again referenced the June 2021 Progress Report, which the SRO did not have and which was not considered, and said that this Progress Report showed “remarkable progress” includingprogress in some areas that was greater than the year before and also in areas that the SRO had “highlighted as challengingfor [the student]”. The Court summarized the impact of this progress – which was not before the SRO as supporting “a finding that [the school’s] remote program was an appropriate placement”.

The Court found that “[i]n part because the SRO did not consider the June 2021 Progress Report, the SRO’sdecisionwasnot supportedbya preponderance ofthe evidence and didnotfullyaddress the totality of circumstances in determining whether [the private school’s] remote program was reasonably calculated to enable [the student] to receive educational benefits”. With respect to the SRO’s claim that it was “difficult to envision, without further evidence, how the remote program was appropriate for the student, the Court said that the “appropriateness of [the student’s] remote learning should not be based on what [the student] would have received in [the school’s] in-person program for eight hours a day as the test is whether placement is appropriate not that it is perfect”. The Court found that the remote program “addressed [the student’s] needs, albeit to a limited extent”. The Court said that the “tailored one-to one instruction, with [the parent’s] supervision during the three hours of remote sessions … entitled [the parents] to partial reimbursement in the form of 3/8 of the daily tuition rate as the IHO had found.

On a different note, and also relating to whether the SRO “adequately consider[ed] the totality of the circumstances in determining whether [the private school] reasonably served [the student’s] individualized needs”, the Court concluded that the SRO did not. More specifically, the Court held that the SRO did not “consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for the 2020-21 school year “other than to note that [the student] had continued remote learning at the parents’ election”. This put “undue weight”, the Court said, “on the fact that the remote learning was voluntary and that [the student] would have received more live instruction if she had attended school in person. With respect to the parents’ decision, the Court concluded that they had good COVID-19 related reasons to elect to continue remote learning. With further respect to whether the SRO considered the totality of the circumstances, the Court said that this included factors “of which the SRO was

17 Although the June 2021, Progress Report is critically important to the outcome of the Court’s decision, inexplicably the decision provides no explanation as to how the Progress Report came before the Court. Re this, it is possible that the parents requested that the Court hear additional evidence. See 1415(i)(2)(C)(ii); 34 CFR 300.516(c)(2)

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unaware or gave no weight the June 21, 2021 Progress Report and the serious risks posed by the global pandemic to [the student] and her family”.

Finally, the Court concluded that the student’s “three hours of remote instruction were reasonably calculated to enable [the student] to receive educational benefits”. The Court disagreed with the SRO’s conclusion “that the hearing record lacked information concerning how the one-to-one instruction and related services were modified for remote,as opposed to in-person delivery”. First, the Court held that there was evidence in the recordabout how the program was modified. Second, the student “was able to engage in certain physical and interactive activities through the remote learning process and even make progress in those activities”. Third, the fact that certain activities may not have been feasible during remote learning “does not weigh heavily towards finding that the remote learning[the student] was engaged in duringthe live sessions was not appropriate. The Court cited to the fact that group activities at schools functioning in an in person environment also had physical activities limited during the COVID-19 pandemic and “that the parent need not show that a private placement provides every special service necessary to maximize the child’s potential”.

In re Student with a Disability, Maine State Educational Agency, Feb 12, 2021 (121 LRP 9943)

Dispute: Did the district provide the student with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Conclusion: The state educational agency determined that the district did not provide the student with a FAPE in the LRE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basis of the State Educational Agency’s Decision: On March 15, 2020, the Governor of Maine proclaimed a state of civil emergency to protect public health in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Immediately thereafter, most schools in the state, including the student’s, suspended in-person instruction. On March 31, the Governor issued a “stay at home order” prohibiting K-12 schools from providing in-person classroom instruction through May 1, 2020. On April 7, the Maine Commissioner of Education recommended that districts extend their remote learning plans through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The student was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder with accompanying language impairment. Autism rating scales show the student fell within the “moderate to severe” range of concern.

At the time of the March 15, 2020, Governor’s proclamation, the student’s IEP provided that the student receive 3 X 30 minutes per week of speech and language services, 5 X 3 hours per week of behavioral health day treatment, assistive technology, and transportation, 2 X 45 minutes per week of occupational therapy (OT) services, and 1 X 30 minutes per month of OT consultation. At the time of the Governor’s March 15 announcement, the student attended a program within a district school.

“The student received no services between March 15, 2020 and April 15, 2020.” On or around April 14, the student began speech and language teletherapy. During this time, the student did not

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receive any OT services and no specially designed instruction. On or around May 11, the district began offering the student “live,” “remote,” “telehealth” instruction which was composed of 30 minutes per day of “group circle time” with an estimated 20 other children. During “circle time” there was no individualized instruction, nor any specially designed instruction towards IEP goals. “At some point in May 2020, the student received some OT teletherapy services” which the OT therapist explained were “largely ineffective due to the student’s difficulty maintaining attention on a screen for any length of time.” As a consequence, the therapist spent most of the time coaching the parent to provide “support and guidance”. The district began to provide the student with in-person OT services in Julyof 2020. By agreement on June 18, 2020, the student’s IEP was amended to include extended school year services.

As of October 2020, the student had not received any specially designed instruction since March of 2020 and had not been receiving district speech therapy since the COVID shutdown in March 2020. Regarding this, the student had “tried to access some [specially designed instruction] remotely during the March June shutdown but had difficultyparticipating” in that in the context of remote learning. Nor did the district enter into any “specific discussion” with the parents about what remote specially designed instruction might look like. And other than the large group zoom meetings, the student was never offered remote specially designed instruction.

With respect to the least restrictive environment (LRE), the parent requested that the student be provided with instruction with a staff to student ratio of less than 1:1. The student’s occupational therapist also provided information to the district that the student’s progress in reaching goals indicated a readiness for a lesser level of support. Further, a review of the level of services provided to the student before the school closure indicated that the program being provided to the student was not exclusively at a 1:1 ratio but sometimes was less than that. However, the distinct felt that a remote services environment was not conducive to an evaluation of an appropriate staff to student ratio for the student and that such decision should await the student’s return to in-person programming. The student andthe district continuedtodiscussissuesrelatingtothe student’s LRE from October 29, 2020 to December 1, 2020. On occasions the parents and the district discussed the possibilitythat the student would return to in-person district programs. At each such occasion the parents were advised that all programswere filled and maintained waitinglists. The reopening date of the program that the student had attended before the pandemic was pushed back a number of occasions. In September 2020, the parents were informed that there was no longer space for the student in that program.

The parents filed a complaint on December 14, 2020. At the time of the complaint the student had not been placed into a program and was not receiving specially designed instruction in any form. The student was receiving home-based occupational therapy services and speech and language services.

According to the state educational agency, OSEP guidance relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, provided that once a district begins to provide educational services to the general student population, the district “must make every effort to provide special education and related services in accordance with each student’s IEP and in a manner that ensures a free appropriate public education for all eligible students”. At the same time, the state educational agency advised that

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the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) have stated that “ensuring compliance with the IDEAshouldnot prevent anyschool from offeringeducational programsthroughdistance instruction” and that “it is important to emphasize that federal disability law allows for flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. The determination of how FAPE is to be provided may need to be different in this time of unprecedented natural emergency”. Further, the state educational agency cited to OSEP guidance that in such times, it is “not required to provide the exact service hours of the IEP but should develop plans that are appropriately designed to support student learning in an alternative context”. Cited OSEP guidance also provided “that in situations where special education is unavoidably delayed due to alternative instructional models during the COVID-19 pandemic or where specialized services cannot be adequately delivered in an alternative method, once schools resume normal operations, IEP teams must make an individualized determination as to whether compensatory services may be required”.

Consistent withthis, the state educational agencypointed out that once the district beganproviding remote services to students it was required to provide a FAPE to the student. The state educational agency concluded that the “limited remote services” provided to the student “did not satisfy the requirements of the student’s IEP” and that “therefore [the district] was required to reconvene an IEP Team meeting because the student’s services dramatically changed the substance of special education instruction [to the student] outside of the IEP process”. Regarding “circle time,” the state educational agency pointed out “that this was not specially designed to meet IEP goals or needs” and that “the services provided were simply inaccessible to the [s]tudent. Due to age, maturity, and to disabilities, the [s]tudent could not engage in a large group setting with more than 20 peers and an unfamiliar teacher on a computer screen”.

The state educational agency concluded that because the IEP was not able to be implemented, the district had “a responsibility to reconvene the IEP Team and identify alternative service options” to “meet the student’s needs during the COVID-10 pandemic” and that [the IEP] team could have considered other options, such as remote 1:1 specially designed instruction, specially designed instructional packets prepared specifically for the [s]tudent, or remote coaching services provided to the parents”. In this case “the IEP team meeting was never held and none of these options were considered”.

The state educational agency also concluded that since “no IEP meeting was held despite a fundamental change in the student’s services there was no opportunity for parent input or objection”.

The state educational agency also found that the district did not provide the student with a FAPE because the district failed to implement the student’s IEP in a “material” way. In this regard, the student was never provided FAPE during the “the end of the 2019-20 school year because “the [s]tudent was never offered specially designed instruction or given a generalized form of remote instruction that was accessible to [him]”. Rather, the remote instruction provided “did not address the student’s IEP goals and did not provide opportunities for the student to progress in light of [the student’s] unique circumstances”. Further, the state educational agency pointed out that the

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studentwaswithoutanyservicesduring2020’sextendedschool yearnotwithstandingthestudent’s eligibility for such services.

The State educational agency also found that the district was not educatingthe student in the LRE. It found that, notwithstanding the failure of the district to provide the student with a FAPE for nearly a full year, the student had “changed and developed immensely” “as a result of engagement with related service providers and as a result of developmental transition” “Additionally other members of the IEP Team including the parent, case manager and former teacher all submitted perspectives indicating that the student’s LRE likely required reexamination.” The state educational agency found that the fact that the district was “not currently providing the student with an educational environment while simultaneously insisting that the [s]tudent needed to be engaged in an in-school educational environment before LRE could be discussed andreconsidered by the IEP Team” was an transition “untenable position” The state educational agency was clear that“the IEPTeammust be permittedto collect data,perhapsthrougha re-evaluation,and consider the question of whether the student’s IEP reflects … the least restrictive environment”.

The state educational agency required that the district engage in a “corrective action plan”. This plan included the reconvening of the student’s IEP Team “to determine a plan for delivering speciallydesigned instructionwhile the student remainson the wait list for variousspecial purpose private schools”. The plan for specially designed instruction was to be “in keeping with the [s]tudent’s current needs and must consider all options for the possible delivery of services including, but not limited to, receiving 1:1 instruction at a non-educational remote site” such as district offices, “receiving 1:1 synchronous remote instruction, and receiving 1:1 asynchronous remoteinstruction”. The IEPTeam wasrequired“to considerthe [s]tudent’slearningneeds” when adopting its plan and that if, during this time, the IEP Team anticipated “further delay” it would be required to determine “what additional compensatory services” were owed to the student.

Regarding the LRE, the state educational agencywas to “engage in a meaningful discussion about the [s]tudent’s least restrictive environment and, if the parents consent, take steps to re-evaluate the student.

The state educational agencydetermined that inthiscase an award of compensatoryeducation was appropriate. This included 270 hours of compensatory specially designed instruction, an additional 10 hours of compensatory occupational therapy and an additional 10 hours of compensatory speech and language services.

In Re Eastern Howard Sch. Corp. State of Indiana Education Agency, Feb. 26. 2021 (121 LRP 9941)

Dispute: Did the District properly implement the student’s IEP during COVID-19?

Conclusion: The State Agency concluded that during COVID-19 the district did not implement the IEP as written and that the IEP Team should have met to revise the IEP.

Basis of the Administrative Agency’s Decision: Prior to COVID-19, the student’s IEP included “guided study” in a resource room once a day, specified accommodations, and placement in general education classes in English, reading, physical education, social studies, math and science.

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In anticipation of the change in instructiondue to COVID, the student’s “teacher of record” (TOR) advised the student’s general education teachers that she would be modifying packets for the student’s eLearning assignments and that the student would work on the modified assignments rather than work assigned by the regular education teachers. Further, the TOR would grade and report the student’s marks to the general education teachers based on the modified assignments. Additionally, except for reading, the student would not be required to participate in the general education classes. Subsequent to the cessation of in-person learning, the TOR notified the student’s general education teachers that the student would continue to have alternative assignments and that the student’s completion of progress monitoring activities with the TOR would be countedtowardshisparticipationinthe general education classesaswell as inthe guided study class. Additionally, the guided study class would be an hour a week and not daily. Throughout Spring 2020, the student’s TOR frequently sent e-mails to check in, offered to help with assignments, and reminded the student to submit assignments on line. The student was welcome but not required to join zoom meetings for his general education classes and he was not required to do the assigned work in those classes. He was to complete the assignments provided bythe TOR, which focused on his goals. The TOR also provided log-in information and a tutorial video for assigned activities by subject area. The TOR offered additional zoom sessions to review general education materials and to progress monitor, outside of the otherwise scheduled weekly guided study period. Among other things, the TOR also emailed the student if he missed a period and reminded him to stay on top of the assignments that she provided so that the student did not fall behind. The IEP Team did not meet to address these changes. Nor did the parents and the school amend the IEP without an IEP Team meeting. The school resumed in-person learning at the start of the 2020-21 school year and continued except for days that the student was under quarantine. Consistent with his existing IEP, the student received guided study once per day and fully participated in his general education classes. He received assignments as a part of the regular education curriculum rather than different assignments from his TOR. When quarantined, he participated in electronic learning as did the other general education students. Upon review, the state agency concluded that the student’s IEP was not implemented during the spring 2020 semester but wasduringthefall 2020semester.Thestate agencydeterminedthat the school district should consider the provision of compensatory services to put the student in the same place as he would otherwise have been in.

New Mexico Complaint Resolution Report # C2021-05 (Oct. 5, 2020)

Dispute: Whether the district complied with its obligations under the IDEA during the COVID19-related school closure in the provision of special education and related services.

Conclusion: The administrative agency determined that the district did not.

Basis of the Administrative Agency’s Decision: The district’s schools were closed from March 16 to the end of the 2019-2020 school year. By executive order on March 26, 2020 the schools were required to provide remote learning for the balance of the 2019-20 school year. The 2020-21 school year began with all students receiving instruction virtually or through a hybrid format.

First, during the spring 2020, school closure beginning in March 2020, special education students unilaterally received a reduction in special education and related services in proportion to the

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amount of general education services for all students. That being the case, the proportionate reduction of special education and related services was based on the amount of special education and related services that students’ IEPs required. While IEP meetings were held, there was no indication that individualized determinations with respect to whether such a reduction in special education was made or that parents were provided with meaningful participation. While prior written notices were provided, there was nothing that indicated how the reduction of services ensured a FAPE. When the 2020-21 school year began, pre-COVID-19 services were provided to all students online or by hybrid methods. Students were “continually monitored” and such monitoring should have provided information that IEP teams should have reviewed to determine whether the spring 2020 reduction in educational services provided a FAPE or if compensatory education was needed. Second, while the district held IEP meetings prior to the implementation of the school closure-related reduction of services, decisions related to compensatory education were put off until students’ annual IEP meetings, which was a denial of FAPE. The agency concluded that since students were being “continually monitored” and that changes in IEPs were being made on an as needed basis, there was sufficient information available to make appropriate decisions regarding compensatory education. Third, the agency concluded that the proportionate reduction in services disregarded the individualized analysis required by the IDEA and did not meet the district’s obligation to provide FAPE. The agency found that the implementation of the reduction in services prevented parents from effective participation in the development of IEPs and that this also was a violation of FAPE. Further, while the district continually monitored the students and modified IEPs as needed, it failed to determine on an individual basis whether the reduction in services provided FAPE or indicated a need for additional services/supports. The district’s claim that it lacked sufficient data to provide compensatory education services, the agency found, raised the question of whether the students’ IEPs enabled each student to make progress. The agency also concluded that the district had an obligation to monitor students’ progress and modify IEPs as necessary and that such information should allow determinations regarding students’ need for compensatory services at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

In Re Student with a Disability – District of Columbia State Agency – 9-142020

Dispute: Parent sets forth that the student was denied a FAPE and should be provided with compensatoryeducation because, among other things, behavioral support services (BSS) were not provided “as needed and agreed upon” and a BIP was not provided despite team agreement.

Conclusion: The administrative officer concluded, among other things, that the student should have received behavioral support services and a BIP sooner than they were provided and determined that a program of compensatory education was appropriate.

Basis of the Administrative Officer’s Decision: The district suspended in-person learning in mid-March 2020. The administrative officer concluded that the student was “very capable with propersupports”andwasmakingoverall progressbefore in-personlearningwassuspended. After the March suspension of school services, the student was provided with online services. “The student did not complete many assignments with distance learning at the end of 2019/20.”

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The administrative officer concluded that at the April 24, 2020 team meeting, the school psychologist agreed that a BIP should be provided and the social worker was tasked to do that. A BIP was provided following the April 29, 2020 IEP meeting. However, the BIP “was not finalized or implemented until after [June 9, 2020]”. The administrative officer found that “the student needed a BIP to be added before the end of the 2019-2020 school year and that “[t]his might well have assisted [the student] with distance learning as [the student] had an extremely difficult time staying on task and with self-initiation and was unable to complete many assignments with distance learning at the end of 2019/20”.

Regarding the provision of BSS, the administrative officer found that at the time of the April 29, 2020 IEP team meeting, the IEP team agreed that the student needed behavioral support and that there was enough information at that meeting to add BSS to the student’s IEP. However, BSS services were not added until the June 12, 2020 IEP. The administrative officer concluded that this delay was “an important missed opportunity to support [the student] in distance learning, which might have been pivotal as the student did not complete many assignments with distance learning at the end of 2019-/20”.

The administrative officer concluded “that taken together the delay in providing BSS and a BIP to [the student] are a denial of FAPE by not providing the support that [the student] needed when 2019-20 shifted to distance learning, causing educational harm” and therefore that the student’s April 29, 2020 IEP was not reasonably calculated to enable the student to make appropriate progress.

The administrative officer concluded that the student should receive compensatory education in the form of 150 hours of independent tutoring and 20 hours of counseling in the school setting.

In Re Student with a Disability Wisconsin State Agency – 9-13-20 – 77 IDELR 173

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Dispute: Whether the district during the 2019-20 school year properly implemented the individualized education program of a student with a disability

Conclusion: The State agencyheld that the district failed to implement the student’s IEP and that the district should conduct an IEP meeting to determine the extent of additional services required as a result of this failure

Basis of the Agency’s Decision: On March 12, 2020, the district’s IEP team met to determine the student’sIEPand placement. Amongotherthings,the IEPteam determinedthatthestudent should receive homebound services, would meet with teachers once a week to go over weekly assignments, and that tests would be read out loud when the purpose of the test is not to assess the student’sreadingability. The student’s IEPwas tobe implementedonMarch 13,2020. As a result of the COVID-19 health emergency, on March 18, 2020 the district began providing all students

18 The administrative officer also found that the student did not have appropriate academic goals for the first two terms of the 2019-20 school year and that this was a denial of FAPE for which the student should receive compensatory education. The administrative officer did not break out how much of the ordered 150 hours of tutoring and 20 hours of counseling was the result of this and how much of the ordered tutoring and counseling was the result of the district’s failure to provide the student with a timely BSS program and a timely BIP.

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“distance learning via virtual instruction”. Relying on federal guidance, the state agency advised that “[s]chool districts must provide equal access to educational opportunities to students with disabilities if those opportunities are provided to the general student population during that time, including the provision of a [FAPE]. When a school has been closed according to a statewide order each student with a disability must be offered the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP to the greatest extent possible”.19

During the period March 18, 2020 to the end of the school year the district provided the student with general education instruction and specially designed instruction in accordance with his IEP until the end of the 2019-20 school year. However, the district did not arrange for the student to meet virtually with a teacher each week to discuss assignments as provided for in the IEP. Nor did the district have the student’s tests readaloud as set forth in the IEP. The state agencyheld that the district should have “arranged to implement the student’s IEP to the greatest extent possible” and that to do both was reasonable.

The state agency advised the district that it “must conduct an IEP meeting with the parents to determine the extent of the additional services required for the failure to implement the student’s IEP”.

In Re Long Beach Unified School District /California State Agency/10-12-20; 120 LRP 33840

Dispute: Whether, as a result of a violation of an IEP, the student should be provided with compensatory education

Conclusion: The Administrative Officer concluded that the district denied the student a FAPE including for failure to materially implement an IEP, and awarded compensatory education.

Basis of the Administrative Officer’s Decision (see pp. 20, 23-25; 47-48): The student was eligible for special education as a student with an intellectual disability. The October 19, 2019 IEP provided that the student would receive, among other things, 55 per cent of time in special education direct teaching services and 45 per cent of time in regular education services, and individual speech and language services five times a month for 25minutes per session. According to this IEP, the student would receive five hours a day of specialized academic instruction.

The administrative officer concluded that the district denied the student a FAPE by virtue of the fact that because of the COVID-19 pandemic and contrary to the student’s October 2019 IEP, it did not provide the student with any instruction between March 16, 2000 and April 9, 2020.20 The administrative officer also concluded that because of the pandemic, the district had failed to materially implement that IEP when, during the period April 23,2020 through April 28, 2020, it

19 The decision after complaint cited to Department of Education fact sheets dated March and March 21. See Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak, United States Department of Education, (March 2020); Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools while Serving Children with Disabilities, United States Department of Education (March 21, 2020).

20 Note that apparently the district did not provide any instruction to any student during the period of time March 16March 22, 2020.

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provided the student with only80 per centoftheinstructionthatthedistrictwasrequiredtoprovide under the October 2019 IEP.

In other parts of the decision, the administrative officer found, amongother things, that the district had also failed to offer appropriate goals and speech and language services, had failed to consider behavior interventions, had failed to assess the student with respect to behavior, occupational therapy, assistive technology and had failed to offer behavioral services.

As relief, among other things, and to compensate for all of the district’s FAPE violations, the administrative officer found that the student should be provided with 45 hours of after-school speech therapyservices provided by a non-public agency, and also should fund Lindamood-Bell’s “intensive and visualizing program” for four hours per day up to a total of 10 weeks, and that program’s related assessments.

In Re Student with a Disability North Dakota State Agency 11-10-20;120

LRP 36828

Dispute: Whether the district deprived the student of a FAPE when it failed to completely implement an Individualized Contingency Learning Plan (ILP) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conclusion: The IHO concluded that the district’s failure to implement the accommodations in the student’s Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) was minor, did not constitute a material failure to implement the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and therefore did not denythe student a FAPE.

Basis of the Administrative Agency’s Decision: Because of COVID-19, the student’s school opened with a hybrid schedule of 2 days of face-to-face instruction and 3 days of virtual instruction. The district developed an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) for the student with online services to address school interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan contained accommodationsinadditiontothat onthestudent’sIEPincluding“classroombased learning” to be sent home during the student’s in-home instruction and recording classroom teaching. On the first day of school, the school did not provide copies of the virtual classroom lessonsasspecifiedintheILP. Consequently,theschoolandparentarrangedforthevirtuallessons to be provided, the district offered to deliver the slides, but the parent picked the documents up on the same day. Duringthe district’s second day, it deliveredcopies of the virtual classroom lessons to the wrong house and a neighbor delivered that to the parent the following day. The district also failedto provide the student witha copyofthe classroom teachingrecording. The districtcontends that this was “inadvertent”. As a result, the district implemented a multi-stepped and detailed plan to address the parent’s concerns. Among other things, the ILP was amended to remove the accommodation related to classroom instruction. Additionally, the student began receiving an additional 1 and ½ hours of instruction at school “to address the [ ] frustrat[ion] with any schoolwork expectation in the home setting”.

Among other things, the administrative judge found that there was no evidence that “the student failed to make progress due to the school’s belated provision of copies of the virtual classroom lessons” and the student’s “general education assessments show[ed] steady growth”.

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The administrative judge noted that “(a) failure to implement accommodations required by a student’s IEP may result in a denial of FAPE but a minor failure to provide the services required by an IEP does not constitute a material failure to implement the IEP” denying FAPE.

The administrative judge concluded that ”while it does appear that the school failed to properly implement the [ILP], the school’s failure to provide timely copies of the virtual lessons, on a few occasions during the first week of school during the COVID-19 pandemic, when everyone [was] under pressure from challenges posed by a new COVID-19 related hybrid schedule, [did] not constitute a material failure to implement the [ ] IEP” and so was not a substantive violation of the IDEA, and thus did not deny the student a FAPE.

In re Mahwah Twp. Pub. Sch. Dist. (State of New Jersey Education Agency, May 4, 2021 (78 IDELR 236) Dispute: Whether the district could satisfy its obligations by offering to provide the student with a program of full time virtual learning in circumstances where the existing IEP required that the student receive nursing services in school four days a week notwithstanding that the agency that had provided the district with nursing services for the student was unable to provide the student with such services and, at the time ofthe hearing, the district had not been able to find replacement services.

Conclusion: The district could not satisfy its obligations by offering to provide the student with a program of full-time virtual learning in circumstances where the existing IEP required that the student receive nursing services in school four days a week notwithstanding that the agency that had provided the district with nursing services for the student was unable to provide the student with such services and, at the time of the hearing the district had not been able to find replacement services.

Basis of the State Educational Agency’s Decision: The parent requested emergency relief; one basis upon which was “a break in the delivery of services”. In order to obtain such emergency relief, state law provided that the Judge must determine that the petitioner suffers “irreparable harm,” that the legal right at issue be “settled”; that the petitioner has a “likelihood of success on the merits”; and that the “equities/interests” balance in favor of the petitioner.

In this case, the student’s IEP provided “for a one-to-one nurse to accompany the [student] while at school and on the school bus”. Prior to February 17, 2021, as were the other students at the school, the student had been attending school in-person four days a week and one day a week virtually. At that time, the nursing agency notified the parent and the district that the agencynurse who was providing services to the student was no longer willing to provide such services. The district attempted to find the student replacement nursing services but to the date of the hearing had not been able to do so. Therefore, the district asked the parent to allow the student to attend school virtually full time, as virtual instruction could be provided to the student five days a week while the district searched for a replacement nurse. The district asserts that under such circumstances, the student was not “denied any services because [the student] could access her classes and other services virtually”. The parent “asserts that [the student’s] medical conditions and behavior require the assistance of a one-to-one nurse” when the student is at school and that the “district’s failure to provide a nurse is preventing the student from attending school and

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receiving the services that she is entitled to in her IEP”. The parent also asserted that the student’s needs prevented her from participating effectively in virtual sessions.

The state educational agency(SEA) determined that there was “a break inthe deliveryof [nursing] services” and that “irreparable harm [would] result if the nursing services provided for in [the student’s] IEP are not restored”. According to the SEA, there was no “dispute” that he student’s IEP provided the student with nursing services at school. That being the case, the SEA concluded that if can only be “presumed” that this was a service that the student requires at this time. And that since the student was not receiving the services that the IEP Team had “evidentlydetermined” that the student needed “in order to attend school in-person and because [the student] has been attending school in-person four days per week and can only do so with the nurse”. The SEA also found that the district’s failure to provide nursing services agreed to bythe IEP Team and set forth in the student’s IEP constituted a “well settled” “legal right” and that because of this the parent was likely to prevail on the merits. With respect to the equities/interests of the test, the SEA concluded that the harm to the student was greater than the harm to the district as the student “would not have the benefit” of the IEP-required nursing services “should [the student] continue to attend school in-person”, and that the student “would also suffer greater harm should she not attend in-person instruction/services due to the absence of nursing services”.

The SEA concluded that the student “should continue to receive nursing services in accordance with the IEP currently in effect and that the district should continue to make all reasonable efforts to immediately secure [the relevant] nursing services for [the student]”.

In re Metropolitan Sch. Dist. of Pike Township, State of Indiana Education Agency, Feb. 26, 2021 (121 LRP 9939)

Dispute: Did the district properly implement the student’s IEP during COVID-19?

Conclusion: The district did not properly implement the student’s IEP during COVID-19.

Basis of the state agency’s decision: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor of Indiana issued executive orders on March 19, and April 2, 2020 closing all public schools in the state and requiring them to provide instruction via remote learning for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. By letter dated April 13, 2020, the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township (the district) notified parents that students with IEPs would have their plans implemented “to the best of the (IEP Team’s) ability” and that “how” the plans would be implemented “would be proportionate to the remote learning schedule and setting”. Prior to the pandemic, in accordance with the student’s IEP, the student’s program had included seven classes during the day. These classes included “small group intensive readingand writinginstruction in an English language arts lab classroom once a day for 45 minutes,” “small group math instruction in a math lab classroom once a day for 45 minutes”, “and “classroom assignment and homework assistance in a resource classroom once a day for 45 minutes”.

During the district’s remote learning days and after the district’s April 13, 2020 letter, live virtual instruction “was not routinely conducted’. Additionally, the student did not receive small group instructional services including “classroom assignment and homework assistance” once a day for 45 minutes from a resource room teacher. Further, the student did not receive his IEP-required

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“small group intensive reading and writing instruction in the English language arts lab classroom’, or his ‘small group math instruction in the math lab classroom’.

The state administrative agency found that the district “did not implement the student’s IEP as written, nordid itconvene the student’s(IEPTeammeeting)torevieworrevise the student’sIEP”. As a consequence, the state administrative agency concluded that the district’s IEP Team would need to consider whether the student should be provided with compensatory education services. In making this decision, the district was required to consider the “actual amount of service hours missed and the level of specialized instruction that would have been provided”, “the student’s capacity to receive education hours, considering the age of the student, the severity of the disability,the cognitive and/or attentionalability, the physical/mental staminatoreceive additional instruction outside of the school day, and other mitigating factors”, and the extent to which there had been “a negative impact on the student’s progress.

MISCELLANEOUS

In re Student with a Disability, Maine State Educational Agency, Feb 12, 2021 (121 LRP 9943)

Dispute: Did the district provide the student with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Conclusion: The state educational agency determined that the district did not provide the student with a FAPE in the LRE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basis of the State Educational Agency’s Decision: On March 15, 2020, the Governor of Maine proclaimed a state of civil emergency to protect public health in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Immediately thereafter, most schools in the state, including the student’s, suspended in-person instruction. On March 31, the Governor issued a “stay at home order” prohibiting K-12 schools from providing in-person classroom instruction through May 1, 2020. On April 7, the Maine Commissioner of Education recommended that districts extend their remote learning plans through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The student was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder with accompanying language impairment. Autism rating scales show the student fell within the “moderate to severe” range of concern.

At the time of the March 15, 2020, Governor’s proclamation, the student’s IEP provided that the student receive 3 X 30 minutes per week of speech and language services, 5 X 3 hours per week of behavioral health day treatment, assistive technology, and transportation, 2 X 45 minutes per week of occupational therapy (OT) services, and 1 X 30 minutes per month of OT consultation. At the time of the Governor’s March 15 announcement, the student attended a program within a district school.

“The student received no services between March 15, 2020 and April 15, 2020.” On or around April 14, the student began speech and language teletherapy. During this time, the student did not receive any OT services and no specially designed instruction. On or around May 11, the district

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began offering the student “live,” “remote,” “telehealth” instruction which was composed of 30 minutes per day of “group circle time” with an estimated 20 other children. During “circle time” there was no individualized instruction, nor any specially designed instruction towards IEP goals. “At some point in May 2020, the student received some OT teletherapy services” which the OT therapist explained were “largely ineffective due to the student’s difficulty maintaining attention on a screen for any length of time.” As a consequence, the therapist spent most of the time coaching the parent to provide “support and guidance”. The district began to provide the student with in-person OT services in July of 2020. By agreement on June 18, 2020, the student’s IEP was amended to include extended school year services.

As of October 2020, the student had not received any specially designed instruction since March of 2020 and had not been receiving district speech therapy since the COVID shutdown in March 2020. Regarding this, the student had “tried to access some [specially designed instruction] remotely during the March June shutdown but had difficultyparticipating” in that in the context of remote learning. Nor did the district enter into any “specific discussion” with the parents about what remote specially designed instruction might look like. And other than the large group zoom meetings, the student was never offered remote specially designed instruction.

With respect to the least restrictive environment (LRE), the parent requested that the student be provided with instruction with a staff to student ratio of less than 1:1. The student’s occupational therapist also provided information to the district that the student’s progress in reaching goals indicated a readiness for a lesser level of support. Further, a review of the level of services provided to the student before the school closure indicated that the program being provided to the student was not exclusively at a 1:1 ratio but sometimes was less than that. However, the distinct felt that a remote services environment was not conducive to an evaluation of an appropriate staff to student ratio for the student and that such decision should await the student’s return to in-person programming. The student andthe district continuedtodiscussissuesrelating tothe student’s LRE from October 29, 2020 to December 1, 2020. On occasions the parents and the district discussed the possibilitythat the student would return to in-person district programs. At each such occasion the parents were advised that all programswere filled and maintained waiting lists. The reopening date of the program that the student had attended before the pandemic was pushed back a number of occasions. In September 2020, the parents were informed that there was no longer space for the student in that program.

The parents filed a complaint on December 14, 2020. At the time of the complaint the student had not been placed into a program and was not receiving specially designed instruction in any form. The student was receiving home-based occupational therapy services and speech and language services.

According to the state educational agency, OSEP guidance relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, provided that once a district begins to provide educational services to the general student population, the district “must make every effort to provide special education and related services in accordance with each student’s IEP and in a manner that ensures a free appropriate public education for all eligible students”. At the same time, the state educational agency advised that the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of

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Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) have stated that “ensuring compliance with the IDEAshouldnot prevent anyschool from offeringeducational programsthrough distance instruction” and that “it is important to emphasize that federal disability law allows for flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. The determination of how FAPE is to be provided may need to be different in this time of unprecedented natural emergency”. Further, the state educational agency cited to OSEP guidance that in such times, it is “not required to provide the exact service hours of the IEP but should develop plans that are appropriately designed to support student learning in an alternative context”. Cited OSEP guidance also provided “that in situations where special education is unavoidably delayed due to alternative instructional models during the COVID-19 pandemic or where specialized services cannot be adequately delivered in an alternative method, once schools resume normal operations, IEP teams must make an individualized determination as to whether compensatory services may be required”.

Consistent with this,the state educational agencypointed out that once the district beganproviding remote services to students it was required to provide a FAPE to the student. The state educational agency concluded that the “limited remote services” provided to the student “did not satisfy the requirements of the student’s IEP” and that “therefore [the district] was required to reconvene an IEP Team meeting because the student’s services dramatically changed the substance of special education instruction [to the student] outside of the IEP process”. Regarding “circle time,” the state educational agency pointed out “that this was not specially designed to meet IEP goals or needs” and that “the services provided were simply inaccessible to the [s]tudent. Due to age, maturity, and to disabilities, the [s]tudent could not engage in a large group setting with more than 20 peers and an unfamiliar teacher on a computer screen”.

The state educational agency concluded that because the IEP was not able to be implemented, the district had “a responsibility to reconvene the IEP Team and identify alternative service options” to “meet the student’s needs during the COVID-10 pandemic” and that [the IEP] team could have considered other options, such as remote 1:1 specially designed instruction, specially designed instructional packets prepared specifically for the [s]tudent, or remote coaching services provided to the parents”. In this case “the IEP team meeting was never held and none of these options were considered”.

The state educational agency also concluded that since “no IEP meeting was held despite a fundamental change in the student’s services there was no opportunity for parent input or objection”.

The state educational agency also found that the district did not provide the student with a FAPE because the district failed to implement the student’s IEP in a “material” way. In this regard, the student was never provided FAPE during the “the end of the 2019-20 school year because “the [s]tudent was never offered specially designed instruction or given a generalized form of remote instruction that was accessible to [him]”. Rather, the remote instruction provided “did not address the student’s IEP goals and did not provide opportunities for the student to progress in light of [the student’s] unique circumstances”. Further, the state educational agency pointed out that the

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studentwaswithoutanyservicesduring2020’sextendedschool yearnotwithstandingthestudent’s eligibility for such services.

The State educational agencyalso found that the district was not educatingthe student in the LRE. It found that, notwithstanding the failure of the district to provide the student with a FAPE for nearly a full year, the student had “changed and developed immensely” “as a result of engagement with related service providers and as a result of developmental transition” “Additionally other members of the IEP Team including the parent, case manager and former teacher all submitted perspectives indicating that the student’s LRE likely required reexamination.” The state educational agency found that the fact that the district was “not currently providing the student with an educational environment while simultaneously insisting that the [s]tudent needed to be engaged in an in-school educational environment before LRE could be discussed andreconsidered by the IEP Team” was an transition “untenable position” The state educational agency was clear that“the IEPTeammust be permittedto collect data,perhapsthrougha re-evaluation,andconsider the question of whether the student’s IEP reflects … the least restrictive environment”.

The state educational agency required that the district engage in a “corrective action plan”. This plan included the reconvening of the student’s IEP Team “to determine a plan for delivering speciallydesigned instructionwhile the student remainsonthe wait list for variousspecial purpose private schools”. The plan for specially designed instruction was to be “in keeping with the [s]tudent’s current needs and must consider all options for the possible delivery of services including, but not limited to, receiving 1:1 instruction at a non-educational remote site” such as district offices, “receiving 1:1 synchronous remote instruction, and receiving 1:1 asynchronous remoteinstruction”. The IEPTeam wasrequired“to considerthe [s]tudent’slearningneeds” when adopting its plan and that if, during this time, the IEP Team anticipated “further delay” it would be required to determine “what additional compensatory services” were owed to the student.

Regarding the LRE, the state educational agencywas to “engage in a meaningful discussion about the [s]tudent’s least restrictive environment and, if the parents consent, take steps to re-evaluate the student.

The state educational agencydetermined that inthiscase an award of compensatoryeducation was appropriate. This included 270 hours of compensatory specially designed instruction, an additional 10 hours of compensatory occupational therapy and an additional 10 hours of compensatory speech and language services.

Eaton Community City Sch, Ohio State Educational Agency, Apr. 30, 2021 (121 LRP 20304)

Dispute: In light of COVID-19 did the district provide the student with a timely functional behavioral assessment and a timely behavioral intervention plan?

Conclusion: The state educational agency determined that the district did not provide the student with a timely functional behavioral assessment and a timely behavioral intervention plan.

BasisoftheStateEducational Agency’sDecision: Federalregulationat34C.F.R. 300.530(f)(1) provides that in circumstances where the local educational agency, the parent, and relevant

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members of the IEP Team make a determination that relevant student conduct is a manifestation of the child’s disability, the IEP Team must either (i) conduct a functional behavioral assessment, unless the district had conducted a functional behavioral assessment before the relevant date and implement a behavioral intervention plan for the child or (ii) if a behavioral intervention plan already has been developed, review the behavioral intervention plan, and modify it as necessary, to address the behavior.

In this case, the parent requested an initial special education evaluation on February 25, 2020. The student was involved in a “disciplinary incident” on March 4, 2020. A manifestation review meeting was held in March 2020. As a result of this meeting, it was found that “the behavior leading to the disciplinary removal [was] a manifestation of the student’s disability”. At the time of the meeting the student had neither a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) nor a behavioral intervention plan (BIP). “The initial consent for evaluation was signed by the parent on March 9, 2020 with a due date for completion by May 8, 2020. “The [IEP Team] began the process of conducting an evaluation, including areas of behavior, in March of 2020…”. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, byorder of the Governor the district’s schools were closed byMarch 16, 2020. The “student began receiving services remotely on March 16, 2020 with his peers.” According to the state educational agency, “[f]ederal and state directives indicate that if classroom observation or face to face testing are required, evaluations should be delayed until schools reopen to allow for these required evaluation components”. On April 20, 2020, by prior written notice, the district proposed to extend the timeline for the initial evaluation “as quickly as possible once schools are reopened bythe State”. “Students were permitted to receive services in-person and inbuildings daily at the start of the 2020-2021 school year.” Parental consent for an FBA “was obtainedon October1, 2020”.The student’sevaluation,includingtwoclassroom observationswas completed in November 2020. The [s]tudent was determined eligible as a student with a disability on November 16, 2020. “The [d]istrict provided a copy of an FBA, with a meeting date of December 10, 2020. The student’s initial IEP was completed on December 15, 2020. “[O]ther than what was contained within the safety plan or the IEP”, the district did not submit a BIP to the state educational agency for review.

The state educational agency found that the district was in violation of 34 CFR 300.530[f][1]. In this regard, as indicated above, it concluded that “[t]he district did not obtain consent for the FBA until October of 2020 and the FBA was not completed until December of 2020. With respect to the BIP, the state educational agency pointed out that, as indicated above, the district “did not create a BIP but instead incorporated goals from the FBA in the student’s initial IEP.” The state educational agency concluded that “[w]hile the pandemic made the ability to conduct an FBA more difficult, the [d]istrict returned to in-person learning at the start of the 2020-2021 school year’. This being the case, the state educational agency concluded that “[t]he FBA should have been completed as soon as in-person learning resumed and a BIP should have been put into place prior to the December 2020 IEP. As a remedy, the state environmental agency agreed with the district that the student should receive 10 hours of compensatory education, that district staff should receive training, and that a BIP should be provided to the student.

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OSEP QA 21-05; August 24, 2021

Subject: Questions and Answers re Child Find and COVID-19.

On August 24, 2021 OSERS issueda letterregarding current federal guidance relatedtochild find. Among the topics it addressed were a series of questions and answers related to the COV-19 pandemic.21 The specific questions and answers are set forth below22:

Q-C-1. Whataresomeoftheuniquechallengesforconductingchildfindwhenchildrenparticipate in on-line or virtual learning?

Generally, children who attend virtual schools or, as experienced during the pandemic, receive instruction virtually, do not have the same degree of face-to-face interactions and in-person contacts with a teacher or other school staff as children who attend brick- and-mortar schools on a full-time basis. As such, teachers of these students have limited opportunityfor casual observation of a child’s learning abilities and early recognition of issues that may impact their learning. Child find procedures that rely mainly on informal teacher observation and referral may require additional consideration for such children. Where virtual instruction limits or prevents the teacher’sinteractionandcontactwithachild,theSEAand LEA23 shouldexamine whetherexisting child find policies and procedures are effective in meeting the State’s responsibilities of identifying, locatingand evaluating children who mayneed special education and related services, such aspublic awarenesscampaignsbythe LEAor inpartnershipwitha school’sPTAthat include information provided in languages spoken in the communityand target a wide audience including parents and families, day care and early childhood education providers, summer camps, medical providers, homeless shelters, religious institutions, and kindergarten roundup (i.e., events hosted by elementary schools to facilitate a child’s transition from home to formal education). For older children, activities can include locally administered assessments that measure student academic growth, screening private school students and home school students, meeting with mental health practitioners, sharinginformation with nonprofit organizations that focus on familiesand children, and coordinating with State agencies that provide services to children and young adults. Also, the LEA’soutreach effortsandinteragencycollaboration withhousingprograms,suchasthose funded by HUD can help to identify children who are homeless and may be in need of special education. With the increased use of social media, SEAs and LEAs should consider postingchild find notices on their websites and social media pages. In general, as child find is an SEA and LEA responsibility, LEAs serving children virtually should not relysolelyon referrals byparents as the primary vehicle for meeting IDEA’s child find requirements.

21 The balance of the questions deals with “general child find requirement” and “referral and initial evaluation”.

22 Where appropriate, the answer to questions C-1 and C-2 repeat the referenced language set forth in the answer to question A-5.

23 The acronym “SEA” means State Educational Agency; the acronym LEA means local educational agency see 34 CFR 300.28 and 300.41. See also note 4 to guidance document.

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Q-C-2. How might States and LEAs enhance their child find activities during the 2021-2022 school year to address the challenges resulting from educational disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

SEAs and LEAs should reexamine the efficacy of their existing child find practices and initiate new activities in light of the educational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, LEAs may have to conduct additional screenings of children whose academic and behavioral needs may require an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education and related services consistent with 34 CFR 300.304 through 300.311 Additional effortscan be made in increasing awareness of special education supports for students of all ages through coordinated efforts with SEAs, LEAs and associated pubic agencies to highlight the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on academic performance and social-emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs. Further, efforts can be made to increase awareness of and access to develop-mental screenings by placing information booths and providing information about the screening process in settings frequentedbyfamilies(e.g.,healthdepartments,physicianoffices,public parks,amusement parks, shopping malls, and children’s stores), conducting social media campaigns on multiple online platforms, partnering with other stakeholders such as the PTA, or holding screening events in the community. Additional examples of child find activities include public awareness campaigns by the LEA or in partnership with a school’s PTA that include information provided in languages spoken in the community and target a wide audience including parents and families, day care and early childhood education providers, summer camps, medical providers, homeless shelters, religious institutions, and kindergarten roundup (i.e. events hosted by elementary schools to facilitate a child’s transition from home to formal education). For older children, activities can include locallyadministeredassessments that measure student academic growth, screeningprivate school students and home school students, meeting with mental health practitioners, sharing information with nonprofit organizations that focus on families and children, and coordinating with State agencies that provide services to children and young adults. Also, the LEA’s outreach efforts and interagency collaboration with housing programs, such as those funded by HUD can help to identify children who are homeless and may be in need of special education. With the increased use of social media, SEAs and LEAs should consider posting child find notices on their websites and social media pages.

Q-C-3 If a student has received limited instruction due to educational disruptions as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic and also made little academic progress, should the student be referred for an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education and related services?

Not necessarily. Levels of student performance primarilyattributable to limited instruction do not mean the student requires special education and related services under IDEA. IDEA’s child find and eligibility procedures are designed to identify, locate, and evaluate students with a suspected disability to determine whether, as a result of the disability, the student requires special education and related services. IDEA’s regulations in 34 CFR 300.306 (b) specifically state that a child must not be determined to be a child with a disability if the determinant factor is due to a lack of appropriate instruction in reading or math. LEAs must examine individual referrals for special education and should work with families to determine additional general education supports and

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interventions that can appropriately meet the child’s needs that are attributable to limited instruction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and not because the child is suspected of having a disability under IDEA. LEA staff should document these supports when they provide prior written notice to parents under 34 CFR 300.503, explaining the reasons why the LEA will not conduct an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education and related services for their child.

Q-C-4. When a parent shares that their child contracted COVID-19, has “long COVID”, or has other post-COVID conditions, and the symptoms of the child’s condition (such as fatigue, mood changes, or difficulty concentrating) are adversely impacting the child’s ability to participate and learn in the general curriculum, must the child be referred for special education and related services?

Yes. If a child experiencing symptoms from “long COVID” is suspected of having a disability (e.g., other health impairment) and needs special education and related services under IDEA, they must be referred for an initial evaluation to determine the impact of the “long COVID” symptoms and the child’s academic and functional needs.

Note herethat theQandAdocumentincludes a numberoffoot notessettingforthwhere additional information can be found.

New Mexico Complaint Resolution Report # C2021-05 (Oct. 5, 2020)

Dispute: Whether the district complied with its obligations under the IDEA during the COVID19-related school closure in the provision of special education and related services.

Conclusion: The administrative agency determined that the district did not.

Basis of the Administrative Agency’s Decision: The district’s schools were closed from March 16 to the end of the 2019-2020 school year. By executive order on March 26, 2020 the schools were required to provide remote learning for the balance of the 2019-20 school year. The 2020-21 school year began with all students receiving instruction virtually or through a hybrid format.

First, during the spring 2020, school closure beginning in March 2020, special education students unilaterally received a reduction in special education and related services in proportion to the amount of general education services for all students. That being the case, the proportionate reduction of special education and related services was based on the amount of special education and related services that students’ IEPs required. While IEP meetings were held, there was no indication that individualized determinations with respect to whether such a reduction in special education was made or that parents were provided with meaningful participation. While prior written notices were provided, there was nothing that indicated how the reduction of services ensured a FAPE. When the 2020-21 school year began, pre-COVID-19 services were provided to all students online or by hybrid methods. Students were “continually monitored” and such monitoring should have provided information that IEP teams should have reviewed to determine whether the spring 2020 reduction in educational services provided a FAPE or if compensatory education was needed. Second, while the district held IEP meetings prior to the implementation

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of the school closure-related reduction of services, decisions related to compensatory education were put off until students’ annual IEP meetings, which was a denial of FAPE. The agency concluded that since students were being “continually monitored” and that changes in IEPs were being made on an as needed basis, there was sufficient information available to make appropriate decisions regarding compensatory education. Third, the agency concluded that the proportionate reduction in services disregarded the individualized analysis required by the IDEA and did not meet the district’s obligation to provide FAPE. The agency found that the implementation of the reduction in services prevented parents from effective participation in the development of IEPs and that this also was a violation of FAPE. Further, while the district continually monitored the students and modified IEPs as needed, it failed to determine on an individual basis whether the reduction in services provided FAPE or indicated a need for additional services/supports. The district’s claim that it lacked sufficient data to provide compensatory education services, the agency found, raised the question of whether the students’ IEPs enabled each student to make progress. The agency also concluded that the district had an obligation to monitor students’ progress and modify IEPs as necessary and that such information should allow determinations regarding students’ need for compensatory services at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

Application of a Child with a Disability, Appeal No, 20-195 at pp.13-20

Dispute: Whether the student’s unilateral placement was appropriate to meet the student’s needs.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the student’s placement was appropriate tomeet his needs and provided him with specially designed instruction.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The SRO reviewed the hearing record to identify the student’s needs. Based on the information in the record, the SRO determined that the student had needs relating to self-stimulating, aggressive, non-compliant behaviors, and elopement; pre-academic skills; was non-verbal and required the use of an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device to effectively communicate; community skills; activities of daily living; speechlanguage, including receptive and expressive language; and occupational therapy (OT) for improvement in the student’s gross motor skills. A student progress report dated December 2019 set forth that the student needed an appropriate learning environment including “consistent, predictable, highly structured environment using ABA with 1:1 instruction” systematically taught through ABA”. Regarding this, testimony indicated that the student could follow numerous “onestep” instruction but that “two-step” instruction was very challenging and required direct instruction.

The SRO concluded that The Keswell School (Keswell) addressed the student’s identified special education needs. In particular, the hearing record showed that Keswell was “a therapeutic and educational model for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that integrates ABA, Speech therapy and Occupational therapy. The school day runs from 8:45 am to 4:45 pm. The student received 1:1 instruction in a class of five students between the ages of 7-9. Among other things, Keswell provided the student with ten, 45-minute periods and one 30-minute period each day. Additionally, the school provided the student with individual OT four times per week as a pull-out service and also once per week pushed-in service a small group. The student also received speech-language therapyonce a dayfor 45 minutes as a push-in service and also physical therapy-

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related activities. The school assessed the student’s behavior and developed “behavior reduction plans” to address the student’s interfering and other behaviors. Additionally, the school provided the parents with suggestions on what they could do at home to assist the student in the learning process both during remote instruction and other work.

With respect to the district’s claim that Keswell was inappropriate because its instructors were not Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) or Licensed Behavior Analysts (LBA), the SRO noted that, and citing to Florence County Sch. Dist/ Four v. Carter, 510 U.S. 7, 13-14 (1993), that “it (was) well establishedthat a private school neednot employcertifiedspecial educationteachers in order to be an appropriate unilateral placement. In this case, the student’s classroom supervisor held a master’s degree in special education. The student’s head teacher was pursuing a master’s degree in special education and her BCBA. Additionally, one of the ABA therapists in the student’s classroom held a New York State certification for special education, another held a bachelor’s degree and was pursuing certification as an RBT, the third had a master’s degree in special education and was pursuing her BCBA, and the fourth held a bachelor’s degree. The student’s speech-language therapist and Occupational therapist were both certified.

Regardingthe district’sclaim that the parents’unilateral placement at Keswell wasnot appropriate because it did not provide the student withinstruction speciallydesigned to meet his unique needs, the SRO concluded that, while some aspects of the program at Keswell were the same for all students, the testimony also showed that the content of the student’s educational program such as goals and objectives and the student’s educational plans were specific to his needs.

With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, on or about March 16, 2020, the student had a “remote learning plan” and also worked on work packets that were sent home for him to use. From March to the end of the 12-month school year, the student received remote instruction and “zoom” sessions. The parents received parent training, also remotely. The student’s instruction was done through computers and more specifically by a laptop, an iPad and/or an iPhone. The school’s remote programing included 1:1 direct instruction with the parents or his brother sitting with him during the live sessions. Keswell staff worked closely with the parents and provided them with training in order to maximize the student’s learning inside and outside of his remote sessions. Regarding the student’s remote sessions, the student received four to five 30-minute sessions per day and one 15-minute session per day. Speech and occupational therapy took up two of the student’s four to five daily sessions. The associate director was also involved in the student’s remote learning and she met weekly with the student’s classroom supervisor.

Provision of Educational Services: L.V. v New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 19-CV-05451 (AT)(KHP) 2020 WL 6782234

Dispute: The level and type of services required during COVID.

Conclusion: The district is required to provide in-school services to the student if that could be donesafelyandincompliancewithguidancefromhealthauthorities. Additionally,anindependent assistive technology evaluation should be conducted to assess the student’s individual needs and the software required to deliverthe student’sservicesremotelyiftheycouldnot be providedsafely in person.

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Basis of the Court’s Decision: The Court, among other things, ordered that the student’s (whose parent asserted his disability was autism) pendency placement include “in-person services” described in the IHO’s pendency order “to the extent such can be done safely during the current COVID-19 pandemic and in compliance with guidance from health authorities” and that the Department “immediately conduct an independent assistive technology evaluation to assess the student’s individual needs and the software required to deliver the student’s required services remotely, if they cannot be provided safely in person during the pandemic” (see Dec. at *1).

SETSS Services at Home: Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-122 (Sept. 17, 2020)

Dispute: Whether SETSS services should be provided at home during COVID.

Conclusion: The SRO held that SETSS services at home should be provided during COVID.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: Both parties appeal from the IHO’s determination that the district should not payfor SETSSat the student’s home for anyservicesafterCOVID-19” because SETSS was for support in the classroom and not at home”.

The SRO held that the hearing record did not support the IHO’s determination that the student no longer received anyinstruction that couldbe supported bySETSS. The SRO pointed out that after the student’s school closed in March 2020, the school continued on-line work. The SRO also pointed out that the SETSS provider testified that she provided the student with 10 hours a week of instruction and that she “worked around the student’s school schedule” in arranging the SETSS services.

The SRO also relied on state and federal COVID policy documents. The SRO pointed to federal guidance that provided that

“(i)f an LEAcontinues to provide education opportunities to the general student population during a school closure, the school must ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of FAPE… [and further] SEAs, LEAs, and schools must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP developed under IDEA.

The SRO also pointed to State guidance that set out the following:

FAPE may be provided consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing special education and related services to students. During this emergency, schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they are typically provided and

to the greatest extent possible, each parentally placed nonpublic school student can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s individualized education services plan on an equitable basis as compared to other students with disabilities enrolled in the public school with an IEP.

The SRO concluded that “as the district was responsible for the student’s IESP during the period of time the schools were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and, as with the rest of the school

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year, there isno indicationinthe hearingrecordthatthe district fulfilledthisobligation”, the IHO’s determination to exclude from relief the period of time that schools were closed because of Covid19, the IHO’s decision “must be overturned”.

Pendency Placement – Payment for Educational Services During COVID-19: Abrams et al. v. Carranza, et al. 2020 WL 6048785 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2020)

Dispute: Whether the NYC Department of Education and Chancellor Carranza (DOE) should make payments for certain school-related services at or related to students’ pendency placements at the International Institute for the Brain (iBRAIN) including special transportation and nursing services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and that at least part of which were reimbursements to iBRAIN. The parents assert that payment for such services should be made. DOL argues that prior to payment for such services it has the right to be provided with specification, documentation and additional information.

Conclusion: The Court ordered the parties to report to it regarding “(1) the history of communication between the Plaintiffs and DOE; (2) the information requested by DOE (3) the information provided by Plaintiffs in response to DOE’s requests; (4) DOE’s rationale for finding such information inadequate; (5) Plaintiff’s rationale for failing to provide any additional information requested by DOE.”

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The Court indicated that it drew “a clear distinction between having pendency funds completely cut off and undertaking an administrative process – including providing information – to receive that funding. Plaintiffs have a right [it said] to the IDEAguaranteed pendency funding; they do not, however, have a right to a blank check. That is, they are not entitled to receive that funding in whatever manner they desire, irrespective of reasonable documentation requirements of the DOE”.

Prospective Relief: Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/2020)

Dispute: The parent, on a prospective basis, requests one year of placement in a non-public school and 10 hours a week of at-home ABA. The district opposes the parent’s request.

Conclusion: The SROdeniedthe parent’srequest for prospective placement ina nonpublic school and 10 hours of at-home ABA.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: According to the SRO, among other things, “by the time the IHO had issuedhisdecision on May11,2020 almost eight monthshadpassed, (and)the 2019-20school year had effectively ended due to the (COVID-19) pandemic forcing the closure of schools”. Further, the SRO noted that pursuant to 8 NYCRR § 279.10(b) the SRO had verified a December 2019 IEP and multiple assessments with respect thereto which had not been a part of the hearing record and which were not before the IHO. That being the case, the SRO held that the prospective relief requested by the parent was inappropriate as “the IEPs challenged in the matter [were] no longer in effect and the CSE [had] already convened to consider new evaluative information”.

“(U)nder such circumstances” the SRO believed that “rather than awarding prospective relief” it was more appropriate to limit review “to (the) remediation of past harms that (were) explored” by the hearing record in the case at hand. The SRO advised that should the parent object to the

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December 2019 IEP or any subsequent IEP, the parent could challenge that subsequent IEP in a separate proceeding.

Tuition Reimbursement Equitable Considerations:

Application of the New York City Bd. of Educ. Appeal No. 20-131 (Sept. 10, 2020)

Dispute: The parents assert that equitable considerations support their tuition reimbursement claim. The district disagrees

Conclusion: The SRO concludes that equitable considerations support the parents’ claim for tuition reimbursement.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The SRO concluded that “at all times the parents cooperated with the CSE process” and that no “minor irregularities” rose to “the level of non-cooperation or violation of procedural requirements”. Regarding Covid, the SRO concluded that even though the studentreturnedhomefromtheresidential;schoolbecauseofthepandemic,thestudent“continued to receive manyof the special education supports, services, and individualized instruction to meet [the student’s] unique needs through Middlebridge’s (MDS) remote learning program.

COMMITTEE ON SPECIAL EDUCATION (CSE)

Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023)

Dispute: Were the notices of the CSE meeting properly issued.

Conclusion: While some were technically inadequate, they did not deny the student a FAPE.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, the district initially issued a notice dated February 4, 2019, for a March 8, 2019 CSE meeting. Thatmeetingnotice wouldhave beenincompliance with the annual CSEmeetingreview date. The Court pointed out that the March 8, 2019 CSE meeting did not proceed as scheduled because, in response to this notice, the parents requested a “full” CSE meeting with a district physician and a parent member present and that both should participate in person. The parents also advised the district that they were available for a CSE meeting during the work week from 9 am to 11:00 am. In response to this, the district issued a second notice dated March 27, 2019, rescheduling the CSE meeting to April 9, 2019 at 10:30 am. The parents then wrote the district and requested that the meeting be rescheduled as they had not received the mailed copy of the meeting notice and the notice did not list the names of either the physician member or the parent member. In response to this, the district issued a third meeting notice on April 23, 2019, rescheduling the CSE meeting to June 7, 2019 at 9:00 am. The parents wrote to the district on May 20, 2019, alleging “a several-day delay in receiving the April 23 letter”. The CSE meeting proceeded on June 7, 2019.

The parents in this case make a number of arguments regarding the notices in this matter.

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The parents first argue that an April 23, 2019 notice of a June 7, 2019 CSE meeting was untimely in that “the CSE meeting was held four months beyond the mandatory February 12, 2019 date, thus depriving the student of a FAPE”. The Court said that while the reason for the parents’ claim that the notice was issued late was unclear, it appeared that the parents were arguing that the CSE meeting was required to be held prior to March 14, 2019 which was a year after the prior year’s annual review meeting on March 14, 2018.

The Court held that “the delay in holding the CSE meeting did not result in a denial of a FAPE”. The Court said that the original February4, 2019 notice for the March 8, 2019 CSE meeting came before the anniversary date of the March 14, 2018 CSE meeting. The Court also held that “[a]ny delay past the original March 8, 2019 meeting date was for the convenience of the parents, who twice requested that the meeting be rescheduled”. The Court concluded that “[e]ven if arguably a statutory violation, [the] delay would not represent a denial of a FAPE” and cited S.Y. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 210 F. Supp. 3d 556, 567 (S.D.N.Y. 2016)

The parents also claim that the March 27, 2019 meeting notice was “deficient” in that it did not includethenamesofthephysicianandparentmembers.TheCourtpointedoutthatStateregulation required that the meeting notice include the name of the members of the CSE. See 8 NYCRR 200.5(c)(2). The Court, while concluding that this was “perhaps a technical deficiency in the meeting notice, this deficiency was corrected before the meeting and the parents [had] not identifiedhowthedeficiencyimpactedeithertheirson’sright toa FAPE ortheirrighttoparticipate in the process of formulating his IEP,” citing to Carrillo v. Carranza, 2021 WL 4137663, at *14 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2023).

The parents further claim that the district violated IDEA regulations in that the district “failed to provide prior written notices [see 20 U.S.C. 1415(b)(3)(A); 34 CFR 300.503], before sending the February 4, 2019 and April 23, 2019 CSE meeting notices”. The Court held that the district was not required to send a prior written notice before issuing these notices. The Court explained that this was because, “a prior written notice need only be provided when the agency takes or refuses to take an action with respect to the educational placement or FAPE” [see 8 NYCRR 200.5(a)(1)], and that this was not that case but a case where “the meeting notices were sent to schedule a meeting related to the development or review of a Student’s IEP, or the provision of a [FAPE} to the to the student”.

The parents finally claim “that their ability to participate in the CSE meeting was constrained because the [district] made no attempt to schedule the [CSE] meeting at a mutuallyagreed on time and place as required by the IDEA.” See 34 CFR 300.322(a)(2); 8 NYCRR 200.3(a)(1)(ii). The Court found that the district complied with this requirement and that the “record shows that the district attempted to accommodate the parent[s] by soliciting preferred dates or times, cancelling several CSE meetings, responding to the parent[s’] concerns, and rescheduling the meeting”. In particular, the Court pointed to the fact that the district “rescheduled the [CSE] meeting twice and accommodated the [p]arents’ request that the meeting occur on a weekday between 9:00 am and 11:00 am.” The Court also noted that the parents attended the June 7, 2019 CSE meeting.

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T.K. and S.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 810 F.3d 869 (2d Cir. 2016) Dispute: Whether the district denied the student a FAPE by refusing to discuss bullying with the student’s parents despite their reasonable concern that the severe bullying that the student endured could prevent her from receiving a FAPE.

Conclusion: The Circuit Court held that the district denied the student a FAPE by refusing to discussbullyingwith the student’sparentsdespitetheirreasonable concernthatthe severe bullying that the student endured could prevent her from receiving a FAPE.

Basis of the Circuit Court’s Decision:

“[T]he IDEA requires States to provide parents with the opportunity to participate in the decision making process regarding the provision of a FAPE to the parents’ child”. 20 U.S.C. 1415(f)(3)(E)(ii). In order for there to be a violation of a FAPE, this and other procedural violations of the IDEA must “significantly impede the parents’ participation rights, impede the child’s right to a FAPE, or cause a deprivation of educational benefits”.

Because the Circuit Court had not discussed the issue before, and because the district conceded that bullying “can be an appropriate consideration when it reaches a level where a student is substantially restricted in learning opportunities”, the Court assumed as much without deciding. The Court also gave a nod to the United States, an amicus to the appeal, which had said “that bullying can interfere with a disabled student’s ability to receive a FAPE”.

The Circuit Court concludedthat thedistrict “denied[the student]a FAPE byviolatingherparents’ procedural right to participate in the development of her IEP”. The Court pointed out that “[a]t two separate meetings, both of which were integral to the development of [the student’s] IEP [the parents] sought to discuss bullying but school officials refused to do so”.

According to the Circuit Court, the “undisputed record evidence confirms that in asking to speak with the officials about the bullying, [the students’] parents had reason to believe that the bullying would interfere with [the student’s] ability to receive meaningful educational benefits and could prevent [the student’s] public education from producing progress, not regression.” “For example [a staff member assigned to the student] reported that bullying negatively affected [the student’s] ability to initiate, concentrate, attend, and stay on task with her homework assignments and activities after school”. Additionally, there was “undisputed evidence that [the student] dreaded going to school, counted the days until the end of school, and was frequently tardy arguably due to her fear of being bullied”. The student’s father testified that the student was “emotionally unavailable to learn” and that “she came home crying and complaining about bullying on a near daily basis.” Further, three of the staff assigned to help the student “confirmed that [the student] was constantly teased, excluded from groups, and subjected to a hostile environment”. Moreover, “a doctor familiar with [the student] testified that [the student’s] her classroom behavior and demeanor had regressed from the prior year”. The Court further said that “given the school’s lack of cooperation about the bullying, [the parents] could not reasonably be confident that they had been informed about the full scope of the bullying or its effects on [the student]”.

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The Court found that “[t]he Department’s persistent refusal to discuss [the student’s] bullying at important junctures in the development of [the student’s] IEP significantly impeded [the parents’] right to participate in the development of [the student’s]IEP…that constituteda procedural denial of a FAPE.

“The [district] argued that the [parents] suffered no harm arguing that the student’s IEP already discussed bullying as it included goals for improving the student’s behavior that might reduce further bullying … and that some anti-bullying strategies are better addressed through channels other than the IEP”. The Court was clear that it was “not persuaded” and that “[d]enying [the student’s] parents the opportunity to discuss bullying duringthe creation of [the student’s] IEP not only potentially impaired the substance of the IEP but also prevented them from assessing the adequacy of their child’s IEP”.

The Court concludedthat“the parents’were reasonablyconcernedthat bullyingseverelyrestricted [the student’s] educational opportunities and that concern powerfully informed their decisions about [the student’s] education. By refusing to discuss that bullying during the development of the IEP, the [district] significantly impeded [the parents’] abilityto assess the adequacyof the IEP and denied [the student] a FAPE”.

A.D. v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 20-cv-2765 (BAH), 2022 WL 683570 (D.D.C. Mar. 8, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the parents meaningfully participated in the development of the student’s IEP.

Conclusion: The Court held that the parents meaningfully participated in the development of the student’s IEP.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: “Procedural inadequacies significantly impeding the parents’ opportunity in the decision-making process regarding the provision of a free appropriate public education may amount to a violation of IDEA. 20 U.S.C. Section 1415(f(3)(E)(ii).” “[P]arental involvement in the IEP process is central to the statutory scheme. Bd. of Educ. of Hendrick Hudson Cent. Sch. Dist., Westchester County v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 205 (1982); Endrew F. v. Douglas County Sch. Dist. RE-1, 137 S. Ct. 988, 999 (2017).”

In this case, the parents assert that the district failed to allow them to participate in the IEP development process and that the hearing officer failed to consider that failure.

The Court determined that the parents “had substantial opportunity to participate – and did participate in the November 2019 IEP meeting”. The Court pointed to the fact that the student’s “parents and seven of their representatives, including their counsel, attended the November 2019 CSE meeting, duringwhich theywere able to provide feedback about [the district’s] proposals and voice their concerns to [the district’s] staff”. Additionally, based on parental “feedback”, “[o]ccupational therapy services were subsequently added to the IEP”. Further, the student’s mother testified that in the impartial hearing “we tweaked a lot of the goals…particularly a lot of the math goals”. Further, it was the parents’ neighborhood school [that] was selectedas a possible location for the implementation of the November 2019 IEP and moreover the student’s parents

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could “go in and see and talk to the school at any time”. Following this, the Court said that the parents “enjoyed substantial participation in the form of a guided visit to [that school]”.

Mr. and Mrs. O v Glastonbury Bd, of Educ., No. 3:20-cv-00690 (VAB), 2021

WL 6134691, at *5, *8-*12 (D. Conn. Dec. 29, 2021)

Dispute: Whether the district violated the parents’ right to meaningful parent participation and predetermined the student’s educational placement.

Conclusion: The Court determined that the record supported neither the district nor the parents and remanded the matter to the hearing officer for additional findings.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

Among other things, the parents asserted that the district denied them meaningful participation at the January 30, 2019 IEP Team meeting and that at that IEP Team meeting predetermined the student’s recommended placement. The hearing officer found that the parents “participated in the process and their views were taken into account, as the evidence demonstrated that the student’s parents attended the [IEP team] meetings involved in developing the 2019 IEP and were represented by counsel”. And further, that in the absence of consensus at an IEP meeting, as was here, the district “was responsible for the choice of a special education placement”. Regarding predetermination, the hearing officer concluded that the district arrived at its recommended program after considering a “multidisciplinary evaluation” and retaining the services of a feeding consultant as “a component of the [district’s] planning to meet the student’s needs”.

The Court cited to case law that parental participation “involves more than mere presence” at an IEP Team meeting but requires that the parent be given “the opportunity to be an equal collaborator” in the IEP Team process. With respect to the predetermination of a student’s placement or program, the Court said that such was “inconsistent with the goals of the IDEA” which, as indicated above, requires that the parent and the district be collaborators in the IEP process. Regarding predetermination, the Court set out that the district “cannot predetermine the contents of an IEP in advance of a [IEP Team] meeting”. And further, that “[p]redetermination is a procedural violation of [the IDEA] and may rise to the level of a substantive harm and therefore deprive the [student] of a FAPE where the child’s parents are effectively deprived of meaningful participation in the IEP process”. However, the Court pointed to case law and regulation that allows the district to engage in “preparatory activities that fall short of a pre-meeting agreement” as to what the IEP must contain.

The Court said that “ordinarily” it would defer to the hearing officer’s findings related to predetermination and parental participation. However, the Court found that the hearing officer “did not analyze the record to determine whether the [p]arents had an opportunity for meaningful participation” in the IEP Team meeting or “whether the [district] predetermined the [s]tudent’s placement”.24 Reviewing hearing officer findings ostensibly relating to predetermination and

24 As indicated herein, the Court looked beyond the district’s contentions that it provided “copies of the completed evaluations” to the parents, “provided adequate notice of the [January 2019 IEP Team] meeting”, “provided draft goals and objectives for [the parents] to review” before the January 2019 IEP Team meeting, “attended the [January 2019 IEP Team] meeting with an attorney”, “were offered the opportunity to ask questions about the evaluations and

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parent participation, the Court concluded that while such might have been “potentially relevant” to whether the proposed program was substantively appropriate, they were “inapposite to the procedural inquiry of whether there was a pre-meeting agreement as to the [s]tudent’s placement or whetherthe [p]arents’viewswereappropriatelyconsideredinthe [IEP]Team meetingprocess”. The Court also pointed to the fact that the “record revealed” that two of three letters from the student’s physicians regarding the student’s placement “were not read, much less considered or discussed”attheIEPTeammeeting. Asa result,theCourtfoundthatthehearingofficer’sdecision was “not supported bya preponderance of the relevant evidence” and that deference should not be given to it. The Court further found that its “independent review” of the hearing record “[did] not reveal that the [district] engaged in mere preparatoryactivities” but that there was “substantial evidence in the record to suggest that district staff agreed to alter the [s]tudent’s placement before the multidisciplinary evaluation and [IEP Team] meeting, thereby impeding parental participation”. The Court held that the “facts in the administrative record, which are not addressed by the [h]earing [o]fficer’s decision, preclude judgment as a matter of law to the [district] as to procedural compliance with the IDEA, at least as tothe alleged predetermination of placement and denial ofmeaningful parental participation”. At the same time,the Court alsoheldthat it “lack[ed] a basis on which to grant judgment as a matter of law to the [parents]” because “the cases where procedural violations have been so egregious so as to entitle parents to relief exceed the facts alleged here”. Regarding this, the Court concluded that it “therefore cannot determine on the record before it, that the alleged predetermination and denial of parental participation – or indeed any other procedural violations25 that may have occurred, in isolation or in aggregate -- were so egregious as to entitle the [p]arents to relief as a matter of law”.

The Court denied the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment and remanded the matter to the hearing officer “for additional findings”.

B.D. by Davis v. Dist of Columbia, No. 15-1139 (RJL), 80 IDELR 38 (D. D.C. Dec. 21, 2021)

Dispute: Whether the district significantly impeded the parents’ opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of a FAPE to the parents’ child during the 201314 and 2014-15 school years and whether it predetermined the student’s placement at its October 1, 2013 meeting.

Conclusion: The Court concluded that the district significantly impeded the parents’ opportunity to participate in their son’s educational planning during the 2013-14 school year (July 16, 2013 to July29, 2014) which denied the student a FAPE duringthis period of time. As a consequence, the Court remanded the matter to the hearing officer for a determination of the appropriate amount of compensatory education due. The Court also found that the district did not predetermine the student’s placement at its October 1, 2013 meeting.

proposed goals and objectives”, “asked questions”, “offered three physician letters”, and “expressed their clear and immediate disagreement with the proposed placement”.

25 The parents also alleged a number of other violations, styled as procedural, including “removal of programming” in areas of specified need, “failure to develop measurable IEP goals”, and “inaccurate designation of service hours”.

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Basis of the Court’s Decision: As an initial matter, the Court averred that “as the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized, the central importance of parental participation in the creation of educational programs under the IDEA cannot be gainsaid”. 26 The Court went on to say that “not every minor procedural error on behalf of a school board results in the denial of a FAPE”. And further,where the issue isone ofthe “deprivationofthe parental right toparticipate,[parents] must show that the procedural violation significantly impeded that right in order to show a FAPE denial”.

The IEP [T]eam scheduled a meeting for June 21, 2013. Because of a conflict on the part of the district, the meeting was rescheduledfor July 16, 2013. Prior to the meetingthe parents advised the district that the student been accepted at a private residential school and that “they intended to enter [the student] in that program as soon as space became available”27 In response to that, the district wrote to the parents and advised them that the district was “not required to, nor will it propose a revised IEP while the student is unilaterally placed” by the parent at the private school. On July 15, assuming that the district would be proceeding with the July 16, 2013 IEP Team meeting, the district “circulated a dial-in number and location for the meeting.” After receipt of the letter, the parents advised the district that theywould “verymuch like to attend the IEP [Team] meeting”, but that they had believed from the district’s earlier letter and the district’s failure “to provide an agenda, a list of participants, and other information” that the meeting “had been cancelled". The parents also advised the district that because they had believed that the meeting “had been cancelled they had not made the necessary childcare arrangements, preventing them from attending on short notice”. This was followed up the next day by an email from the parents’ attorney “reiterating [the parents’] inability to attend and again requesting [the district] to reschedule the meeting”.

The district determined to proceed with the July 16, IEP Team meeting notwithstanding that the parents were not able to attend. “The meeting minutes state that the need to remain in compliance with the requirement that IEPs be updated at least annually was the reason for moving forward in the [parents] absence.” The notes of this annual review meeting make clear that, among other things, “updates to the student’s goals were impossible to make because the IEP [T]eam lacked current information regarding [the student’s] behaviors and progress”. On or about July19, 2013, the district issued a placement notice placing the student in a private therapeutic residential school and which the district had previously identified for the student on or about October 2012.

Upon agreement as to time and place, the IEP team reconvened on October 1, 2013. “The agenda for the meeting included review of new data and recommends (sic) for updated social emotional goals, review of recommended placement, and opportunity to discuss additional concerns or questions”. The agenda “did not include a plan to review goals outside of the social emotional category. During the meeting, the IEP Team “discussed [the student’s] recent

26 The Court cites to Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 311 (1988) and Bd. of Educ of Hendrick Hudson Cent. Sch. Dist v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 205-06 (1982).

27 The student is classified as a student with multiple disabilities. His conditions include an extreme form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, developmental coordination disorder, anxiety disorder with obsessive compulsive features, and a variety of other learning disorders.

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hospitalizations and a recent behavioral incident report” The IEP Team “reviewed [the student’s] psychiatric health and social-emotional goals as well as his proposed placement at [the districtidentified private therapeutic residential school]” “At the end of the meeting, [the district] reiterated its recommendation that the student be placed” at that private school and“set a proposed date for his placement” there. The parents and their attorney reiterated their own objections “and rejected the proposal”.

“[A]n amended IEP dated October 4, 2013, “stated that [the district] amended [the student’s] present performance levels and annual goals in a single area of concern – the social emotional behavioral area.” “Afew days later [the district] sent [the student’s] parents a PriorWritten Notice identifying [the student’s] placement as [the district-identified private school] and noting that the [student’s parents] had rejected that placement.”

The IEP Team met again on July 29, 2014 for an annual review. The district prepared a draft IEP which it circulated prior to the meeting to some members of the IEP Team but not to the parents. “During the meeting, the draft IEP was projected on a screen visible to all [IEP] [T]eam members”. The parents received a copy of the draft IEP at the time of the meeting.

With respect to the July 16, 2013 IEP Team meeting, the Court concluded upon review that the district “failed to comply” with relevant federal regulations at 34 CFR 300.322(a), (a)(2) and (d) and 300.328. Section 300.322(a) provides that the district “must take steps to ensure that one or both of the parents of a child with a disability are present at each IEP Team meeting”. Section 300.322(a)(2) provides that IEP Team Meetings must be scheduled “at a mutually agreed on time and place”. The regulations at Section 300.322(d) provide that a district may only hold a meeting without a parent if the public is “unable to convince the parents that they should attend”. Section 300.328 provides that “the parent of a child with a disabilityand a public agencymay agree to use alternative means of meeting participation such as video conferences and conference calls”28

The Court concluded that while the parents’ communicated intent to enroll the student in a private school “undoubtedly created confusion regarding whether the July 16 meeting was moving forward” as soon as the parents learned that the district and they were “not on the same page” the mother “immediately” “reached out” and advised that “she would very much like to attend and attempted to reschedule the meetingat a mutuallyconvenient time”. Thisbeingthe case,the Court concluded that at that time, “nothing more was required because, at that point, it was clear that the meeting was no longer at a mutually agreed on time and place” and that the district had not been “unable to convince the parents that they should attend”.

The Court dismissed the hearing officer’s conclusion that the district had done no wrong for two reasons. First, the Court wrote that “[w]here, as here, a conflict arises prior to the meeting, it is timely communicated to the other side, and an offer is made to reschedule, the previously scheduled meeting is no longer in conformity with the regulation [at Section 322(a)(2)] because it is no longer at a mutually agreed on time and place”. Second, the Court found that the hearing

28 Section 300.322(c) provides that “[i]f neither parent can attend an IEP Team meeting, the public agency must use other methods to ensure parent participation, including individual or conference telephone calls” (emphasis supplied).

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officer’s conclusion that the district had a right to go forward with the July 16, 2013, meeting “ignores the regulatory prohibition on holding a hearing unless [the district] is unable to convince parents that they should attend”. The Court said that “when [the parent] reached out on the day before the meeting saying she would very much like to attend, she had plainly communicated to [the district] that she believed that she should attend the meeting”. The Court said that the hearing officer “ignor[ed] the plain meaning of the regulatory language” when it analyzed “whether [the parents’] confusion regarding the meeting was reasonable”. Contrary to the position of the hearing officer, the Court said that “the regulatory scheme puts a clear thumb on the scales – parental participation is required up until the point the [district] can no longer convince the parents they should attend an IEP [Team] meeting”. According to the Court, “the [d]istrict may be required to accommodate parents even when they are difficult, contentious, or comparatively more at fault in a scheduling mix-up”. The Court concluded that the parent “plainly came within the reach of Section 300.322(d)” and “the hearing officer erred in findingthat no violation occurred byholding the July 13 [sic] meeting in her absence”.

The Court held that “[d]ue to the primary importance of parental participation, the complete exclusion of the [parents] from the [July 16, 2013] IEP [Team] meeting [rose] to the level of a substantive FAPE denial because it significantly impeded their ability to participate in [the student’s] educational planning”.

Regarding the October 1, 2013, IEP Team meeting, the parents argue that this meeting “failed to cure the FAPE denial [resulting from the July 1, 2013 meeting] because [the October 1, 2013 meeting] was insufficient in scope to replace the July 13 (sic) annual review and because [the district] predetermined [the district-identified private school] as the appropriate placement for the student prior to the meeting”.

The Court stated that “where a [district] has caused a FAPE denial due to improperly excluding parents, it bears a heavy burden in remediating this procedural violation”. The hearing officer concluded that “because [the parents] were able to participate and because the relevant portions of the IEP were reviewed during the October 1 meeting, there had been no denial of a FAPE as a result of this meeting”. The Court rejectedthis reasoningand pointed out that the hearing officer’s conclusion was “premised on the …prior erroneous conclusion that no violation occurred with respect to the July 16 meeting”. The Court said that the hearing officer “fail[ed] to incorporate … that the [parents] were entitled to participate in the full creation of [the student’s] IEP for the 201314 school year” and that “this requires more than some after-the-fact participation, which is all [the district] offered here through the October 1, 2013 meeting”. Reviewing the record, the Court pointed out that “critical components of an IEP [T]eam’s annual review were omitted or overlooked during the October 1, meeting”. The Court cited to the IDEA that “IEP [T]eams are required to, among other things, assess the student’s progress toward his annual goals, review the child’s anticipated needs, and receive information from the student’s parents”. Here, the Court found that “[t]he limited focus of the October 1 meeting failed to do so”. In particular, notwithstanding that the July 16 IEP Team was unable to update the student’s goals in numerous categories due “to lack of relevant data,” “the October 1 meeting did not review or update [the student’s] IEP in many of these areas”. “Nor did it seek information from the [parents’] on [the

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student’s] progress in these areas.” The Court said that “[i]nstead, the October meeting “focused almost exclusively” on the district’s preferred placement, “a recent incident that hadoccurred with a home instructor, and updating [the student’s] goals in the social-emotional category”. The Court concluded that “[t]his limited review was insufficient to cure the prior deficiencies [of the July 16, 2013 IEP Team meeting] resulting in a continued FAPE denial through the next time the IEP [T]eam convened on July 29, 2014” for its annual review for the 2014-15 school year.

Regarding the parents’ claim that the district predetermined the recommended private school at its October 1, 2013 meeting, the Court concluded that this was not the case. The Court said that “[w]hile parents’ participation is crucial to the determination of an appropriate educational placement for a student, the IDEA does not explicitly require parental participation in site selection”. The Court said that “[s]o long as the location of services is based on and capable of implementing the student’s IEP, local educational agencies generally have discretion in selecting the appropriate site”. The Court pointed to the fact that the parents “cite a litany of concerns” they had with the district’s recommended placement but do not “present any evidence that the hearing officer erred in finding that [the student’s] IEP [T]eam carefully considered [the student’s] needs and [the parents’] concerns and the record “fully supports the hearing officer’s conclusion on this issue”. The Court said that the matter was simply a case where the student’s parents disagreed with the IEP [T]eam’s recommended school placement.29

As it relates to the July 29, 2014 IEP Team meeting, the hearing officer concluded “that the [d]istrict did not significantly impede [the parents’] right to participate in planning [the student’s] education for the 2014-15 school year”. The Court was in agreement “with the hearing officer’s conclusion that the evidence does not support a finding that the [parents] were not able to participate in the July 29 meeting or that the discussion was unduly limited”. Regarding this, the Court pointed to the fact “that the IEP [T]eam reviewed each area of concern for [the student] and revised several of his goals”. Additionally, and “[a]s the hearing officer found, [the parents] gave feedback throughout” and “[i]ndeed the IEP made several adjustments specifically in response to [the parents’] requests, including adding assistive technology to assist [the student] and agreeing to conduct comprehensive evaluations and assessments.” Regarding the fact that the parents were not given a copyofthe draftIEPbefore theIEPTeam meeting,the Court saidthat,“as[the parents] concede, at the time of the meeting [the district] was not under any specific statutory or regulatory obligation to do so”. That being the case, the Court found that the failure of the district to provide the parents with a copy of the draft IEP prior to the IEP Team meeting did “not constitute a procedural violation, must (sic) less one that significantly impeded [the parents’] ability to participate”.30

29 The Court does not explain on what basis the IEP Team could determine an appropriate placement for the student in light of the fact that the IEP Team did not review or update the student’s IEP in many relevant areas, review the student’s anticipated needs, and receive information from the student’s parents.

30 The parents also argue here that the district “violated [their] right to participate by refusing to reconvene or otherwise consider information the [parents] provided after the meeting, principally a letter from [the student’s] psychologist”. With respect to this, the Court held that since the parents had not raised this issue with the hearing officer, the parents had not exhausted their administrative remedies relative to this issue and that therefore it would not consider the issue.

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Finally, the parents argue that the district sent the student’s “educational records to private schools without their consent” “Theycontend that hadthe [d]istrict let [the parents] playa larger role in selecting which records would be sent to prospective schools, it would have enabled [the parents] to better participate in the process of assessing a location’s ability to implement [the student’s] IEP, and therefore the failure to adequately involve the parents in this process significantly impeded their ability to participate in planning [the student’s] educational placement, resulting in a FAPE denial”. The Court concluded that the parents “offer[ed] no precedential support” for the parent’s argument and that it was unsupported by the record. Regarding the latter, the Court said that the parents initially consented to the disclosure of the student’s records and by September the parents may have withdrawn consent for at least some of the records. The Court held that even if this had been the case, the parents “have failed to adequately connect the alleged disclosure of confidential records after the point at which consent was withdrawn to [the parents’] ability to meaningfully participate in [the student’s] educational placement”.

With all of the above in mind, the Court concluded “that [the student] was denied a FAPE during the period between July16, 2013 and July29, 201431 due to the [d]istrict’s significant impediment of [the parents’] participation in their son’s educational planning during this timeframe”. As a remedy, the Court remanded the matter to the hearing officer for a determination of the amount of compensatory education due the student.

PARENT SUBMITTED EVALUATIONS AND DATA

S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the CSE’s initial evaluation properly evaluated the student.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the SRO’s conclusion that the CSE’s initial evaluation properly evaluated the student.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, the parties agree that the CSE “failed to conduct all evaluations required by State regulation.” See 8 NYCRR 200.4(b)(1). In particular, the CSE did not conduct its own speech and language evaluation. However, the CSE substituted a district evaluation with one provided by the parents and the Court found, citing authority, that this did not deprive the child of a proper evaluation. See M.H. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 10 CV-01042, 2011 WL 609880, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Feb.16,2011)(“The IDEAclearlypermitsparentstoobtainprivatetestingandnowhere implies that local schools must corroborate private results before using them.). With that in mind, the SRO found and the Court agreed that the information the CSE did have in front of it was sufficient – including the private evaluation that the plaintiff had provided – and which enabled the CSE to make an appropriate determination of the student’s auditory processing abilities. The

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31 This was the 2013-14 school year

Court held that this was a procedural violation and that as such, a denial of FAPE would be shown only if it impended the child’s right to a FAPE, significantly impeded the parents’ opportunity to participate in the decision-makingprocess regardingthe provision of a FAPE to the parents’ child, or caused a deprivation of educational benefits. The Court said that here the fact that the parents provided their consent to the evaluation did not mean that when the evaluation was not performed, the parents were impeded in the process. As indicated, the Court said that the CSE properly substituted the parents’ evaluation for one done by the district. The Court pointed out here that the parents also attended the CSE meeting.

The Court also concludedthat “[a] reviewof the entire record indicated furtherthat the CSE would have come to the same conclusion as to [the student’s] ineligibility whether it had before it all statutorily required information or not and, therefore any such violation did not deny [the student] a FAPE”. The parents also argued that the CSE did not adequately consider the information it did have and, apparently, that the CSE was required to review all relevant documentation/information before the CSE meeting. The Court concluded that the parents provided no authority for this, that the CSE had time to review the information “in an efficient manner duringa one-hour session, and that three levels of review (by the IHO, the SRO, and the Court) had determined by substantial consideration that the totality of the record supports the CSE’s determination that the student was not eligible under IDEA and that this compensated for any purported lack of consideration by the CSE.

The Court upheld the SRO’s determination.

EQUIRED MEMBERS

Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023)

Dispute: Whether it was a violation of FAPE for the physician member of the CSE to appear by telephone.

Conclusion: The Court concluded that while it was a procedural error for the physician member of the CSE to appear by telephone, it was not a violation of FAPE.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, the parents argued “that the [district’s] school physician’s participation by telephone resulted in a denial of a FAPE.” “Under New York law, each member of the CSE must attend full CSE meetings. See 8 NYCRR 200.3(f). [In addition,] their attendance must be in person, unless the [district] and the parents agree to use alternative means of participation such as video conferences or conference telephone calls. 8 NYCRR 200.5(d)(7) Further, a parent can request that a school physician become a member of the CSE, whose in-person attendance would be required under New York regulations. 8 NYCRR 200.3(a)(vii)”.

TheCourtsaid“[h]ere,neitherpartyconteststhatthe[p]arentsmadeatimelyrequestfora[district] school physician to be a member of the CSE and attend the meeting in person:” “Nor is there any dispute [said the Court,] that the [p]arents never agreed to permit the school physician to attend

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the meeting telephonically; to the contrary, the [p]arents explicitly requested that the physician attend the meeting in person.”

“[T]he IHO found that the physician’s participation by telephone did not limit the physician’s ability to review the student’s educational records and offer an opinion on placement”. “The SRO agreed, holding that while the absence of parental agreement that the district physician attend via telephone, instead of in person, may be a technical violations of state procedures, it [did] not rise to the level of a denial of FAPE … because the physician attending via telephone instead of in person did not preclude the parents from participation in the development of the …IEP”.

The Court advised that “[t]he parents point to nothing in the record that suggests the school physician’s participation by telephone impeded the [p]arents’ opportunity to participate in the [CSE] meeting or otherwise [denied] the student a FAPE”. With this in mind, the Court pointed out that “[t]he parents have thus offered no reason for [the] Court to disturb the conclusions of the IHO and SRO that the physician’s telephonic participation, through a procedural error, does not require relief” and cited to case law in the Second Circuit for the proposition that courts “have repeatedly found no IDEA violation where a CSE member participated telephonically in a [CSE] meeting.” See S.A. ex rel. M.A.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 2014 WL 1311761, at *9 (E.D.N. Y. Mar. 30, 2014).

S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the CSE was properly constituted.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the SRO’s conclusion that the CSE was properly constituted.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The IDEA requires that an IEP Team include “not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is or maybe, participatingin the regular education environment)”. See 20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(1) ((B)(ii).

In thiscase,thestudent’sregulareducationIEPTeamteacherwasnot hercurrentregulareducation teacher but the student’s regular education teacher from the previous school year. The Court concluded that there was no requirement in the IDEA nor its regulations that required the regular education teacher on the IEP Team be a student’s current regular education teacher.

Further, and even if that were the case, the Court said that “not every procedural violation during a CSE evaluation constitutes a denial of a FAPE”. In this regard, the Court said this was the case only for those that impede the student’s right to a FAPE, significantly impeded the parent’s opportunity to participate in the decision-making process, or caused a deprivation of educational benefits.

The Court cited to the SRO’s decision that said “there is no evidence to support that the inclusion of a sixth-grade regular education teacher who was familiar with the student instead of one of the student’s seventh grade regular education teachers was so infirm as to have impeded the student’s

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right to a FAPE or significantly impeded the parent’s opportunity to participate in the decisionmaking process, or caused a deprivation of educational benefits”.

The Court said that it agreed with this and that “moreover, the parents have not persuasively identified anyprejudice as a result of this. It also pointed out that the parents “argue that a current observation of [the student’s] performance in the classroom is an invaluable tool to understand the impact of [the student’s] impairments in the school setting and her present level of functioning”. The Court said that “[y]et the record does not indicate that [the student’s] levels of functioning regressed from sixth to seventh grade and to the contrary, shows that [the student] made improvements in the classroom during that time. As such, the Court said the [previous year’s teacher’s] observations of [the student] in sixth grade would be more likely to support [the parents’] position than prejudice it.” (emphasis in original).

The Court upheld the SRO’s decision that the IEP Team was properly constituted.

Rogich v Clark Co. Sch. Dist., No. 2:17- cv-01541-RFB-NJK. 2021 WL 4781515, at *2 -*8 (D. Nev. Oct. 12, 2021)

Dispute: Did the IEP Team review existing evaluations including evaluations and information provided by the parents of the student and did the IEP Team consider the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child? And relatedly, did the district provide the student with a FAPE?

Conclusion: The Court concluded that IEP Team neither reviewed existing information including evaluations and information provided by the parents of the student nor considered the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child. And relatedly, the district did not provide the student with a FAPE.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The IHO determined that the district failed to comply with its procedural and substantive obligations under the IDEA. The SRO disagreed. The Court, found, among other things, that the SRO erred by rejecting a number of the IHO’s credibility determinations. These concerned, among other things, whether the IEP Teams reviewed evaluations provided by the parents; whether the IEPs at issue included the components of the Orton-Gillingham approach; whether “the evaluations plainlyindicated that [the student’s] unique needs mandated the inclusion of a specific methodology”; and that because, “the IEPs only included multisensory instruction”, whether the IEP Teams could have meaningfully considered the evaluations or [the parents’] concern”. This being the case, the Court found that the SRO improperly rejected the IHO’s conclusion that the IEP Team did not “review existing evaluative data of the child including … evaluations and information provided by the parents of the child”; did not “consider the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of the child…” and that the district “substantively violated the IDEA.

According to the Court, “the primary dispute at the center of [the] action [was] whether the IEP [T]eam was required to include the Orton-Gillingham methodology or a similar program, in [the student’s] IEP.

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As indicated above, the Court found that the IHO properly concluded that the IEP Teams did not comply with the IDEA’s procedures in that “the IEP [T]eams did not adequately review the evaluations provided by [the parents]” nor “meaningfully consider [the parent’s] concerns for enhancing the education of their child.”

With respect to the former the Court found that “the [d]istrict ignored the central findings and recommendations of the professional evaluations of [the student]”. More specifically that these evaluations did not only call for multisensory instruction but “stressed the importance of the delivery mechanism by which [the student] would receive that instruction.” In particular, a 2009 evaluation expressed the opinion that “[m]ethodology will be a key factor in improving [the student’s] academic standing and that “[the student] will respond best to instructional programs that provide simultaneous, multisensory programs … and are also systematic and cumulative”. The subsequent 2013 evaluation, which was prepared bythe same evaluator, repeatsthe above and also stated “[u]nless the student has multimodalityteaching, i.e.,a combinationof visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic, she will most likely have difficulty in academic settings, especially as the academic tasks become more abstract.” Further, a 2015 evaluation states that “[the student] will continue to require intensive, multimodal, research-based learning programs for reading comprehensionand math”. In testimonybefore the IHO this evaluator stressedthat “it matter[ed]” howthe multisensoryor multimodalityapproachisimplementedand that it required“thatit should be a program approach… there should be a methodology to it” and there “should be a philosophy to it and one that is applied with really rigorous consistency.”

In contrast to these evaluations, the Court observed in its decision that “the 2014 IEP included, [among other things], the instruction that a multisensory approach to teaching was to be used throughout the school day.” “[T]he 2016 IEP included, among other things, “multisensory instruction that will incorporate the simultaneous use of two or more sensory pathways during teacher presentations and student practice in Special Education classes”. According to the Court, neither the 2014 nor the 2016 IEPs “identified a specific methodology, or program, or structured curriculum format that teachers were obligated to utilize in meeting [the student’s] unique needs”.

The Court concluded that “[t]hus “it [was] evident from the undisputed evaluations, which stress the importance of methodology and the use of the research-based learning programs that the IEP [T]eam failed to consider the evaluations in any meaningful way”. With respect to the SRO’s position that the inclusion of “multi-sensory instruction” in the two IEPs were components of Orton-Gillingham and that this independently supported the conclusion that the district had considered the evaluations, the Court said that “the issue [was] not onlythe type of instruction but the way in which it [was] delivered”. The Court admitted that “[the district was] not generally required to include a methodology in the IEP, [but that] the district’s own Procedures Manual makes plain that in rare circumstances a student’s individual needs may require a certain methodology if the IEP [T]eam determines that it would be necessary to receive a FAPE. The Court found that had the IEP Team considered the student’s evaluations and their recommendations they “would have recognized that this was one of those rare circumstances”.

With respect to whether “the IEP [T]eams failed to consider [the parents’] concerns, the Court cited testimonyto the effect that “the IEP [T]eams failed to respond to their inquiries about which

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programs, if not Orton-Gillingham, the District was able to provide that would address [the student’s] unique needs”.

The Court also found that the district violated the substantive obligations of the IDEA. The Court said that taking into account the district’s procedural violations “and as the record and the evaluations make clear, [the student] required a specific methodologyin order to receive a FAPE”. The Court went on to say that “this is not to say that [the student] necessarily required the OrtonGillinghammethodologybutshedidrequireanequivalentmethodologythatwas[]researchbased, [] systemic, [] cumulative and [] rigorously implemented”. The Court found that the district did not have any such program and that the district’s representation that its “multisensory program in the IEP was illusory”.

The Court concluded that the procedural andsubstantive violationsdeprived the student of a FAPE because they “seriously infringed the parents’ opportunity to participate in the IEP formulation process” and “also resulted in the loss of educational opportunity for [the student]”. The Court also concluded that “as made plain by the evaluations and their recommendations [the student] cannot learn without a consistent and structured approach to multisensory instruction throughout the school day.” Further, the Court went on to state that by [f]ailing to identify a methodology that would ensure that the same approach is consistently utilized throughout the school day by all of [the student’s] instructors necessarily means that [the student] will not have the opportunity to learn as she needs to”.

C.N. and M.N. v. Katonah Lewisboro Sch. Dist., No.-19-CV-6793 (CS), 2020 WL 7496435 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2020)

Dispute: The parents assert that providing an evaluation to the district required the CSE to reconvene. The district argues that the IDEA has no such requirement.

Conclusion: The district Court upheld the SRO that the IDEA did not require the CSE to reconvene upon its receipt of such information.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The Court held that the IDEAonly required the CSE to reconvene at least annually and at that time, to revise the IEP as appropriate to address, among other things, new information from the parents but that there was no statutory mandate to reconvene whenever additional information comes to their attention. Regarding this, the Court also pointed to the fact that the CSE reviewed the evaluation at its next CSE meeting. The Court also held that even if there were such a requirement, the evaluation “did not contain any new substantive information that would have required the CSE to revise [the student’s] IEP and change [the student’s] placement.”

Application of the New York City Department of Education, 20-108 (8/10/20) Dispute: The parent submitted evaluative data to the CSE including a neuropsychological evaluation. The parent contended that, among other things, one of the submitted reports recommended, “’a therapeutic setting that specialized in the education of students with autism’” and that “the student needed to receive instruction ‘using a research and evidence based program such as ABA’ and “that the program needed to be provided in ‘a structured and predicable environment’”. The parent asserted that such a program ‘could only be found in a nonpublic

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school”. The parent also wanted ten hours a week of at-home ABA. The district contends that its IEP conforms “in practice” withthe parent’s neurophysiological evaluationand setsout a program that is “functionally equivalent” to the recommendations in the neuropsychological report. The district asserts that the purpose of the home-based ABA was to generalize skills to the home environment and was therefore not appropriate in the IEP. There was no dispute that the student needed a 12-month program.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the evidence in the hearing record supported the IHO’s finding that the district’s IEP did not offer the student a FAPE.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The SRO reviewed the evaluative data submitted to the CSE bythe parent. Specific recommendationsthereinstatedthatthe student neededa program “suchasABA” or ABA instruction for, among other things, academics, skills and skill acquisition, prevocational skills and goals relating to academic and language skills. The SRO concluded that the district failed toexplain howits IEP addressed the student’s documentedneed for 1:1 intensive instruction throughout the dayfor skill acquisitionandtoachieve,amongotherthings,academicandlanguage skill goals. The SRO concluded that while the district might argue that its recommended paraprofessional may assist the student with respect to behavior, the IEP did not provide “for the student to receive 1:1 instruction to improve functional academics and pre-vocational skills” as recommended in the evaluative material provided to the CSE by the parent. The SRO explained that there was “nothingin the hearing record to indicate that the 1:1 paraprofessional was intended to provide instruction to the student”, and further, that state regulations provided that a paraprofessional could not independentlyprovide the recommended level of instructional services set out in the evaluations before the CSE. Additionally, the SRO indicated that while the district provided the CSE with certain limited and inadequate evaluative information, the CSE had “no independent source of information to support its position that the student did not require 1:1 instruction using ABA methods”. Lacking its own evaluations to support its recommendations that the student’s program did not require 1:1 instruction using ABA and keeping the above in mind, the SRO concluded that the hearing record supported the IHO’s finding that the IEP failed to offer the student a FAPE; a finding which included 10 hours a week of at home ABA and which amount was supported by the evaluative data submitted to the CSE by the parent.

INTERPRETATION SERVICES

Y.A. v. New York City Dep’t. of Educ., No. 15-cv-05790 (CM), 2016 WL 5811843, at *2, *6, *13-*14, *19 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 21, 2016)

Dispute: Whether the District’s failure to provide the parent with interpreter services at CSE meetings was a violation of a FAPE.

Conclusion: The Court held that the failure of the district to provide an interpreter at CSE meetings was a procedural violation that deprived the student of a FAPE.

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Basis of the Court’s Decision:

34 CFR 300.322[e] provides that “[t]he public agency must take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the parent understands the proceedings of the IEP Team meeting, including arranging for an interpreter for parents with deafness or whose native language is other than English”. In this case, the parent’s native language is Russian.

The IHO found that the parent “did not need” aninterpreter at the CSE meetings. The SRO upheld the IHO but “did however, recognize the possibilityof procedural failings that the IHO had simply dismissed byordering,[amongotherthings] that the [district]considerwhetherthe parent required an interpreter for the next year’s CSE meeting”.

The districtassertedbeforethe Court that the parent “speaksandreadsEnglishso even ifhernative language is Russian, she was not disadvantaged when the CSEs were conducted in English. The parent denied that “she speaks and reads English well”.

Unlike the district’s claim, the Court held that this issue was not a “credibility determination” requiring the Court “to defer to the IHO” but that “the issue is whether there is enough evidence in the record to indicate that the [parent] was denied her right to meaningfully participate in the process that determined her daughter’s special education plans”. Upon its review of the record, the Court found that the parent “speaks and writes some English and has made an effort to learn English”. At the same time, the Court concluded that the parent “is a non-native English speaker who struggles to speak and write in English” and that “the cumulative record supports the [parent’s] claim that she required Russian translation and interpretation in order to effectively understand and to be understood”. In this regard, the Court cited to, among other things, the fact that the parent “testified in Russian at the impartial hearing,” testified there “that it is easier for her to speak Russian than English”, that “she always needs a translator”, that “she informed the district] at every meeting that she needed a Russian interpreter”, and that “the parent’s written communication in the record demonstrate that her English is far from fluent”.

“[L]ike (sic) SRO” the Court was “troubled by the [district’s] unresponsiveness to [the parent’s] language barrier”. The Court concluded, however that “unlike the SRO” it “declines to excuse as harmless error the [district’s] blind-eye approach to the [parent’s] language barrier”.

The Court held that “the [district’s] failure to accommodate the [parent] in Russian significantly impeded the [parent’s] opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of a FAPE to [the student] and therefore was a procedural violation that deprived the student of a FAPE.

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DECLASSIFICATION & TERMINATION OF SERVICES

Kevin T. v. Elmhurst Community Sch. Dist., No. 205, No. 01 C 0005, 2002

WL 433061 at *14 (U.S.D.C. Northern District of Ill. Eastern Division, Mar 20, 2002)

Dispute: The district asserts that it can graduate the student as soon as the student has completed the number of credits to do so. The parents disagree.

Conclusion: The Court held that the student had a right to receive special education until he was 22 in circumstances where even though the student met the general graduation requirements but did not make progress on, or complete, the student’s IEP’s goals and objectives.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: In this case, the Court concluded that the district unilaterally graduated the student whenthe student met the general graduationrequirements.The Court further found that in making this decision the district did not consider the student’s progress on, or completion, of his goals and objectives before it decided to unilaterally graduate the student. Regarding this, the Court found that the district did not discuss the student’s goals and objectives when makingthe decision to graduate the student. Based on this, the Court found that the District inappropriately graduated the student and reversed the IHO’s decision. Because of this, the court ordered the district to reimburse the parents for the reasonable expenses of the private school that the student was attending for the period of time after the district ceased its funding for the private school and before the Court issued its pendency order.

DISCIPLINE OF STUDENTS

INTERIM ALTERNATIVE EDUCATIONAL SETTING (IAES)

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-091 at pp. 38-42, 48-50

Dispute: Did the district follow State regulation regarding the assignment of the student to an interim alternative educational setting.

Conclusion: The SRO held that the district did not properly assign the student to an interim alternative educational setting.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“The district may not unilaterally remove a student with a disability from his placement because it believesthe student posesa safetyrisk. See Honigv.Doe,484U.S.305, 321(1988).” Consistent with this, “[an interim alternative educational setting (IAES)] is a temporary educational placement, other than the student’s current placement at the time the behavior precipitating the IAES placement occurred. 8 NYCRR 201.2(k).” “As part of a disciplinary proceeding, a superintendent mayremove a student with a disabilitytoan IAESifthe student’sconduct involved seriousbodilyinjury,weapons,illegal drugs orcontrolledsubstances. 20U.S.C.1415(k)(1)(G)(i)–(iii); 34 CFR 300.530(g); 8 NYCRR 201.7(e).” “Additionally, if a district requests an expedited

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hearing, an IHO may order a placement to an IAES even if the student is not subject to a disciplinaryproceedingiftheIHOdeterminesthatmaintainingthecurrentplacementofthestudent is substantially likely to result in injury to the student or to others.” 8 NYCRR 201.8(a), (c). “[A manifestation determination review (MDR)] meeting must be conducted within 10 school days after a superintendent or IHO decides to place a student in an IAES. See 8 NYCRR 201.4(a)(1)(2)”. “A student who is placed in an IAES shall continue to receive educational services so as to enable that student to continue to participate in the general curriculum … and to progress toward meeting the goals set out in the student’s IEP”. 8 NYCRR 201.2(k)(1).

In this case, the SRO concluded that the interim day treatment (IDT) program that the district assigned the student met the definition of an IAES and under the circumstances here, “the district was required to seek an IHO determination if it was of the view that maintaining the student’s program and placement he attended prior to the September 2019 CSE meeting was likely to result in injury to the student or to others”. The SRO pointed out, however, that the district did not do so. The SRO also pointed out that if the district had done that it “would thereafter have been required to conduct an MDR,” which it also did not do. See 8 NYCRR 201.4(a)(2).

According to the SRO, neither did the CSE “formally recommend the IDT program on the student’s IEP”.

With the above in mind, the SRO concluded that “the district cannot defend the student’s placement in the IDT as an IEAS or as an offer of FAPE and the IHO erred in finding that the district’s placement of the student in the IDT was procedurally or substantively appropriate.” As a consequence, the SRO concluded that the district denied the student a FAPE.

As a remedy, amongother things, the parent requested 37 days of compensatoryeducation, which was based on the student’s being placed in the IDT for 37 days. The SRO pointed out that the district “failed to put in contrary evidence regarding an appropriate compensatory education award.” Only arguing that it had provided the student with a FAPE for the years in question, the SRO concluded that the district “failed to address its burdens as required under the due process procedures set forth in New York State Law”. The SRO concluded that “[g]iven the district’s failure to meet its burden of production or persuasion on the issue of compensatory education services, the calculations put forth by the parent are unrebutted”.

With respect to the issue relating to the assignment of the student to the IDT, the SRO awarded the student “an equitable award” of 37 hours of compensatory education, which was an hour of compensatory education for each day of unlawful placement. The SRO pointed out here that although the student was assigned to the IDT for 37 days, while at that program, the student “worked at goals, received behavioral and therapeutic interventions, and made progress”. As support for her decision, the SRO cited to out of circuit cases for the proposition that “compensatory education should be denied when the deficiencies suffered have already been mitigated” and that “an award of compensatoryeducation is not mandatoryin cases where a denial of FAPE is established”.Since the student’s “primaryarea of need is behavioral” unless the parties agree otherwise, the SRO ordered that the “compensatory tutoring services awarded be provided by either a special education teacher or a [Board Certified Behavior Analyst]”.

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MANIFESTATION DETERMINATION

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 11-034 Dispute: Was the district’s discipline-related manifestation determination review (MDR) team properly constituted and did it comply with its obligations under the law.

Conclusion: The SRO held that the district’s discipline-related MDR team was not properly constituted and that it did not comply with its obligations under the law.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“If a district is considering a disciplinary change in placement for a student with a disability, the district must conduct a manifestation determination review (MDR) meeting within 10 days of any decision to change the placement of a child with a disability because of a violation of a code of student conduct. A MDR meeting must also be conducted within 10 school days after a superintendent or impartial hearing officer decides to place the student in an interim alternative educational setting (IAES). The participants at the MDR meeting must include a district representative, the parents, and the relevant members of the CSE as determined by the parent and the district. State regulations additionally require that the parent must receive written notification prior to any manifestation team meeting to ensure that the parent has an opportunity to attend. Further, State regulations require that such written notice inform the parents of the purpose of the meeting, the names of the people expected to attend, and the parent’s right to have relevant members of the CSE participate at the parent’s request.

“Within 10 school days of any decision to change the placement of a student with a disability because of a violation of a code of student conduct, the manifestation team must review all relevant information in the student’s file including the student’s IEP, any teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents to determine if (1) the conduct in question was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the student’s disability; or (2) the conduct in question was the direct result of the school district’s failure to implement the IEP”.

“If the result of the MDR is a determination that the student’s behavior was not a manifestation of his or her disability, the relevant disciplinary procedures applicable to children without disabilities may be applied to the child in the same manner in which they would be applied to children without disabilities. However, if the result of the MDR is a determination that the student’s behavior was a manifestation of his or her disability, the district’s CSE is required to conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and implement a BIP, or if the student already has a BIP, review the BIP and modify it as necessary to address the behavior. Except under special circumstances as defined in the IDEA and regulations, the district must also return the student to the placement from which he or she was removed or suspended. If the manifestation team determines that the student’s conduct was the direct result of the school district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP, the district must take immediate steps to correct the deficiencies in the implementation of the student’s IEP.”

See generally 34 CFR 300.530-536; 8 NYCRR Part 201.

The IHO “issued a decision upholding the manifestation team’s determination that the student’s behavior [during the incident in question] was not a manifestation of his disability”.

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The parent appealed to a State Review Officer (SRO). The SRO, first determined that “the hearing record [did] not clearly indicate when the manifestation team met to conduct the MDR”. See 34 CFR 300.530(e)(1); 8 NYCRR 201.4(a). The SRO also found “that there [was] no evidence that the parent participated in the MDR meeting.” See CFR 530(e) (1); 8 NYCRR 201.4(b). Regarding this, the SRO pointed to the fact that “aside from a single notation that the district called and left a message …there is no evidence documenting the district’s efforts to attain the parent’s participation in the MDR”. See id. The SRO concluded that “scanty evidence regarding the district’s compliance with the procedures for conducting the MDR, including its efforts to obtain the parent’s participation may not suffice to uphold the determination of the MDR”.

With respect to the first element of the manifestation determination, the extent to which the conduct in question was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the student’s disability, (see 34 CFR 300.530[e][1][i]; 8 NYCRR 201.4[c][1]) the SRO determined that “the hearing record does not clearly indicate what information the manifestation team considered, whether the parent attended, when the MDR was conducted”, and “[that] the information developed at the impartial hearing was contradictory”. With this in mind, the SRO “declin[ed] to adhere to the conclusion that the student’s behavior at the time of the …incident was not caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the student’s disability”. Additionally, the SRO “[found] that the IHO’s decision to uphold the district’s manifestation determination with respect to the relationship of the conduct in question to the student’s disability” was not adequately supported by evidence contained in the hearing record”.

With respect to the second element of a manifestation determination, whether the conduct in question was the direct result of the district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP (see 34 CFR 300.530[e][1][ii]; 8 NYCRR 201.4[c][2]), the SRO found that “the hearing record lacks testimonial or documentary evidence that explains which IEP was reviewed during the MRD or how the manifestation team reached its determination regarding whether the student’s conduct may have been a failure to implement the student’s IEP”. “Consequently”, the SRO concluded “that the hearing record [was] inadequate to support a determination regarding whether the manifestation team appropriately concluded that the November 2010 conduct in question was or was not the direct result of the district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP”.

With respect to whether additional evaluations were appropriate, the SRO said that the district convened the CSE, modified the student’s IEP, and developed a BIP but that there was no indication regarding whether an FBA was conducted prior to developing the student’s BIP or whether the manifestation team reviewed such information prior to arriving at its manifestation determination. Therefore, the SRO “encouraged the district to consider, if it has not already done so, conducting additional evaluation of the student that includes but is not limited to an FBA in order to ascertain the contextual factors that contribute to the student’s negative behaviors and probable consequences that serve to maintain them”.

With all of the above in mind, the SRO annulled the IHO decision. He further ordered “that the district shall, unless the parties otherwise agree, reconvene the manifestation team to reconsider whether the student’s behavior during the [incident in question] was (1) caused by or had a direct

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and substantial relationship to the student’s disability; or (2) the direct result of the district’s failure to implement the student’s … IEP.

MISCELLANEOUS

OSEP Dear Colleague Letter on Implementation of IDEA Discipline Provisions, # 22-01 (July 19, 2022)

Purpose of the OSEP Dear Colleague Letter:

As a part of the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) wrote that the Department of Education “is particularly concerned with disparities in the use of discipline for children with disabilities and the implementation of IDEA’s discipline provisions”. It issued its Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) and two accompanying guidance documents to provide current information and questions and answers relating to discipline, IDEA, and students with disabilities.

OSEP referenced its August 1, 2016 DCL which “highlighted data demonstrating that many children with disabilities, particularly Black children with disabilities, were subjected to disproportionately high rates of disciplinary removals”. OSEP said that “[d]espite the evidence that using positive, proactive strategies can reduce rates of discipline and improve school climate and student outcomes, there remain notable disparities … in the use of school discipline for children with disabilities compared with their nondisabled peers and for children of color with disabilities compared with all other students”. OSEP said that “[t]he use of exclusionary disciplinary practices places large numbers of children with disabilities at risk for short- and longterm negative outcomes,includinglowerachievementandincreasedlikelihoodofnotgraduating”. OSEP pointed out that, as indicated below, since the issuance of its 2016 DCL “disparities in the use ofexclusionarydiscipline,includingbothshort-term andlong-term removalshave continued”.

OSEP pointed out that according to the Department’s most recent Civil Rights Data Collection32 for the 2017-18 school year:

 “Preschool students served under IDEA accounted for 22.7 percent of total preschool enrollment but 56.9 percent of preschool students who were expelled”;

 “School-age students with disabilities served under IDEA represented 13.2 percent of total student enrollment but received 20.5 percent of one or more in-school suspensions and 24.5 percent of one or more out-of-school suspensions”;

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32 This data appears to include students with disabilities under Section 504.

“Students withdisabilities served under IDEAmade up 80.2 percent of the students subjected to physical restraint and 77.3 percent of students subjected to seclusion, despite making up only 13.2 percent of students enrolled in public schools”.

Additionally, according to “Section 618” data,33 during the 2019-20 school year, Black children with disabilities made up 17.2 percent of children with disabilities aged 3-21 served under IDEA yet accounted for 43.5 percent of all children with disabilities aged 3-21 served under IDEA who were suspended out of school or expelled for more than 10 school days”.

TIMEOUT ROOMS,RESTRAINTS, AND SECLUSION

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-091 at pp. 42-50

Dispute: Did the district follow State regulation and guidance regarding time out rooms.

Conclusion: The SRO held that the district’s use of the time out room did not comply with State regulation and guidance and denied the student a FAPE.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“According to State regulation, a time out room is an area for a student to safelydeescalate, regain control and prepare to meet expectations to return to his or her educational program. 8 NYCRR 200.22(c). Time out rooms are to be used in conjunction with a BIP in which a student is removed to a supervised area in order to facilitate self-control or to remove a student from a potentially dangerous situation in order to teach and reinforce alternative appropriate behaviors. However, a time out room mayalso be used as an emergencyintervention in unanticipated situations that pose an immediate concern for the physical safety of a student or others. 8 NYCRR 200.22(c), (c)(3); See “Policy and Guidance on the Use of Time Out Rooms”; New York State Department of Education; Field Mem (April 1994); See also “Use of Time Out Rooms”, New York State Department of Education, (May 2011) In addition, a student’s IEP must specify when a BIP includes the use of a time out room for a student with a disability, including the maximum amount of time a student will need to be in a time out room as a behavioral consequence as determined on an individual basis in consideration of the student’s age and individual needs. 8 NYCRR 200.22(c)(2). All schools that use a time out room for behavior management are required to develop and implement policies and procedures related to the use of the time out room. 8 NYCRR 200.22(c)(1). State regulationalso imposes requirementsthat schools document the use of the time out room, including information to monitor the effectiveness of the use of the time out room to decrease specified behaviors. 8 NYCRR 200.22(c)(8).” “State regulations also include specific requirements relating to the physical structure and features of a time out room. See 8 NYCRR 200 22(c)(5)-(7).” In particular, among other things, the regulations provide that “the physical space used as a time out room shall provide a means of continuous visual and auditory monitoring of the student; that staff shall continuously monitor the student; and they must be able to see and hear the student at all times”. Additionally, “wall and floorcoverings are to be designed toprevent

33 This data appears to exclude students with 504 plans.

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injury to the student”. The time out room shall be “unlocked” and “the door must be able to be opened from the inside”, “Further, before implementing a BIP that will incorporate the use of a time out room, districts must afford parents the opportunity to see the physical space that will be used as a time out room and provide the parent with a copy of the school’s policy related to time out rooms. 8 NYCRR 200.22(c)(4).”

In November 2017, when the student was in kindergarten, a psychiatrist evaluated the student and found that the student met the criteria for diagnoses of an unspecified disorder of impulse control and an opposition defiant disorder (ODD). It was noted that diagnoses of ADHD and a disruptive mood dysregulation disorder needed to be ruled out. On November 30, 2017, the district’s CSE met and foundthe student eligible for special educationasa student withanemotionaldisturbance.

During the 2017-18 school year, the record shows that the student was “removed from the classroom and to an administrator’s office on three separate occasions”. The behaviors involved were “climbing on furniture, kicking and punching staff and students, running away, and yelling and screaming profanities”.

The district began using what it called the ‘peace room” with respect to the student during the 2018-19 school year when the student was in the first grade. During that school year, the student was removed to the “peace room” “approximately 69 times with the length of time varying from five minutes to almost a full school day” and on some days, more than one occasion. During this period “[t]he reasons for the student’s removal to the peace room varied and included throwing a chair; kicking and hitting the teacher/aide, running outside of the school building, and throwing items in the classroom and at others”.

The district argued that the “peace room” served both positive and consequential functions. However, the SROsaid that“while the district’sintentionswerewell-meaning,the use ofthe peace room for multiple purposes and in response to varying precipitating factors was itself problematic as the room ultimately might have come to reinforce the student’s escape/avoidance behaviors”. Moreover, the SRO said that “the district could not choose to focus on the occasions when the room was used in managing behaviors that were less escalated to minimize the district’s use of the peace room” as a time out room so as to avoid the relevant State regulations relating to time out rooms. The SRO concluded that the peace room was a time out room as defined in accordance with State regulation. See 8 NYCRR 200.22(c)

Upon the SRO’s review, she determined, that contrary to State regulation [at 8 NYCRR 200.22(c)(1)], the hearing record did not contain any district regulations for the use of the peace room”. According to the SRO, “lacking from the district’s policy were specifics required by State regulation, such as provisions on placinga student ina locked room ora room in which the student cannot be continuously observed; circumstances under which the time out room may be used; limitations on the duration of time for which the time out room may be used; data collection to monitor the effectiveness of the use of the time out room; information that would be provided to the parents; and staff training on the policies and procedures related to the use of the time out room”. Further, “[t]he district did not have a specific policy regarding how long a student could

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be placed in the peace room” and this was evaluated on a “case-to-case basis”. See 8 NYCRR 200.22(c)(1)(iii)

The SRO pointed out that also “[i]n contravention of State regulation, the student’s IEPs do not reference the use of the time out room or the maximum amount of time the student would need to be in the room for a behavioral consequence”. See 8 NYCRR 200.22(c)(2). Additionally, “[a]lthough the BIPs do contemplate the student’s removal from the classroom if his behavior escalated to physical aggression, they did not specifically reference or describe the peace room or specify the maximum amount of time the student could be removed to the peace room”. The BIPs didnot specifyanythingelse about the locationtowhichthe student wouldbe removed,orwhether and by whom the student would be supervised while removed from the classroom. The SRO reported that the record indicated that “the district did, however, document the use of the peace room, including the dates of the student’s removal from the classroom to the peace room, the duration of the removal and the behavior which precipitated his removal.” Each time the “student was removed to the peace room; a behavior incident review report was completed detailing the incident”. The SRO pointed out, however, that “missing from some of the descriptions in the incident reports was the use of the extinction procedures outlined in the student’s [relevant BIP] prior to his removal.”

The assignment of the student to the peace room continued during the 2019-20 school, year when the student was in the second grade. The student was removed to the peace room approximately seven times before he was suspended on September 25, 2019. “The basis of the removals were climbing on furniture, punching and hitting staff, using a screwdriver and pointer as weapons, and biting staff”. The SRO pointed out here that “[b]ased upon the information contained in the behavior incident reports, it did not appear that district staff followed the procedures set forth in the [relevant] BIP prior to removal to the peace room”.

The district’s CSE met on May31, 2019. Based on the discussion and review of documents at that meeting, it recommended an out of district therapeutic day placement. At a CSE meeting on September 27, 2019, after multiple school suspensions as a result of incidents of physical aggression, the CSE recommended four hours per day of home instruction. It also discussed an interim program at an intensive day treatment (IDT) if the parent declined the home instruction. The student began attending an IDT on October 4, 2019. The student’s last day at this placement was November 27, 2019, and “he transitioned to an out of district therapeutic day treatment program” at that time.

The district’s behavioral specialist testified that the student used the time out room “a lot” and that although the time out room “may not have worked on eliminating problem behavior, it was a safer option for the student”. Similarly, the behavior specialist testified that the peace room “was effective in deescalating in situations but that it was not effective in decreasing [the student’s] behavior for permanent behavior change”. The behavior specialist also testified “that there was no data taken to demonstrate the effectiveness of the use of the peace room with the student.” See 8 NYCRR 200.22(c)(1)(v). The SRO concluded that under such circumstances, “the district should have determined if the use of the time out room was itself becoming a reinforcer of the behaviors sought to be reduced through the BIP”.

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The SROpointedout that it was“concerningnot onlythat the district failedtoidentifya maximum duration for which the student could be kept in the peace room but that in practice the duration was subject to a high degree of variability, and in some instances, it was used for extended periods of time”. The SRO further pointed out that “the hearing record supports a finding that the student was removed to the peace room for a variety of student behaviors and in some instances the removal occurred prior to attempts to utilize the extinction measures required by the BIP”.

Importantly, the SRO cited to “long standing guidance from the State Education Department” that “although the amount of time a student will need to be in a time out room will vary with the student’s age, individual needs and behavior management plan, careful monitoring of the amount of time a student is in a time out room is required to ensure that a time out room is not used to the detriment of a student’s educational progress. “Policy and Guidelines on the Use of Time Out Rooms”, at p. 3. Relative to this, the SRO agreed that “while the district did track the frequency and duration of the student’s removals to the peace room there is little evidence that the district assessed the impact of the student’s frequent removals from the classroom on his overall educational program or ability to access the curriculum.”

The SROconcludedthat, basedonthe above,“the hearingrecord supportsa findingthatthe district failed to follow regulatory requirements related to the use of time out rooms during the 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years and that its use of a time out room to manage the student’s behaviors resulted in lost educational time and a denial of a FAPE to the student”.

As a remedy, among other things, the parent requested 57.8 hours of compensatory education, which was based on the student’s being removed from the classroom for 57.8 hours of time. The SRO pointed out that the district “failed to put in contrary evidence regarding an appropriate compensatory education award” only arguing that it provided the student with a FAPE for the years in question. The SRO concluded that the district “failed to address its burdens as required under the due process procedures set forth in New York State law”. The SRO concluded that “[g]iven the district’s failure to meet its burden of production or persuasion on the issue of compensatory education services, the calculations put forth by the parent are unrebutted”.

With respect to the issues relating to the time out room, the SRO awarded the student 57.8 hours of compensatory tutoring. Since the student’s “primary area of need is behavioral”, unless the parties agree otherwise, the SRO ordered that the “compensatory tutoring services awarded be provided by either a special education teacher or a [Board Certified Behavior Analyst]”.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 21-091 at pp. 47-48 Dispute: Did the district follow State regulation and guidance regarding the use of physical restraints.

Conclusion: The SRO held that there was insufficient basis in the hearing record to modify the IHOs’ determination that the district’s use of restraints on the student was appropriate.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision

“Stateregulationsauthorizethe useofphysicalrestraintsinemergencysituations where alternative procedures not involving the use of physical force cannot reasonably be used. See 8

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NYCRR19.5(a)(3); 200.22(d)(2)(i). Emergencyisdefinedinthe regulationasa situationrequiring immediate intervention. 8 NYCRR 200.22(d). Emergency interventions may not be used as a punishmentorsubstituteforsystemicbehavioralinterventionsthataredesignedtochange,replace, modify, or eliminate a targeted behavior. 8 NYCRR 200.22(d)(2)(ii). Staff must be trained in safe restraint procedures and the school must document the use of emergency interventions for each student and notify the parent. 8 NYCRR 200.22(d)(3)-(4). Documentation shall include, among other things the location of the incident, the name of those involved, a description of the incident and intervention used, a statement as to whether the student has a current BIP, and details of any injury sustained by the student or others as a result of the incident.” Further, “the parent of the student shall be notified and documentation of emergency interventions shall be reviewed by school supervisory personnel, and, as necessary, the school nurse or other medical personnel. 8 NYCRR 200.22(d)(4).”

The SRO found that “the district policy on the use of restraints generallyfollows the requirements set forth in state regulation”. As such, “the use of restraints was an emergency intervention used asa lastresort withrespect tothestudent”. Testimonyincludedthetype andnature ofthe restraints typically used with the student. “The district behavior specialist also testified that he trained staff in the use of restraints and anyone who was trained could restrain the student.

During the 2017-18 school year, when the student was in kindergarten, the district staff documented the use of restraints seven times. During the 2018-19 school year, district staff documented the use of restraints on the student 16 times. During the 2019-20 school year, when the student was in the 2rd grade district staff documented the use of restraints on the student three times…” 34

The SRO pointed out “that the parent does not allege the occasions on which district staff used restraints were not emergency situations”. Nor did the parent argue that “the district could have reasonably used alternative procedures not involving the use of force”. To the contrary, the parent’s arguments were “largely related to the appropriateness of the student’s BIPs in that the parent pointed to the use of restraints as evidence that the BIPs were ineffective”. The SRO held that “the evidence in the hearing record supports a finding that the BIPs developed for the student were appropriate”andthe parent’sarguments“were speculative andwithout supportinthe hearing record”.

The SRO found that there was an “insufficient basis in the hearing record to modify the IHO’s determination that the district’s use of restraints on the student was appropriate”

34 The SRO decision does not include an analysis of the extent to which the district’s documentation of incidents met the list set out in the regulations. See 8 NYCRR 200.22(d)(4)

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DUE PROCESS IMPARTIAL HEARINGS

IMPARTIAL HEARING OFFICERS (IHO)

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-054 (June 22, 2022) Dispute: Whether the IHO should have dismissed the parents’ due process complaint notice with prejudice.

Conclusion: The SRO concludedthat the IHO should not have dismissedthe parents’ due process complaint notice with prejudice, vacated the order of dismissal, and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: In this case, the impartial hearing was scheduled for 12:00 p.m. “At 12:05 p.m. the IHO went on the record and stated she wanted to memorialize that this hearing was scheduled in accordance with the parents’ availability and they have not shown up”. “The IHO further stated that she and the district representative had sent independent emails to the parents telling them that we’re here, and we are available, and we’re waiting.” “The IHO noted that she was going to assume that she had not received a request for an adjournment or any contact from them and so would dismiss the matter because they had been offered the due process that they requested in their due process complaint and time had been taken awayfrom other cases to give to the parents who hadn’t bothered to show up”. In a one-page decision issued later that day “the IHO dismissed the parents’ due process complaint notice with prejudice”. “The IHO stated that due notice was sent to all parties of the scheduling, and the district appeared as scheduled …” “The IHO further stated that the parents failed to appear at the hearingand did not contact the IHO or the district regarding their nonappearance.” “Accordingly, the IHO determined that as parents were offered the due process they requested in their complaint, and as they failed to avail themselves of that due process to prosecute their complaint, and further, as they failed to notify anyone else who had taken time on their behalf of their intention not to appear, the matter is dismissed with prejudice”.

In their appeal to the Office of State Review (OSR) “the parents allege that they never sought to withdraw the matter but rather appeared at the impartial hearing11 minutes late aftertheir counsel emailed the IHO apologizing for their tardiness and notifying the IHO that he was calling into the hearing now”. At that time, however, “the IHO and district representative had disconnected from the hearing already…” “In an answer, the district agrees with the parents that the IHO’s dismissal of the case after waiting only 5 minutes was premature”.

Upon review, the State Review Office (SRO) advised that “a dismissal with prejudice based on a party’s failure to comply with the directive of an IHO should generally be reserved for extreme cases”. The SRO indicated that “[w]hile the parents did not appear immediately at 12:00 p.m., by 12:05 p.m. the IHO was already stating on the record her intention to dismiss the matter due to the parents’ nonappearance”. The SRO continued that “[t]here is no indication in the hearing record that the IHO gave the parties notice that tardiness to the scheduled hearing date could result in the maximum sanction of dismissal with prejudice.” The SRO stated that the emails referenced by the hearing officer to the parents and their counsel “were not made a part of the hearing record”.

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Further, the SRO stated that “it [was] unclear if the emails were to the parents or to their counsel and the parents (and/or their counsel) were given very little time to respond to the emails”. The SRO also said that “it appears that no effort was made to contact the parents or their counsel via telephone to ascertain the reason they were not available on the phone at the exact start time of the hearing or whether they had attempted to appear but were unable to do so or had appeared late”. “The parents assert that their counsel emailed the IHO at approximately12:11 p.m. appraising her of the parents’ tardiness and thereafter attempting to dial into the hearing onlyto find that the IHO and district representative were no longer available on the line”. The SRO added that “[t]here is no indication that, after learning that the parents’ counsel attempted to dial in to the hearing, albeit 11 minutes late, that any further opportunity was given to the parents or their counsel to explain their tardiness or to be heard as to why the IHO should not dismiss the due process complaint notice with prejudice.” The SRO continued that “[n]or is there any indication that the IHO weighed or considered lesser sanctions, such as allowing the district to proceed with the presentation of their evidence in the absence of the parents or dismissal without prejudice”. The SRO advised that “[w]hile the issue of limited resources and the dictates of fairness may support a dismissal with prejudice where a party has shown a pattern of dilatory conduct or disregard for an IHO’s directives, a dismissal with prejudice at the first instance of noncompliance by a party, without having ascertained facts that may be relevant to the sanction of dismissal, as happened here, is an abuse of discretion that deprived the parents the due process contemplated” by the relevant regulations.

The SRO, rejecting the parents’ request for a decision on the merits, pointed out that “there was no factual record upon which to base such a finding, and an outright default judgment awarding any and all of the relief requested without question is a disfavored outcome”.

The SRO said that “the appropriate remedy for the IHO denying the parent (sic) her due process rights to a full and complete impartial hearing is a remand to continue the proceedings”. Accordingly, the SRO vacated the IHO’s order of dismissal and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Bias - SRO: Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-083, June 26, 2020

Dispute: The parent asserts that the IHO was biased and that the IHO decision was insufficient. The district disagrees.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the IHO was not biased against the parent and that the IHO decision was sufficient.

Basisofthe SRO’sDecision: The SROfound that the IHOdecision“set fortha detailed recitation of the facts,” “applicable legal standards,” and “controlling case law” and that “as a whole”, the decision “contains sufficient citations such that the lack of elaboration” in part of the decision did “not provide an independent basis for reversal.” Regarding the parent’s specific “examples” of bias,” the SRO found that “while the IHO nay have erred in specific determinations, such allegations of error are the subject of [the SRO’s review]” and “do not rise to the level of establishing bias by the IHO”.

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RETROSPECTIVE TESTIMONY

Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 22-153 (Jan. 2023)

Dispute: Did the IHO err when he/she found that it was proper for the CSE to rely on evidence that was based on information received after the filing of the due process complaint notice.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the IHO properly relied on evidence that was based on information received after the filing of the due process complaint notice.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In this case, in the challenged eligibility determination, the IHO relied on the district’s determination that the student was not a student with a disability in the IHO’s conclusion that the student was not a student with a disability despite the fact that relevant documents and the CSE meeting were held subsequent to the filing of the parents’ due process complaint notice. The parents objected to this on the basis of R.E. v. New York City Dep’t. of Educ., 694 F.3d 167,18688 (2d Cir. 2012) and said that R.E. provided authority “that the district cannot rely on the CSE’s ineligibility determination document to defend its case after the filing of the parents’ due process complaint notice”. R.E. stands for the proposition that “with the exception of amendments made during the resolution period, the adequacy of an IEP must be examined prospectively as of the time of its drafting and that retrospective testimony regarding services not listed in the IEP may not be considered”. The SRO pointed out that the “matter [at hand] did not involve consideration of whether a particular IEP for the student was appropriate at the time the parents decided whether to make a unilateral placement”. The SRO further pointed out that the question in the matter at hand was “whether the student was eligible for special education as a student with a disability and therefore eligible for receipt of a FAPE by the district. Based on this, the Court concluded that “in order to determine if this student should have been classified as a student with a disability, consideration of the evidence with respect to the district’s eligibility determination is appropriate, even when that evidence comes to light during the impartial hearing”.

The SRO “decline[d] to find that the IHO erred in admitting and considering the evidence with respect to the district’s April 2022, eligibility determination”.

Application of a Student with a Disability., Appeal No. 22-015 (Mar. 25, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the IHO properly analyzed the sufficiency of the student’s IEP.

Conclusion: The SRO vacated the IHO’s decision in relevant part based on the failure of the IHO to properly review the sufficiency of the student’s IEP and its reliance on retrospective testimony.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The parent’s due process complaint notice identified a number of specific and discrete areas in which the parent asserted that the student’s 2019-20 and 2020-21 IEPs were inadequate.

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Upon review, the IHO concluded, among other things, that “consistent with the makings of a sufficientIEP,the September2020IEPincludedastatement describingthe student’spresent levels of performance, established annual goals designed to meet the student’s needs and enabled him to make progress, and provided for the use of special education services”. Additionally, the IHO “found no issues with procedure of (sic) implementation related to the 2020-21 school year that warranted a finding of a denial of a FAPE”.

The IHO further “found that the evidence reflected that the student began showing a marked improvement towards the beginning of February 2020 which followed into the beginning of the following year”. “In addition, the IHO pointed to improvements reflected in the student’s testing results obtained in 2021 which were well above average and that testimonial evidence indicated other areas of improvement”. “In light of the evidence, the IHO concluded that the limited data offered together with the legally sufficient IEP demonstrated that the student was actuallymaking progress and that the district offered the student a FAPE for the 2020-21 school year”. The IHO also denied the parent’s request for compensatoryeducation and also deferral of the student to the CBST.

The SRO, upon his review of the IHO’s “FAPE analysis for the 2020-21 school year”, concluded that the IHO’s decision “was based on an application of an erroneous legal standard” which “constitute[d] reversible error” and therefore “must be vacated”.

The SROpointed outthat the parent focusedon “discreteissueswithintheMarch2021 due process complaint notice uponwhichtodrawthe ultimateconclusionregardingwhetherthe district offered the student a FAPE” The discrete issues included such things as, but not limited to, whether the district “appropriately evaluate[d] the student in the areas of adaptive living skills and assistive technology”, “failed to develop an appropriate transition plan or postsecondary goals and the student’s September 2020 IEP failed to include appropriate transition goals”.

“An IHO is required to issue detailed findings on the discrete issues identified in a party’s due process complaint notice”. In this case, the SRO found that “[t]he IHO’s analysis of the parties’ claims … departed dramatically from this standard” and that [here] “rather than addressing each issue the parent raised in the due process complaint notice to determine whether the September 2020 IEP was appropriate and offered the student a FAPE for the 2020-21 school year, the IHO found that evidence of the student’s subsequent progress during that school year led to the conclusion that the district offered the student a FAPE”.

The SRO explained that it was “well settled that the determination of whether an IEP offers a FAPE must be made by evaluating the IEP prospectively as of the time of its drafting” (See R.E. v. NewYorkState Dep’t ofEduc.,694F.3d167,186[2dCir.2012]). In thiscase,theSROpointed out that “[t]he IHO’s approach which focused solely on whether the student made progress after the development of the September 2020, appears to be results oriented – an approach rejected by the Second Circuit (R.E., 694 F.3d at 184-88).

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Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-035 (May 4, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the provision of an English-speaking teacher assisted by a classroom paraprofessional who provides translation services, would, by itself, render the 12:1+1 special class with Yiddish as the language of service incapable of being implemented.

Conclusion: The SRO decided that it was not necessary to address this question as it was based on impermissible retrospective testimony.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: “Generally, the sufficiency of the program offered by the district must be determined on the basis of the IEP itself”. “[S]peculation that the school district will not adequately adhere to the IEP is not an appropriate basis for unilateral placement”. “However, a district’s assignment of a student to a particular school site must be made in conformance with the CSE’s educational placement recommendation, and the district is not permitted to deviate from the provisions set forth in the IEP”. “[C]laims regardingan assigned school’s abilityto implement an IEPmaynot be speculative whentheyconsist ofprospective challengestothe assignedschool’s capacityto provide the services mandated byan IEP”. “Such challenges must be tethered toactual mandatesin the student’sIEP…[and]… such challengesare onlyappropriate iftheyare evaluated prospectively (as of the time the parent made the placement decision) and if they were based on more than mere speculation that the school would not adequately adhere to the IEP despite its abilityto do so”. “In order for such challenges to be based onmore than speculation,a parent must allege that the school is factually incapable of implementing the IEP.” “Such challenges must be based on something more than the parent’s speculative belief that the assigned public-school site was not appropriate”.

The CSE recommended the student attend a full-time 12:1+1 special class in a district specialized school with Yiddish as the language of the service. The CSE also recommended the related services of OT and PT, both in English, and speech language therapy in Yiddish. The CSE also “determined that the student was eligible to receive services during July and August as part of a 12-month program wherein the student would receive the same special education program and services in Yiddish and English as recommended for the 10-month portion of the school year”. “However, the resultant IEP also indicated that, if there was no provider available in the recommended language, the student should be provided interim services in English pending availability of a bilingual provider and should be placed in an interim monolingual class”.

In this case, by affidavit testimony, “the student’s mother related that she visited the assigned school and was informed that the school did not have a bilingual Yiddish-speaking special education teacher for the months of July and August”. The principal of the assigned school confirmed that the school did not have a bilingual Yiddish-speaking special education teacher to teach the 12:1+1 special class for the months of July and August … “. “However, the principal indicated that there was a classroom paraprofessional in the student’s proposed classroom that spoke Yiddish and provided bilingual Yiddish instruction to all of the Yiddish speaking students in the class and translated the instruction into Yiddish after the instruction was orally recited by the teacher”.

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The SRO concluded that the “[t]he testimonial evidence referencing a 1:1 Yiddish-speaking paraprofessional assigned to the student was impermissibly retrospective because that service was not listed on the student’s IEP” and likewise that the “most significant flaw” in the defendant’s argument “was that the district relied on the after-the-fact testimony regarding a bilingual paraprofessional to argue that the assigned school would do something different than the terms written into the … IEP which unambiguously stated that monolingual services would be provided instead as interim plan (sic) if the bilingual services called for in the IEP were unavailable”. The SRO said that “[t]he parents were not required to accept a written IEP that called for bilingual services, while at the same time indicating that such services would not be provided if the district lacked the requisite staffing”.

The SROfoundthat thisdefect “together withthe district’sfailuretodescribethe specialeducation transportation services in the IEP” denied the student a FAPE.

Bd. of Ed. of the Mamaroneck Union Free Sch. Dist. v. A.D., No. 17-3462-cv, 739 Fed.Appx. 79 (2d. Cir. 2018)

Dispute: Whether the district’s testimony regarding counseling services was retrospective testimony and therefore not allowed.

Conclusion: The Court found that the district’s testimony regarding counseling services was retrospective testimony and therefore should not have been allowed.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: “The IEP must be evaluated prospectively as of the time of its drafting”. Consistent withthis,“retrospective testimony” –that is,“testimonythat certainservices not listed in the IEP would actually have been provided to the child if he or she had attended the school district’s proposed placement may not be considered”. At the same time, “testimony may be received that explains or justifies the services listed in the IEP”.35

In thiscase, the questionwaswhether counselingserviceswouldhave beenprovidedtothe student in the year in question. With respect to this, the district’s IEP for the student made nomention that the student would receive counseling services. The district claims that this was a “clerical error”. However, “the record [was] devoid of contemporaneous evidence that could substantiate [the district’s] claim that counseling was recommended in the IEP”.

Therefore, the testimony from the district’s witness “discussing what counseling services would have been provided to [the student in the year in question] falls squarely within the definition of retrospective testimony and cannot be relied upon in evaluating the IEP”.

SCOPE OF EVIEW

Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-152 (Jan. 13. 2023)

Dispute: Whether the IHO’s determinations regarding certain issues were outside the scope of review of the impartial hearing.

35 Additional discussion regarding prospective and retrospective testimony may be found in R.E. v N.Y.C Dep’t of Educ., 694 F.3d 185-188 (2d Cir. 2012)

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Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the IHO’s relevant determinations were not outside of the scope of review of the impartial hearing.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“[I]t is impermissible for the IHO to simply expand the scope of the issues raised [at an impartial hearing] without the express consent of the parties and then base his or her determination on new issues raised sua sponte”.

“[T]he parent’s due process complaint notice alleged that the CSE used insufficient evaluative information in its development of the IEP.” The IHO considered the question of whether the CSE failed to address in the student’s IEP his needs relating to the student’s seizures, stutter, or regulation.

Further, and with respect to implementation, the parent’s due process complaint notice set forth “that the district did not propose a district school that would appropriately implement the IEP”. The IHO considered the question of whether, specifically, the district was required to prove that it wasableto provide the student witha“buslift,anadaptive chair,and stafftoadministertheseizure medication and address his seizures.”

The SRO found that “although the claims raised by the parent in the due process complaint notice were broader than what would have been ideal for the district to present its case in this matter, the general allegations [in the parent’s due process complaint notice] were sufficient to incorporate the more specific allegations addressed by the IHO in her decision”. The SRO concluded that therefore there was an insufficient basis tofind that the IHO considered issues outside of the scope of review of the impartial hearing relating to the sufficiency of evaluative information and the implementation of the student’s IEP.

Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022)

Dispute: Did the IHO err in reaching the question related to the assigned school site since it was not alleged in the parents’ due process complaint notice.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the IHO did not err in considering the question related to the assigned school site.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: “Generally, the party requesting an impartial hearing has the first opportunity to identify the range of issues to be addressed at the hearing”. “The IDEA and its implementing regulations provide that a party requesting an impartial hearing maynot raise issues at the impartial hearing that were not raised in its original due process complaint notice unless the other party agrees or the original due process complaint is amended prior to the impartial hearing per permission given by the IHO at least five days prior to the impartial; hearing”. “Indeed, the parent must state all of the alleged deficiencies in the IEP in their initial due process complaint in order for the resolution period to function.” “To permit the parents to add a new claim after the resolution period has expired would allow them to sandbag the school district”.

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In this case, “the parents’ due process complaint notice broadly claimed that the CSE did not recommend a placement that was appropriate or that could properly implement the IEP”. “While the due processcomplaint notice didnot articulate a claim relatingto anassignedschool’scapacity to implement the IEP withgreat specificity, the language was sufficient toput the district onnotice of the parents’ allegation”.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-054 (June 22, 2022) Dispute: Whether the IHO should have dismissed the parents’ due process complaint notice with prejudice.

Conclusion: The SRO concludedthat the IHO should not have dismissedthe parents’ due process complaint notice with prejudice, vacated the order of dismissal, and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: In this case, the impartial hearing was scheduled for 12:00 p.m. “At 12:05 p.m. the IHO went on the record and stated she wanted to memorialize that this hearing was scheduled in accordance with the parents’ availability and they have not shown up”. “The IHO further stated that she and the district representative had sent independent emails to the parents telling them that we’re here, and we are available, and we’re waiting.” “The IHO noted that she was going to assume that she had not received a request for an adjournment or any contact from them and so would dismiss the matter because they had been offered the due process that they requested in their due process complaint and time had been taken awayfrom other cases to give to the parents who hadn’t bothered to show up”. In a one-page decision issued later that day “the IHO dismissed the parents’ due process complaint notice with prejudice”. “The IHO stated that due notice was sent to all parties of the scheduling, and the district appeared as scheduled …” “The IHO further stated that the parents failed to appear at the hearingand did not contact the IHO or the district regarding their nonappearance.” “Accordingly, the IHO determined that as parents were offered the due process they requested in their complaint, and as they failed to avail themselves of that due process to prosecute their complaint, and further, as they failed to notify anyone else who had taken time on their behalf of their intention not to appear, the matter is dismissed with prejudice”.

In their appeal to the Office of State Review (OSR) “the parents allege that they never sought to withdraw the matter but rather appeared at the impartial hearing11 minutes late aftertheir counsel emailed the IHO apologizing for their tardiness and notifying the IHO that he was calling into the hearing now”. At that time, however, “the IHO and district representative had disconnected from the hearing already…” “In an answer, the district agrees with the parents that the IHO’s dismissal of the case after waiting only 5 minutes was premature”.

Upon review, the State Review Office (SRO) advised that “a dismissal with prejudice based on a party’s failure to comply with the directive of an IHO should generally be reserved for extreme cases”. The SRO indicated that “[w]hile the parents did not appear immediately at 12:00 p.m., by 12:05 p.m. the IHO was alreadystating on the record her intention to dismiss the matter due to the parents’ nonappearance”. The SRO continued that “[t]here is no indication in the hearing record that the IHO gave the parties notice that tardiness to the scheduled hearing date could result in the

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maximum sanction of dismissal with prejudice.” The SRO stated that the emails referenced bythe hearing officer to the parents and their counsel “were not made a part of the hearing record”. Further, the SRO stated that “it [was] unclear if the emails were to the parents or to their counsel and the parents (and/or their counsel) were given very little time to respond to the emails”. The SRO also said that “it appears that no effort was made to contact the parents or their counsel via telephone to ascertain the reason they were not available on the phone at the exact start time of the hearing or whether they had attempted to appear but were unable to do so or had appeared late”. “The parents assert that their counsel emailed the IHO at approximately 12:11 p.m. appraising her of the parents’ tardiness and thereafter attempting to dial into the hearing onlyto find that the IHO and district representative were no longer available on the line”. The SRO added that “[t]here is no indication that, after learning that the parents’ counsel attempted to dial in to the hearing, albeit 11 minutes late, that any further opportunity was given to the parents or their counsel to explain their tardiness or to be heard as to why the IHO should not dismiss the due process complaint notice with prejudice.” The SRO continued that “[n]or is there any indication that the IHO weighed or considered lesser sanctions, such as allowing the district to proceed with the presentation of their evidence in the absence of the parents or dismissal without prejudice”. The SRO advised that “[w]hile the issue of limited resources and the dictates of fairness may support a dismissal with prejudice where a party has shown a pattern of dilatory conduct or disregard for an IHO’s directives, a dismissal with prejudice at the first instance of noncompliance by a party, without having ascertained facts that may be relevant to the sanction of dismissal, as happened here, is an abuse of discretion that deprived the parents the due process contemplated” by the relevant regulations.

The SRO, rejecting the parents’ request for a decision on the merits, pointed out that “there was no factual record upon which to base such a finding, and an outright default judgment awarding any and all of the relief requested without question is a disfavored outcome”.

The SRO said that “the appropriate remedy for the IHO denying the parent (sic) her due process rights to a full and complete impartial hearing is a remand to continue the proceedings”. Accordingly, the SRO vacated the IHO’s order of dismissal and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Bd. of Ed. of the Mamaroneck Union Free Sch. Dist. v. A.D., No. 17-3462-cv, 739 Fed.Appx. 79 (2d. Cir. 2018)

Dispute: Notwithstanding that the parent did not raise a claim relating to counseling in its due process complaint notice, whether the district “introduced evidence relating to that issue and therefore “opened the door” to such issue and, by so doing, gave the parent the right to submit evidence that the counseling program offered to the student was inadequate.

Conclusion: The Court held that the district “opened the door” at the impartial hearing to counselingservicesandthatasaresult,theparenthadtherighttosubmitisownevidenceregarding that issue.

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Basis of the Court’s Decision: With respect to the IDEA, “the party requesting the due process hearing shall not be allowed to raise issues at the due process hearing that were not raised in the notice unless the other party agrees otherwise” [see 20 U.S.C 1415(f)(3)(b)]. However, if at an impartial hearing, a party introduces evidence regarding an issue that is outside the scope of the due process complaint notice, it therefore is “opening the door” to the other party to rebut the evidence relied upon by the district relative to that issue.36

In this case, the parent did not raise the issue of counseling in its due process compliant notice. However, the district did raise “the issue of counseling in the due process hearings”; first, by addressing “the counseling issue in its opening statement” and second, by “elicit[ing] testimony from its witnesses …regarding the types of counseling support that would have been provided to [the student]’.

The court concluded that the district therefore “opened the door” to the adequacy of counseling services provided by the district and that the parent had a right to offer evidence relative to that issue.

Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021) Dispute: Whether the IHO erred by considering questions relating to annual goals, the student’s dyslexia, or the assigned public school’s ability to implement the IEP.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the above issues were outside of the scope of the IHO’s review.

Basis for SRO’s decision: Generally, the party requesting an impartial hearing has the first opportunityto identify the range of issues to be addressed at the hearing. At the same time, issues not includedinadue processcomplaint noticemaybe ruled onbythe IHOwhenthe district“opens the door to such issues with the purpose of defeating a claim that was raised in the due process complaint notice”.

Here, the SRO concluded that the parent’s due process complaint notice did not specifically raise issues regarding the sufficiency of the annual goals and supports and services to address the student’s readingdifficulty; nor did it raise issues with the specific assigned public school’s ability to implement the proposed IEP. Further, the SRO concluded that the district did not open the door to issues regarding the sufficiency of the district’s annual goals and services to address the student’s reading needs or the assigned public school’s ability to implement the student’s IEP.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-101, (8/3/20)

Dispute: Parents assert that the IHO properly determined that the Churchill School was an appropriate placement. District asserts that IHO improperly analyzed the appropriateness of the unilateral placement subsequent to the finding that the district offered the student a FAPE.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the IHO’s determination that Churchill was an appropriate placement was final and binding on the parties.

36 Additional discussion regarding the concept of “opening the door” may be found in M.H. v N.Y.C. Dep’t of Educ., 685 F.3d 217, 249-251 (2d Cir. 2012)

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Basis for SRO’s decision: IHO evaluation of the adequacy of the student’s unilateral placement subsequent to a finding that a district provided a FAPE is not barred in circumstances where the district did not raise any legal or factual issues relative to the IHO’s conclusion regarding the adequacy of the unilateral placement.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-101 (8/3/20)

Dispute: Which claims are properly before the SRO.

Conclusion: Several of the claims raised by parents are outside the scope of the SRO’s review.

Basis for SRO’s Decision: State Regulations governing practice before the Office of State Review set forth that any issue not identified in a party’s request for review, answer, or answer with cross-appeal are deemed abandoned.

SUFFICIENCY OF DECISION

Application of a Student with a Disability., Appeal No. 22-015 (Mar. 25, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the IHO properly analyzed the sufficiency of the student’s IEP.

Conclusion: The SRO vacated the IHO’s decision in relevant part based on the failure of the IHO to properly review the sufficiency of the student’s IEP and its reliance on retrospective testimony.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The parent’s due process complaint notice identified a number of specific and discrete areas in which the parent asserted that the student’s 2019-20 and 2020-21 IEPs were inadequate.

Upon review, the IHO concluded, among other things, that “consistent with the makings of a sufficientIEP,the September2020IEPincludedastatement describingthe student’spresent levels of performance, established annual goals designed to meet the student’s needs and enabled him to make progress, and provided for the use of special education services”. Additionally, the IHO “found no issues with procedure of (sic) implementation related to the 2020-21 school year that warranted a finding of a denial of a FAPE”.

The IHO further “found that the evidence reflected that the student began showing a marked improvement towards the beginning of February 2020 which followed into the beginning of the following year”. “In addition, the IHO pointed to improvements reflected in the student’s testing results obtained in 2021 which were well above average and that testimonial evidence indicated other areas of improvement”. “In light of the evidence, the IHO concluded that the limited data offered together with the legally sufficient IEP demonstrated that the student was actuallymaking progress and that the district offered the student a FAPE for the 2020-21 school year”. The IHO also denied the parent’s request for compensatoryeducation and also deferral of the student to the CBST.

The SRO, upon his review of the IHO’s “FAPE analysis for the 2020-21 school year”, concluded that the IHO’s decision “was based on an application of an erroneous legal standard” which “constitute[d] reversible error” and therefore “must be vacated”.

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The SROpointed outthat the parent focusedon“discreteissueswithintheMarch2021due process complaint notice uponwhichtodrawthe ultimateconclusionregardingwhetherthe district offered the student a FAPE” The discrete issues included such things as, but not limited to, whether the district “appropriately evaluate[d] the student in the areas of adaptive living skills and assistive technology”, “failed to develop an appropriate transition plan or postsecondary goals and the student’s September 2020 IEP failed to include appropriate transition goals”.

“An IHO is required to issue detailed findings on the discrete issues identified in a party’s due process complaint notice”. In this case, the SRO found that “[t]he IHO’s analysis of the parties’ claims … departed dramatically from this standard” and that [here] “rather than addressing each issue the parent raised in the due process complaint notice to determine whether the September 2020 IEP was appropriate and offered the student a FAPE for the 2020-21 school year, the IHO found that evidence of the student’s subsequent progress during that school year led to the conclusion that the district offered the student a FAPE”.

The SRO further explained that it was “well settledthat the determination of whetheran IEP offers a FAPE must be made byevaluating the IEP prospectivelyas of the time of its drafting” (See R.E. v. NewYorkState Dep’t ofEduc.,694F.3d167,186[2dCir.2012]). In thiscase,theSROpointed out that “[t]he IHO’s approach which focused solely on whether the student made progress after the development of the September 2020, appears to be results oriented – an approach rejected by the Second Circuit (R.E., 694 F.3d at 184-88).

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-083, June 26, 2020 Dispute: The parent asserts that the IHO was biased and that the IHO decision was insufficient. The district disagrees.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the IHO was not biased against the parent and that the IHO decision was sufficient.

Basisofthe SRO’sDecision: The SROfound that the IHOdecision“set fortha detailedrecitation of the facts,” “applicable legal standards,” and “controlling case law” and that “as a whole”, the decision “contains sufficient citations such that the lack of elaboration” in part of the decision did “not provide an independent basis for reversal.” Regarding the parent’s specific “examples” of bias,” the SRO found that “while the IHO nay have erred in specific determinations, such allegations of error are the subject of [the SRO’s review]” and “do not rise to the level of establishing bias by the IHO”.

TELEPHONIC HEARINGS/IN-PERSON HEARINGS

“After Hours”: Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 20-009 (March 19, 2020)

Dispute: The parent asserts that an impartial hearing officer (IHO) could not require a parent to appear in person at an impartial hearing; could not prohibit the takingof telephonic testimony, and could not decline to schedule an impartial hearing at 4:00 pm. The district disagrees

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Conclusion: The SRO concludes that there was insufficient support for the IHO’s findings that, in effect, the hearingcould not be conducted “at a time and place that [was] reasonablyconvenient to the parents and child involved” (see 34 CFR § 300.515[d]; 8 NYCRR § 200.5[j][3][x])

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The IHO dismissed the hearing request “for want of prosecution in a timely matter without prejudice” because the parent was not able to appear in person but by telephone and that because of her work schedule she was not available duringregular school hours and, for the same reason, had requested that the hearing commence at 4 pm. The SRO explained that State regulations set forth the procedures for conducting hearings (see 8 NYCRR §200.5[j]), that “generally” “IHO’s are provided with broad discretion, subject to judicial and review procedures, in how they conduct an impartial hearing as long as they “’accord each party a meaningful opportunity’ to exercise their rights” and that the parties to a proceeding are generally required “to comply with the reasonable directives of the IHO regarding the conduct of the impartial hearing”. The SRO pointed out that IHOs “[have] discretionary authority to receive testimony by telephone provided that the testimony is made under oath and subject to crossexamination”. (see 8 NYCRR § 200.5[j][3][xii][c]). The SRO also pointed out that the IHO had “categorically refused” to allow the hearing to proceed without the parent’s attendance and had established a policy of requiring parents to attend hearings in person notwithstanding that it was the district’s burden to show that its program was appropriate. Relative to scheduling, the SRO pointed out that regulations require the hearing ‘be conducted at a time and place which is reasonably convenient to the parent and student involved” (see 34 § CFR 300.515[d]; 8 NYCRR §200.5[j][3][x]) and “that State regulations do not restrict IHOs from scheduling hearings on days and at times when school is not in session”. In fact, the SRO wrote that “the IHO should consider whether it is necessaryto schedule hearing dates outside of business hours, or on non-school days, or in locations other than those commonly utilized by the district, in order to comply with the regulatory obligation to timely issue a decision” and that “to ensure the prompt completion of the impartial hearing, it may be necessary for the IHO to issue subpoenas requiring witnesses to be available outside of standard school hours”. The SRO also pointed to State regulations that it said “explicitly authorized” telephonic (and presumably video) testimony to ease scheduling difficulties (see 8 NYCRR § 200.5[j][xii][c]).

The SRO concluded that there was “insufficient support for the IHO’s findings that, in effect, the hearingcould not be ‘conductedat a time andplace that was[reasonably]convenient tothe parents and child involved’” (see 34 CFR § 300.515[d]; 8 NYCRR § 200.5[j][3][x]). As a consequence, the SRO concluded that the IHO did not conduct the impartial hearing in a manner with due process, and that the IHO erred in dismissing the parent’s complaint.

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ELIGIBILITY FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES

CLASSIFICATION

B.D. v Eldred Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-03637 (PMH), 2023 WL 3025308 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the student’s disability classification should be changed from a student with another health impairment to a student with autism.

Conclusion: The Court held that in the circumstances of the case, the particular disability classification was a distinction without a difference.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The student in this case has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder, reading and writing impairments, and chronic kidney disease. The student is eligible for special education programs and services as a student with a disabilityand in particular a student with another health impairment.

The Court initially held that because the issue had not been brought before it, questions regarding whether the student shouldbe classifiedasa student withautism orasa student withanotherhealth impairment were waived.

In any event, the Court went on to say that the student qualified as a student with a disability both as a student with another health impairment and as a student with autism. The Court said that therefore the student “was entitled to IDEA eligibility and the [d]istrict was required to formulate an IEP for him”. The Court said that following this, “[t]he IEP necessarily, and as its name suggests, took into account the individualized needs of [the student]” and “[t]he IEP would not change based on the specific disability classification and [the student], therefore, would receive the same education regardless”. Under such circumstances, the Court said, that “the classification becomes a distinction without a difference”. See Carrillo v. Carranza, No. 20-CV-04639, 2021 WL 4137663, at *15 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2021).

Carrillo v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-2639, 2023 WL 3162127 (2d. Cir. May 1, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the CSE should have classified the student as one with multiple disabilities instead of as a student with a traumatic brain injury.

Conclusion: The Court of Appeals found that there was no dispute that the student was eligible for special education services and that therefore the question before it was whether the special education programs and services offered by the district provided the student a FAPE.

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Basis of the Second Circuit’s Decision:

The student “is a nonverbal and non-ambulatory student with significant disabilities”. As part of the development of the student’s IEP, the CSE “classified the student’s disability as multiple disabilities, assigned specialeducationprogramsand services,andrecommendedthat[the student] be placed in a 12:1:4 classroom37”.

The parents asserted that the CSE’s classification determination violated the student’s right to a FAPE, “provided notice of their intent to unilaterally place [the student] in a private [school …] and filed a due process complaint [notice] seeking reimbursement of tuition and other costs related to the student’s attendance at the private [school]”. Among other things, the parents asserted that the CSE should have classified the student as one with a traumatic brain injury instead of a student with multiple disabilities.

After a hearing, the IHO issued a “thorough” decision finding that the CSE’s proposal provided the student with a FAPE. The parents appealed that decision to the State Review Officer (SRO), who “issued a detailed thirty-four-page decision finding that the IHO had correctly determined that the student was offered a FAPE”. The parents filed an actionin District Court challenging the SRO’s decision.

The parents reasserted before the DistrictCourt that the CSE should not have classified the student as a student with multiple disabilities, as opposed to a student with a traumatic braininjury, as that would lead to “inappropriate recommendations for special education programs and services”. The District Court found this to be “a red herring” and the Second Circuit agreed. The Second Circuit cited to the District Court’s decision for the proposition that “[d]isability classification is used for one and only one purpose: to ascertain whether a child falls into one of the 13 categories that render [a student] eligible for special education services”. The Second Circuit saidthat inthiscase that there was “no dispute that [the student] [was] eligible for special education services, so the question before [the Circuit Court]waswhetherthespecialeducationprogram andservicesoffered to [the student] denied [the student] a FAPE”.

Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 22-153 (Jan.

2023)

Dispute: Should the student be classified as a student with a disability.

Conclusion: Reversing the CSE and the determination of the IHO, the SRO determined that the student was properly classified as a student with an Other Health-Impairment.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

The student was in Grade 2at the time of the CSE meetingrelevant tothis case. Private evaluation yielded diagnoses of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), anxiety disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A November 2020 neuropsychological evaluation noted in

37 That is, a classroom placement of 12 students, I licensed special education teacher, and three paraprofessionals

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relevant part that “concerns were expressed about some challenging behaviors displayed both at home and in school,” that the student “displayed reduced verbal and physical self-control”, can be “very impulsive”, “could be oppositional and negative”, demonstrated a “high energy level”, that his “sustained attention was variable”, that he “was avoidant and resistant to engaging in some activities”, that the student’s “behavioral profile was also significant for a high level of oppositional and defiant behaviors”,andthat the student “exhibiteddisruptive,non-compliant,and aggressive behavior in the classroom”. Additionally, the student demonstrated significant anxiety both at school and at home. During testing, an evaluator described the student as presenting “with a high level of behavioral disinhibition, was very impulsive, in near constant motion throughout testing, demonstrated challengeswithsustainedattention,concentration,andfocus,andperformed below age expectation on formal measures of sustained attention”. An update to this evaluation advised that “mucheffort wasmadetodevelopeffective behaviorplansforthe student’sfirst grade classroom” but that they were “unsuccessful”. A letter from the student’s psychologist, indicated that the student had “disruptive, non-compliant, and aggressive” behavior in the classroom. The letter reported that “the combination of the student’s difficulties made it highly challenging for [the student] to get through the school day”. She also reported “that the student continued to struggle with his academic, behavioral, and social/emotional functioning”. “[B]ehavioral scales completed by the student’s parents and teachers resulted in elevated scores for hyperactivity, externalizing behavior, defiance, and aggression”. Private evaluations recommended that the student receive counseling,OT tosupportthe student’shandwritingdevelopment,anda behavioral intervention plan.

The student had a full-scale IQ of 128 (97th percentile). The student had relative weaknesses in processing speed and working memory, and both fell in the high average range. On a measure of academic achievement, the student scored between the 55 and 95th percentiles on tasks involving word reading, readingcomprehension, and oral reading fluencyand in the average range in written expression, mathematics, and math fluency.

The April 13, 2022, CSE concluded “that the student presented with high average to superior cognitive abilities and academic abilities according to assessments, and that staff from the student’s non-public school reported that he performed at or above grade level in reading, writing and math…” The CSE concluded that “the student was able to access the general education curriculum” and “found that the student was not eligible for special education services and programs”. Upon the parents’ appeal, the impartial hearing officer (IHO) agreed with the CSE. The IHO concluded that “because, although the student was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and anxiety, the student’s behaviors in the classroom did not negatively affect the student’s ability to achieve grade-level performance”.

As indicated below, the SRO disagreed and found that the student was a student with a disability as a student with another health-impairment.

“[T]he IDEAdefinesa childwithadisabilityasa childwithspecific physical,mental,oremotional conditions, including a learning disability, who by reason thereof needs special education and related services.” See 34 CFR 300.308[a][1]; 8 NYCRR 200.1[zz]. Applicable federal and State

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regulations set forth a number of “disabilitycategories”, including“other health-impairment”. See 34 CFR 300.8[c][1 – 13]; 8 NYCRR 200.1[zz][1-13].

“Under State andfederal regulation,other health-impairment isdefinedas‘having limited strength vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment that…is due to chronic or acute health problems such as … attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’[ADHD] that adversely affects a child’s educational performance’”. 34 CFR 300.8[c][9]; 8 NYCRR [zz][10].

In determining whether the student fell within any of the disability categories, regarding the category other health-impairment, the SRO felt it relevant that the student had “received several diagnoses including a diagnosis of ADHD”. Upon a full review, the SRO concluded “that the evidence indicated that the student has a health condition that would fall within [] those identified in the other health-impairment category”. He pointed out that “the student’s child psychologist, as well as the neuropsychologist who evaluated the student, agreed that the student met the criteria for ADHD and the district provided no evidence or argument to the contrary”. “Moreover”, the SRO said that “oral reports bythe student’s parents and teachers at the CSE meetingindicated that the student required prompts to stay focused and refrain from calling out, reminders to calm down or stop when being silly, and redirection to follow class rules and procedures.”

With respect tothe requirement that the disabilitycategory“adverselyaffects a child’s educational performance”, the SRO pointed out that the “student is extremely bright”. He referenced the parents’ neuropsychological report which “stated that the student’s performance on standardized academic measures revealed that his true academic skills were at much higher levels than the teacher observed on a day-to-day basis in the classroom setting, which indicated that other factors were serving as barriers to the student demonstrating his true and very well-developed academic abilities in school”. The SRO pointed out that upon his review of the entirety of the evidence in the case, “the student tended to need behavioral intervention to appropriately attend to his classroom routines”. Further, the SRO pointed out that “the student demonstrated need for sustaining attention toschool work, and completingschool work and he required a level of support in the classroom in order to achieve this”. The SRO concluded that “[o]verall, the evidence above ever so slightly favors the view that the student’s ADHD and behavior concerns adversely affects this very intelligent student’s classroom performance”.

Asindicatedabove, “in ordertobe deemedeligible for specialeducation,a student must,byreason of such disability, need special educational and related services.” See 34 CFR 300.308(a)(1); 8 NYCRR 200.1(zz). Regarding this, the SRO pointed out, among other things, that the November 2020, private neuropsychological evaluationrecommendedsupportive servicesandalsoclassroom recommendations, that the updated neuropsychological report recommended individual and group counseling, OT, and recommendations for behavioral interventions including a behavioral intervention plan.

Based on the presence of one of the requited disability categories, that the student’s condition “adversely affects a child’s educational performance”, “and who by reason thereof, needs special education andrelated services”,the SROconcludedthat “theevidence supportsthe parent[s]’ view

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[on appeal] that the student should have been found eligible for special education as a student with another health-impairment”.

S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the district properly found the student ineligible for special education as a student with an emotional disturbance.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the SRO and determined that the student was not eligible for special education services as a student with an emotional disturbance.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

A child is eligible for special education on the basis of an emotional disturbance if the child is evaluated in accordance with the IDEA as having an emotional disturbance and who, because of the emotional disturbance, needs special education and related services. See 34 CFR 300.8(a)(1). Further, in order for an evaluationofa childtoconclude that the childhasanemotional disturbance the child must meet one of five definitional characteristics and that definitional characteristic has to, inter alia, adversely affect a child’s educational performance. See 34 CFR 300.8(c)(4)(i). The five definitional categories are (1) an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; (2) an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; (3) inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances; (4) a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or (5) a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. See 34 CFR 300.8(c)(4)(i)

The SRO considered each of the five definitional categories related to emotional disturbance and concludedthatthestudentonlyqualifiedforthefifthcategory – whetherthestudenthadatendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

With respect tothe first characteristic, the SRO concludedthat the student didnot have an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors. The Court agreed, concluding “that neither [the student’s] anxietynor anyof her other conditionsimpeded her ability to learn to the degree necessary” to meet this criterion and that the record reflected that the student “participated actively in her classes” and “achieved adequately” in them.

Regarding the second characteristic, the SRO concluded that the student did not have an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers. With respect tothis,the SROfound thatthe student“wasoutgoing,made friendseasily(albeit fewclose friends) andhadappropriaterelationshipswithadultsandpeers”.TheCourtfoundthattherecordsupported a finding that the student did not exhibit an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

Regarding the third characteristic, the SRO concluded “that while the student experienced anxiety in response to stressful situations, the student’s behavior under the circumstances in which she foundherself were not so unusual tosatisfythe thirdcharacteristic”. Astothis, the SROconcluded that as part of one evaluation, the evaluator determined that the student “had an elevated level of

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internalizing behavior” and that in one instance the student “showed poor judgment under peer pressure” and that this was insufficient to find that the student met this criterion. The Court agreed and concluded that “neither a single rating on an evaluation that examined numerous emotional skillsets nor an isolated behavioral incident bya middle school student” was sufficient to establish that the student exhibited “inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances”.

Regarding the fourth characteristic, the SRO determined that the evidence regarding the student’s mood was “scattered.” The Court agreed that “while [the student] experienced anxiety and depression, [the student’s] teacher reviews and the weight of the record indicated that she did not exhibit a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.” (emphasis supplied).

Regarding the fifth characteristic, the SRO disagreed with the IHO. The SRO found that because inter alia the student became physically ill at the thought of going to school she met the fifth characteristic of emotional disturbance. However, the SRO did not find that the student was a child with a disability because the student’s condition did not “adversely affect her performance.” See 34 CFR300.8(c)(4).The Court concludedthatthe SRO“appropriatelyassessed [the student’s] academic performance and determined that it was not adverselyaffected”, pointing to the fact that the student “excelled in numerous subjects and maintained an overall grade average in the high eighties in sixth and seventh grades, performed at or above average on standardized tests, and received positive reviews from her teachers”. The Court found that the student “performed well in school – even taking into account the lower grades she received in certain classes – and despite her physical symptoms of anxiety was a good student and a positive influence at her school”. The Court found that the record supported the SRO’s determination that the student did not experience an adverse effect onher educational performancesufficient toclassifyherasemotionallydisturbed under the IDEA.

With all of the above in mind, the Court upheld the SRO’s determination that the student was not a child with a disability under the IDEA.

Maria Navarro Carrillo and Jose Garzon v. Richard Carranza. et al., No. 20 Civ. 4639 (CM), 2021 WL 4137663 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2021)

Dispute: The parent’s challenge the CSE’s decision to classify the student as one with “multiple disabilities” rather than with a “traumatic brain injury”.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the SRO’s finding that the student suffered from multiple disabilities but also found that the substantive requirements of the IEP depend on the student’s needs and not the student’s classification.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The Court found that the parents’ dispute with the CSE relative to the student’s disability classification was “a red herring”. The Court pointed out that disability classifications are only relevant to determining whether a student is eligible for special education services. Citing to another Court, “[i]t is not the classification per se that drives IDEA decisionmaking; rather it is whether the placement and services provide [the student] with a FAPE.” The Court agreed with the IHO that the IDEA provides that a student’s “special education

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programming, servicesand placement must be based ona student’sunique special educationneeds and not upon the student’s disability classification”.

With respect to this student, the Court found that the student “plainly suffers from multiple disabilities.” With respect to whether the student suffered from a traumatic brain injury, the court said that this was “unproven” on the record before the court which had no medical testimonyat all and was “beside the point”. The Court went on to say that “[n]o one disputes that the [student] qualifies for special education services under IDEA”. Therefore, the Court said that “for our purposesthe precise disabilitycategoryinwhich[the student]isclassifiedisirrelevant”.The Court agreed with the SRO that “[t]he significance of the disabilitycategoryis more relevant to the LEA and State reporting requirements than it is to determine an appropriate IEP for the individual student”. Relating to the latter the court said that “it was necessary to determine the student’s educational and management needs at a granular level, not with reference to her disability classification”. The Court agreed with the SRO that “[o]nce a student has been found eligible for special education, the present levels of performance sections of the IEP for each student is where the focus should be placed, not the label that is used when a student meets the criteria for one or more disability categories”.

Application of the Bd. of Educ., Appeal No. 20-112 (Sept. 1, 2020) Dispute: Whether the CSE properly determined the student’s eligibility for special education services.

Conclusion: The SRO upheld the IHOs determination that the student was eligible for special education services.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The SRO concluded that the IHO’s determination that the student was eligible for services as a student with a disability was “thorough and well-reasoned”. In this case, it was the conclusion of both the parents’ psychologist and the district’s psychiatrist that the student should be classified as a student with a disability and in particular, as a student with an emotional disturbance. Regarding this, the SRO cited to the IHO’s conclusion that while the district disagreed with the parents’ and district’s evaluations it did not disagree with the methodology of testing, the testing, or the results of the testing. Additionally, the SRO wrote that “significantly” not only did the district disagree with the recommendation as to what services to provide but also the “threshold issue” of classification and pointed to the IHO’s conclusion that “[w]ith two medical professionals offering multiple reasons for classification as emotionally disturbed, any CSE would be remiss to depart from them without a clear and substantial reason to do so”. Additionally, the SRO concluded that the IHO rightlyfocused on a “disconnect” between teacher responses on a district psychoeducational evaluation and teacher interviews by the school psychologist and that this, and the student’s poor performance in math and science “should have given pause to the CSE” when determining criteria relative to the student’s eligibility as a student with an emotional disturbance. Further, the SRO pointed to the fact that the student failed his ninth-grade math and science regents’ examinations and science class. The SRO agreed with the IHO that the fact that the student went to summer school and addressed those deficits was not determinative. In the first place, the SRO pointed out that while not every student attending summer school is a student with a disability, such should not be looked at “in isolation” but as

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“one part of the student’s profile”. Second, the SRO also pointed to the IHO’s recognition that the private psychologist and district’s psychiatric assessment both recommended some type of special education servicesandthatthe passingof the student’sregents’examsandscience classinsummer school could not “in and of itself” be considered a “success”. This, since this “reteaching” “is a form of intervention that cannot be ignored when there are multiple reports and test (sic) that suggest that this student is struggling because of issues identified in multiple medical reports”. The SRO also pointed to the IHO’s conclusion that the “medical reports coupled with the weight of the evidence” showed that the district erred in concluding that the student “did not satisfy the criteria” of a student with an emotional disturbance and that “contrary to the district’s allegation on appeal”, the IHO did not overlook or fail to make findings regardingthe impact of the student’s emotional struggleson hiseducational performance. Withall ofthisinmind,the SROapprovingly referenced the IHO’s finding that the “district’s failure to classify the student with an emotional disturbance or learning disability which rendered the student ineligible for special education services ‘resulted in a substantive denial of FAPE’”.

LEARNING DISABILITIES

Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 23-026 (Mar. 23, 2023)

Dispute: Did the CSE err when it did not classify the student as learning disabled.

Conclusion: The CSE erred when it did not classify the student as learning disabled.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

A child with a disability includes a child with a specific learning disability who by reason thereof needs special education and related services. See 34 CFR 300.8(a)(1). According to State and federal regulations, a learning disability means “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which manifests itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations”. “A learning disability includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia”. “A learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities; of an intellectual disability; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage”. “While manyof the eligibilityclassifications require a determination that a student’s condition adversely affects the student’s educational performance …, the learning disability classification does not contain a requirement expressed in such terms”. “Instead, consideration of whether a student has a specific learning disability must take into account whether the student achieves adequately for the student’s age or meets Stateapproved grade-level standards when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the student’s age, and either the student (1) does not make sufficient progress or meet age or State approved grade-level standards when provided with [a response to intervention] RtI process, or (2) assessments identify a pattern of strengths and weaknesses determined by the CSE to be indicative of a learning disability” While in some cases, the CSE mayconsider whether the student “exhibits a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability in certain areas including reading fluency skills; however the severe discrepancy criteria cannot be used by

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districts to determine if a student in kindergarten through the fourth grade has a learning disability in the subject of reading.”

“In addition to drawing on a variety of sources including aptitude and achievement tests, parent input, and teacher recommendations,aswell asinformationabout the student’sphysical condition, social or cultural background, and adaptive behavior, federal and State regulations prescribe additional procedures that a CSE must follow when conducting an initial evaluation of a student suspected of having a learning disability”. “As the student’s achievement when provided with appropriate instruction is central to determining whether a student has a learning disability, State and federal regulations require that the evaluation of a student suspected of having a learning disability include information from an observation of the student in routine classroom instruction and monitoringof the student’sperformance, andfurtherrequire that the CSE includethe student’s regular education teacher”.

“With respect to the relationship between RtI and the learning disability category of eligibility, State guidance describes that RtI is a practice of providing high-quality instruction or intervention matched to student needs and using learning rate over time and level of performance to make important educational decisions about an individual student. The guidance describes RtI as an important educational strategy that has been shown to lead to more appropriate identification of and interventions with students with learning disabilities. The guidance provides that identifying whether a student has a learning disability must be based on extensive and accurate information that leads to the determination that the student’s learning difficulties are not the result of the instructional program or approach.”

“When determining whether a student should be classified as a student with a learning disability, a CSE must also create a written report documenting information, including, among other things, whether the student has participated in an RtI program.” “[A] student may be found to have a learning disability if the student has not made sufficient progress to meet age or State-approved grade level standards in certain areas when provided with appropriate instruction consistent with an RtI model. To determine whether a student is responding to RtI, the district’s process must include repeated assessments of student achievement which should include curriculum-based measures to determine if interventions are resulting in student progress toward age or grade level standards. The purpose of such progress monitoring is to assess students on a repeated basis to provide data of a student’s growth over time to determine if the student is progressing as expected in the curriculum. This data should be utilized in a district’s RtI process to inform student movement through tiers. State guidance has set out specific steps to ensure accurate progress monitoring; guidance identifies that the district should establish a benchmark for performance and plot it, establish the student’s current level of performance, monitor the student’s progress frequently, and analyze the data and determine trends that arise from such data. State guidance further identifies that progress monitoring should occur no less than once everytwo weeks in Tier 2 and no less than every week in Tier 3”.

In this case, during the 2017-18 (first grade), 2018-19 (second grade) and 2019-20 (third grade) school years the student received support in reading as part of the district’s multi-tiered RtI program. “On December 10, 2019, a privately obtained psychoeducational evaluation of the

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student was conducted by a private psychologist”. Among other things, the psychoeducational evaluation “offered a diagnosis of specific learning disability in reading (decoding)”. Relative to this, and among other things, the district did not conduct its own psychological examination. On September 3, 2020, when the student was in the fourth grade, the parents provided the private evaluation to the assistant director of special education and requested a CSE meeting. “By notice dated October 23, 2020. The parents were invited to a CSE meeting…on November 6, 2020”. The CSE convened onthat date andits membership includedthe assistant director of special education, the school psychologist, a special education teacher, and the student’s remote regular education teacher. The information before the CSE included the December 2019 private psychoeducational report, a June 2020 report card, an October 2020 reading evaluation, an October 2000 record review, and an October 2020 classroom observation. By prior written notice on the same day and after the CSE meeting, the district summarized the CSE’s recommendation that the student was not eligible for special education services.

By amended due process complaint notice dated April 14, 2022, among other things, the parents alleged that “the CSE improperly failed to find the student eligible for special education as a student with a learning disability … from 2019 onward”.

“By decision dated January10, 2023” the IHO found, amongother things, that the November CSE did not follow the guidelines for determining whether the student was a student with a disability and specificallya student with a specific learning disabilityand failed to evaluate the student in all areas of suspected disability. Among other things, the IHO remanded the matter to “the CSE for evaluations in all areas of suspected disability and to consider the student for eligibility for special education services”.

Both parties appealed the IHO’s decision to the OSR. The parents contended, among other things, that the November 2020 CSE should have found that the student was a student with a disability, and in particular with a learning disability, and as related to that, that the district did not follow the RtI process in relevant part, and that further the IHO erred byremanding the matter to the CSE for a determination as to the student’s eligibility for special education programs and services. The district argued in relevant part “that the IHO properly did not determine that the student should have been found eligible for special education as a student with a learning disability in that the evidence did not support the student’s need for special education”.

Regarding whether the fourth-grade student met the classification as a student with a specific learning disability (see 34 CFR 300.8(a)(1)) in November 2020, the SRO concluded that the hearing record showed that the district did not conduct a complete initial evaluation of the student but also found that the “evaluative material” available to the November 2020 CSE was sufficient to determine the student “met the criteria for eligibility as a student with a learning disability”.

In a detailed review of the evidence available to the CSE at the November 2020 CSE meeting, the SRO pointed out that the student’s cognitive potential yielded overall scores in the average range but various reading scores consistentlyin the below average range. Further, the SRO also pointed out that testing by the private evaluator showed that “despite some solid compensatory skills, the student demonstrated pervasive and significant deficits in the underlying reading processes

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necessary for continued development in reading” and “lacked automaticity even at some of the most basic levels”. The SRO also pointed out that the student’s private evaluator reported “that the student’s lack of phonemic proficiency impaired the development of decoding and orthographic mapping skills, and although the student recognized some words on sight, she did not do so efficiently (lacked fluency) or consistently”. As such, the SRO said that the private psychologist “indicatedthatthestudent wasprone tofrequent wordsubstitutionerrorsand,further, when presented with unknown words to decode (nonsense words), the student was inconsistent in her application of decoding strategies which earned her scores below the average range despite years of academic intervention support and systematic Tier 1 phonics instruction at school”. The SRO also pointed out that ”[t]he private psychologist reported that although the student received evidence-based Tier 1 instruction and Tier 2 academic support, her profile suggested that she required intensive, explicit, systematic, and phonologically-based reading instruction that was of sufficient intensity and individualized to her needs…”

The SRO also pointed out, as indicated above, that the private psychologist “noted that the student met the diagnostic criteria for dyslexia (language-based reading disability) and that she met the IDEA classification criteria as a student with a specific learning disability in reading (decoding).”

As a part of the report, the SRO indicated that the evaluator recommended that the student receive an IEP with related supports, services, and accommodations at school and including as well, comprehensive reading intervention by a skilled and appropriately trained reading teacher.

The SRO concluded here that the hearing record showed that the district “failed to offer sufficient evidence of the student’s RtI performance data consistent with State regulation and further failed to establish that referral of the student was not required during the 2019-20 school year. The SRO again referenced the student’s psychological evaluation and that it “noted that the student met the criteria for a specific learning disability in reading (decoding). The SRO said that while the CSE was not required to agree with this conclusion it “was still required to present the data gathered as part of its RtI progress and use that data in determining whether the student was making sufficient progress towards grade level standards”. With that in mind, the SRO found that the “district has failed to meet this burden”

With regard to whether the student required special education and related services because of the disability (see 34 CFR 300.8(a)(1)), the SRO pointed out that “State law and regulation in New York specificallycontemplate the provision of RtI support or additional general education support services to students in the general education setting.”

The SRO concluded that “[g]iven the broad definition of special education within New York’s Education Law and State regulations and given the length of time the student had consistently received interventions under RtI, her minimal progress within RtI, and her regression when RtI serviceswere decreased, the evidence inthe hearingrecordsupportstheconclusionthat the student required special education to make sufficient progress in reading to access the general education curriculum”. The SRO pointed out here that “the student demonstrated weaknesses in reading, specifically with decoding, fluency, and comprehension and she began receiving RtI services, including small group instruction in reading separate from core instruction, in first grade that has continued each year since”.

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The SRO continued that “the continuous provision of RtI services to the student beginning with the 2017-18 school year and the district’s inability to demonstrate through consistent progress monitoring that the student made progress toward grade level standards … supports a finding that the student required special education and the district denied the student a FAPE as a result of the November 2020’s CSE’s failure to find the student eligible for special education for the 2020-21 school year continuing through the 2021-22 school year as the parents alleged”.

S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the district properly found the student ineligible for special education as a student with a specific learning disability.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the SRO and determined that the student was not eligible for special education services as a student with a specific learning disability.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

A student may be eligible for special education services upon an evaluation that finds the student has a specific learningdisability such that the student needs special education and related services. 34 CFR 300.8(a)(1). A “specific learning disability” means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. 34 CFFR 300.8(c)(10). Further, for purposes of the IDEA, identifying a student with a specific learning disability requires a determination that “(1) the child does not achieve adequately for the child’s age or to meet Stateapproved grade-level standards… [and] (2)(i) the child does not make sufficient progress to meet age or grade level standards … or (ii) the child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement , or both, relative to age, State-approved grade level standards or intellectual development. See 34 CFR 309(a)(1), (2)

In this case, the issue is whether or not the student has a specific learning disability by virtue of her deficiencies in math and as to her auditory processing disorder.38

The SRO determined that the student did not have a specific learning disability in math because the student did not need special education as a result of the student’s specific learning disability. See 34 CFR 300.8(a)(1). The Court saw the relevant question as whether or not the student achieved adequately and did not make sufficient progress or exhibited a pattern of strengths and weaknessesinperformance.See34CFR309(a)(1),(2). TheCourtupheldtheSRO’sdetermination that the student was not eligible for special education services as a student with a specific learning disabilityon the basisthat,inrelevant part,the studentachieved“adequately” and“made progress” in math.

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38 As indicated below, it appears that the Court conflated the requirements set forth at 34 CFR 300.8(a)(1) and 34 CFR 300.309.

The SRO also found that the student’s auditory processing disorder did not rise to the level of a student with a disabilitybecause it did not impact the student’s performance to the degree that she required special education. The Court said that the SRO’s determination as to the student’s auditory processing “again” depended on the condition’s effect on her educational performance. The Court “agreed” that any effect the student’s auditory processing had on her academic achievement “was, at most, marginal” and “that anyissues with auditory processing did not affect her academic achievement”. The Court agreed with the SRO that the student was not a student with a disability as to her auditory processing disorder due to a specific learning disability.

TWICE EXCEPTIONAL/GIFTED STUDENTS

Application of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, Appeal No. 22-153 (Jan. 2023)

Dispute: Should the student be classified as a student with a disability.

Conclusion: Reversing the CSE and the determination of the IHO, the SRO determined that the student was properly classified as a student with an Other Health-Impairment.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

The student was in Grade 2at the time of the CSE meeting relevant tothis case. Private evaluation yielded diagnoses of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), anxiety disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A November 2020 neuropsychological evaluation noted in relevant part that “concerns were expressed about some challenging behaviors displayed both at home and in school,” that the student “displayed reduced verbal and physical self-control”, can be “very impulsive”, “could be oppositional and negative”, demonstrated a “high energy level”, that his “sustained attention was variable”, that he “was avoidant and resistant to engaging in some activities”, that the student’s “behavioral profile was also significant for a high level of oppositional and defiant behaviors”,andthat the student “exhibiteddisruptive,non-compliant,and aggressive behavior in the classroom”. Additionally, the student demonstrated significant anxiety both at school and at home. During testing, an evaluator described the student as presenting “with a high level of behavioral disinhibition, was very impulsive, in near constant motion throughout testing, demonstrated challengeswithsustainedattention,concentration,andfocus,andperformed below age expectation on formal measures of sustained attention”. An update to this evaluation advised that “mucheffort wasmadetodevelopeffective behaviorplansforthe student’sfirst grade classroom” but that they were “unsuccessful”. A letter from the student’s psychologist, indicated that the student had “disruptive, non-compliant, and aggressive” behavior in the classroom. The letter reported that “the combination of the student’s difficulties made it highly challenging for [the student] to get through the school day”. She also reported “that the student continued to struggle with his academic, behavioral, and social/emotional functioning”. “[B]ehavioral scales completed by the student’s parents and teachers resulted in elevated scores for hyperactivity, externalizing behavior, defiance, and aggression”. Private evaluations recommended that the student receive counseling,OT tosupportthe student’shandwritingdevelopment,anda behavioral intervention plan.

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The student had a full-scale IQ of 128 (97th percentile). The student had relative weaknesses in processing speed and working memory, and both fell in the high average range. On a measure of academic achievement, the student scored between the 55 and 95th percentiles on tasks involving word reading, readingcomprehension,and oral readingfluency and in the average range in written expression, mathematics, and math fluency.

The April 13, 2022, CSE concluded “that the student presented with high average to superior cognitive abilities and academic abilities according to assessments, and that staff from the student’s non-public school reported that he performed at or above grade level in reading, writing and math…” The CSE concluded that “the student was able to access the general education curriculum” and “found that the student was not eligible for special education services and programs”. Upon the parents’ appeal, the impartial hearing officer (IHO) agreed with the CSE. The IHO concluded that “because, although the student was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and anxiety, the student’s behaviors in the classroom did not negatively affect the student’s ability to achieve grade-level performance”.

As indicated below, the SRO disagreed and found that the student was a student with a disability as a student with another health-impairment.

“[T]he IDEAdefinesa child withadisabilityasa child withspecific physical, mental,or emotional conditions, including a learning disability, who by reason thereof needs special education and related services.” See 34 CFR 300.308[a][1]; 8 NYCRR 200.1[zz]. Applicable federal and State regulations set forth a number of “disabilitycategories”, including“other health-impairment”. See 34 CFR 300.8[c][1

13]; 8 NYCRR 200.1[zz][1-13].

“Under State andfederal regulation,other health-impairment isdefinedas‘having limitedstrength vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment that…is due to chronic or acute health problems such as … attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’[ADHD] that adversely affects a child’s educational performance’”. 34 CFR 300.8[c][9]; 8 NYCRR [zz][10].

In determining whether the student fell within any of the disability categories, regarding the category other health-impairment, the SRO felt it relevant that the student had “received several diagnoses including a diagnosis of ADHD”. Upon a full review, the SRO concluded “that the evidence indicated that the student has a health condition that would fall within [] those identified in the other health-impairment category”. He pointed out that “the student’s child psychologist, as well as the neuropsychologist who evaluated the student, agreed that the student met the criteria for ADHD and the district provided no evidence or argument to the contrary”. “Moreover”, the SRO said that “oral reports bythe student’s parents and teachers at the CSE meetingindicated that the student required prompts to stay focused and refrain from calling out, reminders to calm down or stop when being silly, and redirection to follow class rules and procedures.”

With respect tothe requirement that the disabilitycategory“adverselyaffects a child’s educational performance”, the SRO pointed out that the “student is extremely bright”. He referenced the parents’ neuropsychological report which “stated that the student’s performance on standardized academic measures revealed that his true academic skills were at much higher levels than the

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teacher observed on a day-to-day basis in the classroom setting, which indicated that other factors were serving as barriers to the student demonstrating his true and very well-developed academic abilities in school”. The SRO pointed out that upon his review of the entirety of the evidence in the case, “the student tended to need behavioral intervention to appropriately attend to his classroom routines”. Further, the SRO pointed out that “the student demonstrated need for sustaining attention toschool work, and completing school work and he required a level of support in the classroom in order to achieve this”. The SRO concluded that “[o]verall, the evidence above ever so slightly favors the view that the student’s ADHD and behavior concerns adversely affects this very intelligent student’s classroom performance”.

Asindicatedabove, “in order to be deemedeligible for specialeducation,a student must,byreason of such disability, need special educational and related services.” See 34 CFR 300.308(a)(1); 8 NYCRR 200.1(zz). Regarding this, the SRO pointed out, among other things, that the November 2020, private neuropsychological evaluationrecommendedsupportive servicesandalsoclassroom recommendations, that the updated neuropsychological report recommended individual and group counseling, OT, and recommendations for behavioral interventions including a behavioral intervention plan.

Based on the presence of one of the requited disability categories, that the student’s condition “adversely affects a child’s educational performance”, “and who by reason thereof, needs special education andrelated services”,the SROconcludedthat “theevidence supportsthe parent[s]’ view [on appeal] that the student should have been found eligible for special education as a student with another health-impairment”.

EVALUATION AND REEVALUATION

Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the CSE properly reevaluated the student.

Conclusion: The Court agreed with the SRO that the CSE properly reevaluated the student.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, the parents asserted “that the CSE failed to conduct appropriate evaluations.”

The Court pointed to relevant Second Circuit caselaw for the proposition that “the IDEA’s mandatory initial evaluation and reevaluations are purposely comprehensive”. More specifically, the Court advised that “the IDEA requires that these evaluations assess the child in all areas of their disability” [see 20 U.S.C. 1414; see also 34 CFR 300.304(c)(4); 8 NYCRR 200.4(b)(6)(vii)] and that the evaluations must be “sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child’s special education and related services needs, whether or not commonlylinked to the disability categoryin which the child has been classified.” See 34 CFR 300.304(c)(6); see also 8 NYCRR 200.4(b)(6)(ix)

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In this case, the Court said that the parents only argued “in a conclusory fashion” that the required level of evaluation relative to the student’s June 2019 IEP “did not occur.” Upon review and regarding this, the SRO had concluded that the student had been evaluated prior to the CSE meeting in question. The Court agreed. It pointed out that the CSE considered five evaluations prior to the June 2019 CSE meeting, and in particular, a social history update, a psychological evaluation, classroom observations, a Vineland 3 evaluation, and a teacher report. The parents agreed with this but complained that the district should have considered “a placement in a nonpublic school and conduct the necessary evaluations for such consideration and any other evaluations prior to scheduling the [CSE] meeting.” The Court indicated that such evaluations were not relevant as “the IDEA only requires that additional assessments be conducted to fill in gaps in the initial review of existing evaluative data”. Regarding this, the Court concluded that the parents had “pointed to nothing in the record that would suggest that these additional evaluations were necessary in the CSE’s determinations”.

Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-152 (Jan. 13. 2023)

Dispute: Whether the IHO’s determination that the district did not base its IEP on sufficient evaluative information was correct and denied the student a FAPE.

Conclusion: The SRO upheld the IHO’s determination that the district did not have sufficient evaluative information to develop the student’s IEP and that the district therefore denied the student a FAPE

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In this case, the April 2019 psychoeducational evaluation, which was prepared as part of a reevaluation, in relevant part advised that because of the student’s behaviors, the evaluation “may not be a valid and reliable assessment of [the student’s] current level of cognitive and academic abilities”.

The IHO cited to this and “concluded that the record did not support the district’s claims that it had sufficient evaluative information” based on the record before it and further “that the IEP was not developed based upon valid and reliable evaluations”.

The district admits that the statement in the psychoeducational evaluation but argues that the information otherwise in that report included much relevant evaluative information and that between that and the other information before the CSE, the CSE had sufficient evaluative information to develop an appropriate IEP.

The SRO concluded that “rather than focusing on the limitation contained in the April 2019 psychoeducational evaluation, the parties and the IHO should have focused on whether the May 2020 CSE had sufficient evaluative information available from a variety of sources to develop the student’s IEP for the 2020-2021 school year”. With respect to this, the SRO concluded that “review of the evidence inthe hearing record supports the IHO’s conclusion that the district lacked evaluative information regarding the student’s stutter and sensory and emotional regulation”

The SRO pointed out that the relevant social history and psychoeducational evaluation “did not mention the student’s stutter or sensory and emotional regulation needs”. Further, while the CSE

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recommended that the student receive speech-language therapy, none of the annual goals related to that focused on the student’s stuttering. Additionally, the SRO concluded that the evidence in the record regarding the student’s stutter did not make it clear that the IEP addressed the student’s needs as it should have. Moreover, the SRO concluded that the evaluative information before the CSE did not “reflect evaluative informationabout the student’ssensoryand emotional regulation”. Additionally, the SRO advised that the IEP contained only limited and insufficient information regarding the student’s “sensory and emotional regulation”. The SRO further pointed out that the while the IEP recommended OT for the student, the OT annual goals “appeared unrelated to any sensory regulation needs the student may have been exhibiting”. With respect to the student’s emotional needs, the IEP recommended that the student receive counseling and included some counseling goals. However, the SRO said that “it [was] difficult to ascertain whether those goals appropriatelyaddressed the student’s emotional regulation skills and needs, if any, without further evaluative information as to what the student’s needs in those areas were at the time of the CSE meeting”.

Based on the above, the SRO concluded that there was “insufficient information available in the hearing record to overturn the IHO’s determinations that the May 2020 CSE lacked sufficient information regarding the student’s sensory and emotional regulation or related to his stutter”39 and that therefore “the district denied the student a FAPE”.

S.B. and K.B. v. Goshen Cent. Sch. Dist., 20-CV-09167 (PMH), 2022 WL 4134457 (Sept. 12, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the CSE’s initial evaluation properly evaluated the student.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the SRO’s conclusion that the CSE’s initial evaluation properly evaluated the student.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, the parties agree that the CSE “failed to conduct all evaluations required by State regulation.” See 8 NYCRR 200.4(b)(1). In particular, the CSE did not conduct its own speech and language evaluation. However, the CSE substituted a district evaluation with one provided by the parents and the Court found, citing authority, that this did not deprive the child of a proper evaluation. See M.H. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 10 CV-01042, 2011 WL 609880, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Feb.16,2011)(“The IDEAclearlypermitsparentstoobtainprivatetestingandnowhere implies that local schools must corroborate private results before using them.). With that in mind, the SRO found and the Court agreed that the information the CSE did have in front of it was sufficient – including the private evaluation that the plaintiff had provided – and which enabled the CSE to make an appropriate determination of the student’s auditory processing abilities. The Court held that this was a procedural violation and that as such, a denial of FAPE would be shown only if it impended the child’s right to a FAPE, significantly impeded the parents’ opportunity to participate in the decision-makingprocess regardingthe provision of a FAPE to the parents’ child,

39 The SRO decision pointed out that while referenced on occasion, the December 2019 private school progress report, which may have included relevant information regarding the student’s stutter and sensory and emotional regulation, was not included in the hearing record or provided to the SRO for review.

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or caused a deprivation of educational benefits. The Court said that here the fact that the parents provided their consent to the evaluation did not mean that when the evaluation was not performed, the parents were impeded in the process. As indicated, the Court said that the CSE properly substituted the parents’ evaluation for one done by the district. The Court pointed out here that the parents also attended the CSE meeting.

The Court also concludedthat “[a] reviewof the entire record indicated furtherthat the CSE would have come to the same conclusion as to [the student’s] ineligibility whether it had before it all statutorily required information or not and, therefore any such violation did not deny [the student] a FAPE”. The parents also argued that the CSE did not adequately consider the information it did have and, apparently, that the CSE was required to review all relevant documentation/information before the CSE meeting. The Court concluded that the parents provided no authority for this, that the CSE had time to review the information “in an efficient manner duringa one-hour session, and that three levels of review (by the IHO, the SRO, and the Court) had determined by substantial consideration that the totality of the record supports the CSE’s determination that the student was not eligible under IDEA and that this compensated for any purported lack of consideration by the CSE.

The Court upheld the SRO’s determination.

O.A. v. Orcutt Union Sch. Dist., 2:21-cv-02026-RGK-MAA, 81 IDELR 109 (C.D.Cal. May 27, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the District conducted evaluations that assessed the student in all areas of suspected disability and otherwise adequately evaluated the student.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the ALJ and determined that the District appropriately evaluated the student during his kindergarten year but did not do so during his first-grade year.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

Prior to offering a student special education services, a District must conduct a full and individual initial evaluation meant to ensure that the student receives an assessment in “all areas of suspected disability” See 20 U.S.C. Section 1414(a)(1)(A), 1414(b)(3)(B). Additionally, the IEP Team is to develop an IEP in considerationof, interalia,the strengthsofthe child,the concernsof the parents, the results of the initial evaluation or most recent evaluation of the child, and the academic, developmental and functional needs of the child. See 20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(3). Further, in circumstances of a reevaluation, the student must also be evaluated in all areas of suspected disabilities. See 20 U.S.C. 1414(b)(3)(B)

In this case, prior to the beginning of the student’s kindergarten year, the student’s pediatrician referred the student to a psychologist to see if the student should be formallydiagnosed for autism. The psychologist was unable to complete his analysis because of the student’s behavior. The CSE met duringthe first part ofthe student’skindergartenyear. Afterthe parentreachedout,the district conducted a “Multidisciplinary Psychological Evaluation.” The district assessed the student for ADHD which was the primary issue identified in medical records and by District employees. As a result of this assessment the District, in an October 31, 2017 meeting, offered the student an IEP.

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The parent asserts that the district should have evaluated the student for autism. The ALJ found that the district was not on sufficient notice to have an obligation to assess the student for autism or its related symptoms. The Court upheld the ALJ’s findings. It found that the student’s medical records reflected that the student’s primary diagnosis and educational concern was ADHD. Further, as indicated, while the parent hadconsulteda psychologist to assess the student for autism prior to the beginning of the school year, the Court pointed out that the psychologist was unable to complete the autism assessment and did not qualify the student for autism services at that time. Additionally, the Court pointed to the fact that while the student was observed by District employees to have an inability to stay on task, the student could be redirected back, which, based on the record, indicated symptoms of ADHD and not autism.

The parent further asserts that the student should have been assessed for autism during the balance of his kindergarten year. The ALJ disagreed. The Court agreed with the ALJ. It reasoned that for all of the prior reasons plus the fact that throughout the student’s kindergarten year, District staff observed “continued progress” in the student’s education and also because the student had made several friends as he grew accustomed to the school environment there was insufficient reason to suspect that the student had autism. The Court also pointed out that neither the student’s parents nor his teachers requested a reassessment for autism.

The parent also asserts that the student should have been assessed for autism during his first-grade year. The ALJ agreed and the Court upheld that determination. Regarding this, the Court specificallypointed tothe fact that bythis time the student’s psychologist had provided the student with a formal diagnosis of autism prior to first grade and that, additionally, the parents had officially requested that the student be assessed for autism. The Court advised that these factors put the District on notice of the student’s autism.

EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES

Luna Perez v. Sturgis Pub. Sch., 21-887, 2023 WL 2575928 (S.Ct. Mar. 21, 2023)

Dispute: Whether a parent/student must exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA before bringing a suit for compensatory damages under the ADA.

Conclusion: A student/parent is not required to exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA before it can commence a suit for compensatory damages under the ADA.

Basis of the Supreme Court’s Decision:

In this case, a deaf student, who was a student with a disability under the IDEA, attended district schools from the time he was 9 through the time he was 20. Because of his deafness, the student needed aides “to translate instruction into sign language”. Allegedly and “for years,” the district “assigned aides who were either unqualified … or absent from the classroom for hours on end”. During the time that the student was in district schools, it allegedly had also given the student “inflated grades” and passed him forward from grade to grade. Regarding this, when it came time for the student to graduate, the district advised that it would not do so

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The student filed an administrative complaint with the state department of education “alleging, among other things, that [the district] failed to provide him with a [FAPE] as required by the [IDEA].” The complaint was settled and the district agreed to provide the student with “forwardlooking equitable relief … including additional schooling”. The student did not file an IDEA administrative complaint, which would have involved a due process complaint notice, an impartial hearing, and a possible appeal to the state administrative agency.

Subsequent to the settlement, the student filed a complaint in federal court underthe ADA seeking “backward-looking relief in the form of compensatorydamages”. In response, the district asserted that the student had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies pursuant to the IDEA under 20 U.S.C. 1415(l) and moved to dismiss the claim. The district court agreed, dismissing the case. The court of appeals likewise agreed and affirmed the dismissal. Because of a dispute among the circuits, the Supreme Court accepted certiorari

In issuing its decision, the Supreme Court initially wrote that “[w]hether Section 1415(l) [of the IDEA] bars lawsuits like [the one in question] holds consequences not just for [the student] but for a great many children with disabilities and their parents”.

Specifically, regarding exhaustion, the Court pointed out that Section 1415(l) of the IDEA “contains two salient features”. First, it sets forth a “general rule” that “[n]othing in [t]he IDEA shall be construed to restrict the ability of individuals to seek remedies under the ADA or other federal laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities”. “Second, the statute offers a qualification, prohibiting certain suits with this language …” “Except that before the filing of a civil action under suchother federal laws seeking reliefthat is also available underthis subchapter, the procedures under subsections (f) and (g) shall be exhausted. In turn, subsections (f) and (g) provide affected children and their parents with the right to a due process hearing before a local or state administrative official … followed by an appeal to the state educational agency”.

The parties would interpret these provisions differently. The student, according to the Court, “reads the statute torequire a plaintiff toexhaust the administrative processes found in subsections (f) and (g) only to the extent he pursues a suit under another federal law for remedies [the] IDEA also provides”. Consistent withthis,the Court pointedout that the student arguedhere that nothing “forecloses his current claim because his ADA complaint seeks only compensatory damages, a remedy that everyone before us agrees [the] IDEA cannot supply.” The Court said that the “limiting language” under the IDEA “does not apply to all suits seeking relief that other federal laws provide. The statute’s administrative exhaustion requirement applies only to suits that seek relief … also available under [the] IDEA”. The Court went on to say that this “condition simply is not met in situations like ours, where a plaintiff brings a suit under another federal law for compensatory damages – a form of relief everyone agrees [the] IDEA does not provide”.

The Court held that in the circumstances of this case, where the student’s ADA claim requested compensatorydamages– aformofreliefthatwasnotprovidedforbythe IDEA,itwasnotrequired to exhaust the administrative remedies under the IDEA before commencing that claim.

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The Court ended by advising that the issue was raised as to whether the ADA may provide the remedy of compensatory damages in the first instance. Regarding this, the Court said that it was not deciding that question at this time.

Z.Q. et al. individually and on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 22-939-cv, 2023 WL 1486387 (2d Cir. Feb. 3, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the plaintiffs have exhausted their administrative remedies with respect to their claim that appropriate compensatory services should be provided to address the education of students with disabilities during the periodof remote learningcausedbythe COVID-19 pandemic.

Conclusion: The Second Circuit determined that in light of the “sparse record” before it, it was inappropriate in relevant part to grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss on the basis of exhaustion of administrative remedies and reversed the district court’s decision to do so; and remanded the matter to that court for further proceedings.

Basis of the Second Circuit’s Decision:

A group of parents commenced a class action lawsuit alleging that the New York City and New York State failed to provide a FAPE to thousands of students with disabilities in New York City during the period of remote learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The parents requested that the district court put in place a specific mechanism which was separate and distinct from the administrative hearings procedure to evaluate the need for compensatory services for special education students who, because of remote learning, fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district court “dismissed the plaintiffs’ federal claims for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies because they did not seek compensatory services through [the New York City Department of Education’s] complaint resolution process before filing [the] action”.

The parents argued “that it would have been futile” to exhaust their administrative remedies and that therefore they should be excused for not doing so.

The Appeals Court pointed out that “IDEA’s exhaustion requirement will be excused in those circumstances where exhaustion would be futile”. To “demonstrate futility”, the Appeals Court said that a plaintiff “must demonstrate that adequate remedies are not reasonably available or that the wrongs alleged could not or would not have been corrected by resort to the administrative hearing process”. The Appeals Court went on to say that, among other things, futility “may arise where the complaint alleges systemic violations that the administrative review process had no power to correct.”

Withrespect “tothe extent”thattheplaintiffswere arguingthat“exhaustionwouldbefutile merely because the administrative process cannot order the process-oriented remedy that [the plaintiffs] seek, …” the Appeals Court said this was “unpersuasive”.

The district court concluded that plaintiffs did not allege any systemic violation and dismissed the claims. The Appeals Court disagreed saying that it has “recognized that exhaustion may be futile if administrative bodies persistently fail to render expeditious decisions as to due process

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complaints within the required timeframe”. It said that the complaint here in relevant part “sets forth precisely this allegation of systemic delay”. It pointed out that the plaintiffs asserted that the New York City Department of Education “systemically fails to resolve due process complaints within the required [75-day] time frame and cannot adequately handle the volume of plaintiffs’ complaints”. The Appeals Court pointed out that the plaintiffs had also “allege[d] that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the [New York City Department of Education] faced more than 10,000 open complaints, nearly 70% of which had blown past the legal deadline for resolution, forcing families to wait months or even years before receiving the special education services they need”.

Defendants “argue[d] that exhaustion was not futile because the New York City Department of Education had put into place an individualized and IEP-based “new program for provision of compensatory education” which “offers the exact relief that plaintiffs seek and allows families to obtain compensatory services outside of the administrative hearing process” The defendants argue that “plaintiffs’ claims are moot because the [New York City Department of Education’s] program offers plaintiffs the relief they seek”.

Uponreviewofthe papers, the AppealsCourt said that the plaintiffsraised numerousfactsrelevant to the ability of the “new program” to achieve the plaintiff’s relief as well as to address the largescale delay in the provision of compensatory services.

The Appeals Court determined that on the “sparse record” before it, and in the context of a motion to dismiss, it could not “conclude that New York City’s 2022-23 new program moots plaintiff’s claims or undermines the sufficiency of their futility allegations.

The Appeals Court concluded that the defendants could raise their arguments in the district court “with further development of the record” and that the plaintiffs could amend their complaint, if necessary, to address the defendants’ allegations that the “new program” is effective in addressing the need for compensatory services as a result of the remote services resulting from the COVID19 pandemic.

The Court vacated the judgement of the district court and remanded the matter to it.

P.C.R. and A.D.R. v. Fla. Union Free Sch. Dist. and Orange Ulster Bd. of Coop. Edu. Services, No.16-CV-9778 (KMK), 2022 WL 337072 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the parents had exhausted their administrative remedies.

Conclusion: The Court concluded that inall but one possible period of time, the futilityexception to the exhaustion of administrative remedies doctrine failed to give life to the parents’ claims.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: “It is well settled that prior to bringing a suit in the federal court under the IDEA, plaintiffs must exhaust all available administrative procedures”. However, “the exhaustion requirement does not apply in situations in which exhaustion would be futile … which includes circumstances in which plaintiffs claim that defendants failed to implement services that were specified or otherwise clearly stated in an IEP”.

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In this case, it was undisputed that the parents did not exhaust their administrative remedies with respect to the failure of the district to provide for group counseling services that were a part of the student’s IEP. However, and relative to this, the Court said that in a previous decision, the “plaintiffs had adequately alleged futility in [the third amended complaint] by alleging that group counseling was included in [the student’s] IEP for the entirety of the 2013-14 school year, including the [extended school year] and that such services not provided by [the defendant]”.

Notwithstanding such earlier allegations, the Court found that since the time of its previous decision, it had been determined “that group counseling was not included in [the student’s] IEP for the 2013-14 school year after November 21, 2013 or his IEP for the 2014 [extended school year]”. Thisbeingthe case,the Court held that the futilityexceptiondidnot applytothose specific periods of time and that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction regarding those claims.

Withregardtotheperiodoftime betweenthebeginningofthe2013 school yearthroughNovember 21, 2013 the Court described the record as “foggy” with respect to whether the student received group counseling provided for in his IEP during that period of time. In light of the fact that the district had filed a motion for summaryjudgment on this issue and that therefore the relevant facts would be construed in the light most favorable to the parents, the Court determined that there was a “genuine issue of material fact as to whether [the student] received group counseling for this entire time period and thus, the futility exception applies to the [parents’] claim as to this time period”. That being the case, the Court held that it had subject matter jurisdiction to consider that question.

Schneider v. Mahopac Cent. Sch. Dist, et al., 21-2201, 2022 WL 1316211 (2d Circuit May 3, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the parent exhausted his administrative remedies.

Conclusion: The parent failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The district court granted the school’s motion to dismiss, finding, amongotherthings, that it lackedsubjectmatterjurisdictionoverthe parent’sIDEAandretaliation claims because he had not exhausted his administrative remedies under the IDEA.

On appeal, among other things, the parent did not challenge the dismissal of “his claim that expressly alleges an IDEA violation” and the Circuit Court therefore did not consider this claim.

The parent’s argument properly before the court on appeal “is that the district court erred in determiningthathewasrequiredtoexhausthisFirst AmendmentandRehabilitationActretaliation claims using the IDEA’s procedures before filing suit in federal court”. These exhaustion procedures include, among other things, the filing of a due process complaint, the conducting of an impartial due process hearing and decision, and review and decision bya State Review Officer.

The Circuit Court pointed out that “[i]n addition to applying to IDEA claims, these exhaustion requirementsapplyto claimsbrought undertheAmericanswithDisabilitiesAct,theRehabilitation Act and other federal laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities to the extent that those claims seek relief that is also available under the IDEA”. See 20 USC 1415(l). Following up on

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this, the Court said that a parent’s “failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA deprives a court of subject matter jurisdiction”

In this case, the parent “does not claim that it followed the IDEA’s procedures with respect to his First Amendment and Rehabilitation Act retaliation claims”. The parent instead “argues that the claims do not seek relief that is available under the IDEA, and accordingly, he was not required to exhaust them before bringing suit”.

The Supreme Court in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 137 S.Ct. 743(2017) “clarified the framework for determining whether a claim that is not expressly brought under the IDEA is nonetheless subject to the IDEA’s exhaustion requirements. The Court explained that Section 1415(l)’s exhaustion rule hinges on whether a lawsuit seeks relief for the denial of a free appropriate public education. If a lawsuit charges such a denial,the plaintiff cannot escape Section 1415(l) merely by bringing her suit under a statue other than IDEA.” Fry said that under such standard, “we must examine whether a plaintiff’s complaint – the principal instrument by which she describes her case – seeks relief for the denial of an appropriate education scrutinizing the complaint’s substance not surface”.

Upon review, the Court held that in the instant case, the parent’s complaint “seeks relief that is available under the IDEA, and therefore that [the parent’s] First Amendment and Rehabilitation Act retaliation claims were subject to the exhaustion requirement.

The Circuit Court said that “[t]his analysis is confirmed by considering the two hypothetical questions that the Supreme Court posed in Fry: (1) Could the plaintiff have brought essentially the same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at a public facility that was not a school – say a public theatre or library?; and (2) Could an adult at the school… have pressed essentiallythe same grievance?” Regarding this, “[w]hen the answer to these questions is no, the Court instructed that the complaint probably does concern a FAPE, even if it does not explicitly say so”.

In this case, the Circuit Court said that it agreed with the district court that the answers to the Fry hypotheticals was “no”. More particularly, “[b]ecause [the parent’s] retaliation claims seek relief for changes to the student’s IEP an accommodation that is available only to school children he would be unable to bring the same claim against a different public facility”. Moreover, “an adult at the school could not have pressed essentiallythe same grievance” as the focus ofan IDEAclaim is to protect school children and not adults.

With the above in mind, the Circuit Court concluded that the parent “was required to exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA before bringing his First Amendment and Rehabilitation Act retaliation claims in federal court,” and because he did not, “the district court correctly dismissed the parent’s retaliation claims for lack of [subject matter] jurisdiction”.

R.R. v. Greenwich Bd. of Educ., No.3:21-CV-00873 (JCH), 2022 WL 1443979, (D. Conn. May 6, 2022)

Dispute: Did the parents exhaust their administrative remedies.

Conclusion: The Court determined that the parents did not exhaust their administrative remedies and dismissed the second count of their complaint.

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Basis of the Court’s Decision: The parents’ lawsuit included two counts. One was a count under the IDEA; the second, a count under the ADA. In reviewing the matter, the Court pointed to the Supreme Court’s opinion in Fry v. Napoleon Cmty. Sch., 137 S.Ct.743 (2017) regarding the scope of the exhaustion requirement set forth at 20 USC 1415(l). Key to that requirement is that “if plaintiffs bring an ADA claim that seeks relief that is also available under the IDEA, they are required to first assert that ADA claim through the IDEA’s administrative processes before bringing an action in federal court”.40

Regarding whether a statute seeks relief that is available under the IDEA, the Court pointed to Fry for the conclusion that the relief sought must be for the denial of a FAPE because that is the only “relief” that the IDEA makes “available”. Moving forward from there, the Count pointed to relevant language in Fry that “in determining whether a suit indeed seeks relief for such a denial, “a court should look to the substance or gravamen, of the plaintiff’s complaint” and that “[d]oing so requires an examination of the claims that should consider substance not surface.” and that “[t]he use (or non-use) of particular labels and terms is not what matters”.

The Court then recited in detail the importance of Fry’s “hypothetical questions”:

One clue to whether the gravamen of a complaint against a school concerns the denial of a FAPE, or instead addresses disability-based discrimination, can come from asking a pair of hypothetical questions. First, could the plaintiff have brought essentiallythe same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at a public facility that was not a school say a public theatre or library? And second, could an adult at the school – say an employee or visitor –have pressed essentially the same grievance? When the answers to those questions is yes, a complaint that does not expressly allege the denial of FAPE is also unlikely to be truly about that subject; after all, in those other situations there is no FAPE obligation and yet the same basic suit could go forward. But when the answer is no, then the complaint probably does concern a FAPE, even if it does not explicitly say so; for the FAPE requirement is all that explains why only a child in the school setting (not an adult in that setting or a child in some other) has a viable claim.

Finally, and also regarding Fry, the Court pointed to the Supreme Court’s statement that “a further sign that the gravamen of a suit is the denial of a FAPE can emerge from the history of the proceedings”. In particular here, and again citing to Fry, the Court said that “prior pursuit of the IDEA’s administrative remedies will often – although not always provide strong evidence that the substance of a plaintiff’s claim concerns the denial of a FAPE.

With regard to this case, the Court concluded that it was “quite clear” that the gravamen of the plaintiff’s Complaint was a denial of a FAPE. The Court pointed out that the IDEA claim was “expressly incorporated” into the ADA claim. Additionally, the additional facts contained in the ADA claim were “sparse and mostly duplicative of the allegations made [under Count 1] in the Complaint”. The Court also looked to the plaintiff’s Memorandum where they described their

40 The relevant language in Section 1415(l)’s exhaustion requirement is not limited to a claim brought under the ADA but is generalizable as it includes claims brought under the constitution, title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or other Federal laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities.

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ADA claim. Looking at that description, the Court said that this set forth a FAPE claim. “Indeed” the Court saidthatmost ofcounttwo(theADAclaim)“isentirelydevoidofanyfactual allegations at all, consisting solely of legal conclusions. The Court said that “in this way, the substance or gravamen of plaintiff’s Count 2 ADA claim is identical to its Count 1 denial of a FAPE claim under IDEA: it seeks relief for the same injury, but under the guise of the ADA rather than the IDEA”.

Regarding Fry’s hypothetical questions, the court said that the answers to these two questions was “no” and in particular, that the parents could not have brought the same ADA claim against a public facilitythat was not a school. Nor could an adult at the school have brought the same claim.

Regarding the history of the proceeding, the Court said that this also provides “strong evidence here that the substance of the parents’ ADA claim concerns the denial of a FAPE, In this regard, the Court pointed to the fact that the plaintiffs “fully availed themselves of the administrative processes available under the IDEA for their IDEA claim” “Yet on appeal of the IHO’s decision finding that there was no denial of a FAPE, they have simply appended an ADA claim to their Complaint without substantially adding to the factual allegations in that Count.

Finally, the Court cited to Circuit Court cases in the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits and lower court cases in the Second Circuit that concerned situations where a party’s IDEA claim also included a claim concerning another statute protecting the rights of students with disabilities.41 The Court reported that in all such cases, the non-IDEA claim was dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 137 S. Ct. 743 (2017) Dispute: Whether the parents have exhausted their administrative remedies.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court concluded that further analysis by the Court of Appeals was required in order to determine whether the parents had exhausted their administrative remedies.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: In determining whether the parents had exhausted their administrative remedies the Court looked to Section 20 U.S.C. 1415(l) of the IDEA which reads as follows:

Nothing in the [IDEA] should be construed to restrict or limit the rights, procedures, and remedies available under the Constitution, the [ADA], Title V of the Rehabilitation Act [including Section 504] or other Federal laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities except that before the filing of a civil action under such laws seekingrelief that is also available under [the IDEA], the IDEAs [administrative procedures] shall be exhausted to the same extent as would be required had the action been brought under [the IDEA].

41 The Court’s decision advised that the Second Circuit had not addressed this question. Regarding this, the instant case was issued just three days after the Second Circuit’s decision in Schneider v. Mahopac Central School District, 21-2201, 2022 WL 1316211 (Second Cir. May 3, 2022,) a case which dismissed a plaintiff’s Section 504 and First Amendment retaliation claims in a complaint which also included an IDEA claim because the plaintiff there did not exhaust administrative remedies.

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In this case, the civil action at issue concerned whether the student’s trained service dog could accompany the student at school. The school initially determined that it could not. Thereafter, the student’s parents filed a complaint with the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) asserting that the school had violated the student’s rights under both Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Upon review, the OCR determined that the district’s conduct did violate the student’s rights under these two anti-discrimination statutes.

The Court said that Section 1415(l)“requires that a [parent] exhaust the IDEA’s procedures before filing an action under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, or similar laws when (but only when) her suit seeks relief that isalso available under the IDEA”. The Court held that “to meet that statutory standard, a suit must seek relief for the denial of a FAPE, because that is the only relief the IDEA makes available”. The Court also held that “in determining whether a suit indeed seeks relief for such a denial, a court should lookto the substance or gravamen of the [parent’s]complaint”. “One clue whether the gravamen of a complaint against a school concerns the denial of a FAPE or instead addresses disability-based discrimination” looks to the answers to two “hypothetical questions”. “First, could the [parent] have brought essentially the same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at a public facility that was not a school – say, a public theater or library? And second, could an adult at the school such as an employee or visitor have pressed essentially the same grievance”. The Court advised that when the answer to these questions was “yes, a complaint that does not expressly allege a denial of a FAPE is also unlikely to be truly about a FAPE’ and thus if so, exhaustion of the IDEA’s administrative procedures is not required. But when the answer is “no” then the complaint probably does concern a FAPE and if so, exhaustion of the IDEA’s administrative procedures is required.42

The Court also stated that “[a] further sign that the gravamen of a suit is the denial of a FAPEcan emerge from the history of the proceedings” and that “[i]n particular, a court may consider that the [parent] has previouslyinvoked the IDEA’s formal procedures to handle the dispute – thus starting to exhaust the Act’s remedies before switching midstream. The Court advised that “[a] [parent’s]initial choice topursue that processmaysuggest [that the parent]isindeedseekingrelief for the denial of a FAPE – with the shift to judicial proceedings prior to full exhaustion reflecting

42 The Court gave two “contrasting examples” of this. First a wheelchair-bound student sues the school for a violation of the ADA without mentioning the denial of a FAPE because the building lacks access to ramps. Here, an argument could be made that the matter has “educational consequences, and a different lawsuit might have alleged that it violates the IDEA”. “After all, if the child cannot get inside the school, he cannot receive instruction there; and if he must be carried inside, he may not achieve the sense of independence conducive to academic (or later to real-world) success”. So, what is the gravamen of this suit? With respect to the answers to the two questions, the Court pointed out that the student “could file the same basic complaint if a municipal library or theater had no ramps. And similarly, an employee or visitor could bring a mostly identical claim against the school”. Here, an answer of yes to these two questions suggests that the “essence [of the claim] is equality of access to public facilities, not adequacy of special education”. And, if so, there would be no requirement that before that claim could be heard, IDEAs administrative procedures needed to be exhausted. On the other hand, what if a student with a learning disability sues the school “for failing to provide remedial tutoring in mathematics”. What is the gravamen here? With respect to this, the first of the two questions is “can anyone imagine the student making the same claim against a public theater or library. With respect to the second question, can it be imagined that an adult visitor or employee would complain about this. This time, the answers to the two questions are no. Therefore, this suggests that the essence of the claim is one under IDEA and if so, the issue cannot be raised in court until the administrative procedures under IDEA have been exhausted.

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only strategic calculations about how to maximize the prospects of such a remedy”. But, the Court said “prior pursuit of the IDEA’s administrative remedies will often provide strong evidence that the substance of a plaintiff’s claim concerns the denial of a FAPE, even if the complaint never explicitly uses that term” and that in such a case, the student would be required to exhaust the IDEA’s administrative procedures.

The Supreme Court reviewed the treatment of the case by the appeals court. It concluded that “[t]he Court of Appeals did not undertake” the required analysis. The Supreme Court said instead, that the Circuit Court only considered “whether the [student’s] injuries were, broadly speaking, educational in nature”. The Supreme Court looked at the complaint and saw that nothing about it suggested that it concerned anything other than disability-based discrimination. And further, in using the “two questions” analysis “nothing in the nature of the [parents’] suit suggested any implicit focusonthe adequacyof the student’seducation”. However,andimportantlywithrespect tothebalanceoftheanalysis,theSupremeCourtfoundthattheadministrativerecordwas“cloudy” regarding the extent to which the IDEA’s administrative proceedings had been utilized prior to the suit being filed. And the Supreme Court indicated that this could make all the difference in determining whether the gravamen of the parents’ claim concerned the denial or a FAPE, which if it did, required the parents to exhaust IDEA’s administrative procedures prior to the bringing of their lawsuit.

With this in mind, the Court therefore remanded the matter back to the Court of Appeals to “establish whether (or to what extent) the [parents] invoked the IDEA’s dispute resolution process before bringing [the] suit. And “if the [parents] started down that road the Court should decide whether their actions reveal that the gravamen of their complaint was indeed the denial of a FAPE, thus necessitating further exhaustion”.

Schneider v Mahopac Cent. Sch. Dist. et al, No. 20-CV-709 (CS), 2021 WL 3887913 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 31, 2021)

Dispute: Whether the parent has exhausted IDEA’s administrative procedures?

Conclusion: The Court concluded that all but one43 of the parent’s claims should be dismissed for failure to exhaust IDEA’s administrative procedures.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: According to the Court, the parent brought claims for the following: (1) retaliation in violation of the First Amendment under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; (2) violations of what the parent called the “stayput” provision of the IDEA and (3) a violation of 18 U.S.C. 241. The district defendants (hereinafter referenced as “district) assert that all of the parent’s claim, “at their core” seek relief for the denial of a FAPE and “therefore all are subject to the IDEA’s administrative exhaustion requirement.

43 That claim was brought pursuant to a violation of 18 U.S.C. 241. The Court advised that this is a criminal statute which cannot be prosecuted by a private citizen. The Court also found that this claim, had been abandoned. That all being said, the Court granted the district’s motion to dismiss the claim on the basis that it failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

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In evaluatingthis, the Court looked to the Supreme Court decision in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 173 S. Ct 7453 (2017)44 for guidance as to how to proceed. In that case, the Supreme Court considered how to determine if a claim of discrimination under Section 504 and/or the ADA satisfies the IDEA’s exhaustion requirement. The Court first identified the relevant statutory provision as 20 U.S.C. 1415(l) of the IDEA. According to Fry this provision requires that a parent exhaust the IDEA’s administrative procedure before filing an action under the Americans with DisabilitiesAct (ADA), the RehabilitationAct, or similarlawswhen(but onlywhen) the suit seeks relief that is also available under the IDEA”. Fry held “that to meet that statutory standard a suit must seekrelieffor the denial ofa FAPE,becausethat istheonlyrelieftheIDEAmakesavailable”. Fry also held that “in determining whether a suit seeks relief for such a denial, a court should look to the substance or gravamen of the [parent’s] complaint”. Fry set forth a framework under which it could be determined whether the gravamen of a complaint against a school district concerns the denial of a FAPE or instead addresses disability-based discrimination. In the first place, the Court looked to the answers to two “hypothetical questions”. “First, could the [parent] have brought essentially the same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at a public facility that was not a school – say a public theater or library? And second, could an adult at the school such as an employee or visitor have pressed essentiallythe same grievance”. When the answers to these two questions is “yes” a complaint that does not expressly allege the denial of a FAPE is also unlikely to be truly about a FAPE and thus if so, exhaustion of the IDEA’s administrative procedures is not required. But when the answer is “no” then the complaint probably does concern a FAPE and if so, exhaustion of the IDEA’s administrative procedures is required. Fry also set forth that “[a] further sign that the gravamen of a suit is the denial of a FAPE can emerge from the history of the proceedings”.

With respect to the parent’s retaliation claims, the Court wrote that these “are essentiallybased on the same facts as the [parent’s] IDEA claims” and concern “changes made to [the student’s] aide assignment, rules relating to communication through teachers rather than aides, a January 2020 delay in the student’s mother being allowed into the school, and the implementation of a seizure log”. The parent claims that these actions were taken in retaliation for his exercise of rights under the First Amendment and Section 504. The Court concluded that “none of these accommodations would applyto a situationat a public facilityother thana school suchas a public theater orlibrary” and that “[s]imilarly all of these accommodations would only apply to a child/student, rather than to an adult visitor or staff member at a school” and that therefore exhaustion under Fry was required.

In deciding whether the IDEA’s administrative procedures need to be exhausted relative to the parent’s retaliation claims, the Court also pointed to prior-Fry decisions of Courts of Appeals in the First, Third, and Eleventh Circuits to this effect. The Court further pointed to post-Fry decisions from the Third and Fourth circuits that found that retaliation claims needed to exhaust the IDEA’s procedures. Finally, the Court cited to a number of post-Fry district court decisions within the Second Circuit that required retaliation claims to have pursued administrative remedies.

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44
A summary of the Fry case can also be found in the Special Education Digest.

Based on all of this, the Court found that the parent’s retaliation claims were subject to the IDEA’s exhaustion requirement, that the parent had not exhausted his administrative procedures under IDEA with respect to these claims and that therefore the district’s motion to dismiss these claims was granted.

With respect to plaintiff’s IDEA claim, the parent’s complaint asserted that the district had “abolished some of [the student’s] IEP accommodations without notice” According to the Court, the parent was apparently referring to the number of unilateral changes made to the student’s aide assignment, changes relating to communication through teachers rather than aides, possibly the delay in the student’s mother being allowed into school in January 2020, and the implementation of a seizure log. The Court held that the changes to the parent’s accommodations were “plainly brought under the IDEAand were based on the denial of a FAPE” and that the parent “specifically challenges changes to [the student’s] IEP” and the parent “cites to a provision of the IDEA requiringvariousprocedural protectionsbefore changestoan IEPare made”.Here too,the Court’s decision references the Fry analysis as it related to the gravamen of the parent’s complaint. With respect to this, the Court concluded that, as indicated above, “the defendants [were] captured by Fry’s two-question test” and that “the history of the proceedings” supported a finding that the gravamen of the suit was the denial of a FAPE.45

The Court concluded that the plaintiff was required to exhaust his administrative remedies under the IDEA before bringing his IDEA claim, and that since the parent did not allege facts indicating exhaustion, the district’s motion to dismiss was granted relative to these claims.

B.D. by Davis v. Dist of Columbia, No. 15-1139 (RJL), 80 IDELR 38 (D. D.C. Dec. 21, 2021)

Dispute: Whether the parents had exhausted their administrative remedies.

Conclusion: The Court held that the parents had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies and that this precluded the Court from considering the relevant claims.

Basisof the SRO’sDecision:The parentsassert thatthe district “violatedtheir right toparticipate” at the July 29, 2014 IEP Team meeting “by refusing to reconvene or otherwise consider information [the parents] provided after the meeting, principally a letter from [the student’s] psychologist”. Further, the parents “challenge the [d]istrict’s administrative due process system, contending that hearing officers, including the hearing officer in this case, lack the independence requiredbystatute” inthat “although officiallydenominated asindependent contractors” the terms of [independent hearing officers’] contracts with [the state administrative agency] render them employees, thereby depriving them of the objectivity and independence required by the IDEA”.

45 While it appears that the plaintiff did not engage in any of the IDEA’s formal administrative procedures (see Schneider v Mahopac Cent. Sch. Dist. et al, No. 20-CV-709 (CS), 2021 WL 3887913, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 31, 2021), the fact that the parent “specifically challenges changes to [the student’s] IEP” does nothing to show that the parent did or did not engage with the IDEA’s procedural remedies.

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The Court found that it could not consider both of these issues as the parents had not presented either of them to the independent hearing officer at the due process hearing.

Ventura de Paulino v New York City Dep’t of Educ. 959 F.3d 519 (2d Cir. 2020)

Dispute: The district claims that the parents should have exhausted their administrative remedies before an IHO and/or an SRO in a case involving pendency placement. The parents assert that the exhaustion doctrine does not apply in such a case.

Conclusion: The Second Circuit held that the exhaustion of administrative remedies doctrine did not preclude a Court from addressing an allegation of pendency before it was heard by an IHO and/or an SRO.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The Second Circuit pointed out that while the IDEA requires that available administrative remedies be exhausted before a lawsuit is filed in federal court, there are certain exceptions to that general rule; one of which involve the allegation of a violation of the “stay put” or pendency placement provision of the IDEA.

G.B., et al. v. Orange South Supervisory District, 19-3502--cv ----Fed.Appx. -- (2020), 2020 WL 7227190 (2d Cir. Dec. 8, 2020) Dispute: Whether plaintiffs exhausted their administrative remedies.

Conclusion: The Circuit Court found that the District Court did not err when it concluded that the plaintiffs did not exhaust their administrative remedies.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: It was not disputed that certain of plaintiffs’ claims were “not raised” in any due process complaint notice or before any IHO and, further, that as a general rule, the plaintiffs must exhaust their administrative remedies before filing suit. Plaintiffs argued, however, that in this case, the doctrine of “futility” should allow their claims to be considered. The Circuit Court ruled that notwithstanding this doctrine it was appropriate to require the plaintiffs to exhaust their administrative remedies. This was because the plaintiffs had not developed a record with respect to the particular claims at issue and also had not allowed individuals with expertise in education to make determinations relative to these claims “in the first instance”. The court further pointed out that plaintiffs had not shown that adequate remedies were not “reasonably available” or that the wrongs plaintiffs complained of “could/would not” have been corrected by the administrative process.

EXTENDED SCHOOL YEAR

KB, on behalf of SB v. Katonah Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 193946-cv, 847 Fed. Appx. 38 (2d Cir. Feb. 26, 2021)

Dispute: Was the district required to provide the student with extended school year services?

Conclusion: The Appeals Court agreed with the District Court and the SRO that the district was not required to provide the student with extended school year services duringthe summer of 2016.

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Basis of the Court’s Decision: The Appeals Court set forth that “(t)he IDEA’s implementing regulations require school districts to ensure that extended school year services are available as necessaryto provide FAPE”. The Appeals Court concluded that the District Court correctlyfound that the district’s denial of the parent’s request to provide the student with services during the summer of 2016 did not deprive the student of a FAPE and that the record “amply supports the SRO’s conclusion that (the student) was not entitled to summer services”. The Court pointed to the SRO’s conclusion that the student “did not lose any credits during her hospitalization in the spring and summer of 2015 and remained on track to graduate on time following her return to school.in the fall”. Nor did the student require “an inordinate period of review at the beginning of the school year to maintain academic progress” and instead made substantial academic progress without such. Additionally, the student did not suffer any academic or emotional “regression” during the winter breaks. The Appeals Court concluded that the SRO thus “adequately addressed any concerns that (the student) might regress without a structured and supportive environment duringthe summer months”. The AppealsCourt concluded that the SRO’s opinion was “thorough and careful” and therefore “merits our deference”.

KB v. Katonah Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 19-3946-cv, 2021 WL 745890 (2d Cir. February 26, 2021) Dispute: The parent asserts that the student was eligible to receive extended school year services. The district disagrees.

Conclusion: The Appeals Court determined that the SRO and District Court appropriately held that the student was not required to be provided with extended school year services in order to receive a FAPE.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The Appeals Court agreed with the District Court and the SRO that the student did not need to be placed in a summer program during the 2016-17 school year in order to receive a FAPE. Broadly speaking, the Appeals Court heldthat the relevant consideration was whether extended school year services were necessary in order for the student to receive a FAPE. In this case, the Appeals Court held that the record “amplysupports the SRO’s conclusion that the student was not entitled to summer services”. In particular, the Appeals Court pointed out that the student “did not lose any credits during her hospitalization in the spring and summer of 2015” and that the student “remained on track” to graduate when she returned to school in the fall of 2016. The Appeals Court also pointed out that the student “did not require an inordinate period of review at the beginning of the [2016-17] school year to maintain academic progress; to the contrary” [the student] made substantial academic progress without such review”. The Appeals Court also held that the student “suffered no regression academically or emotionally over the winter breaks” and that therefore the SRO had “adequately addressed any concerns that [the student] might regress without a structured and supportive environment during the summer months”.

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FREE APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION (FAPE)

UMULATIVE PROCEDURAL VIOLATIONS

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 23-039 (May 15, 2023)

Dispute: Whether issues relatingto the sufficiencyof evaluative information, the district’s failure to provide the parent with a copy of the IEP, and the inaccuracy of the school location letter and related matters cumulatively denied the student a FAPE.

Conclusion: The SRO held that issues relating to the sufficiency of evaluative information, the lack of receipt of the district’s IEP and the inaccuracy of the school location letter and related matters cumulatively denied the student a FAPE.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In this case, the student has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and, according to the record, needed a 12-month program, a highly structured learning environment and had needs relating to behavior management, language development, and social skills.

“The parent contends that the IHO failed to address procedural violations by the district which cumulatively denied her right to meaningfully participate in the CSE’s decision-making process and denied the student a FAPE. “In particular the parent asserts that [1] the district failed to evaluate the student in all areas of suspected disability, [2] failed to provide her with a copyof the [] IEP, and [3] did not provide needed information regarding the assigned school”.

“[W]hen procedural violations are alleged, an administrative officer may find that a student did not receive a FAPE onlyif the procedural inadequacies (a) impeded the student’s right to a FAPE, (b) significantly impeded the parent’s opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of a FAPE to the student, or (c) caused a deprivation of educational benefits. 20 U.S.C. 1415(f)(3)(E)(ii); 34 CFR 300.513(a)(2); 8 NYCRR 200.5(j)(4)(ii); Winkelman v. Parma City Sch. Dist., 550 U.S. 516, 525-26 (2007); R.E. v. New York City Dep’t ofEduc., 694 F. 3d 167, 190(2dCir.2012). “However,undersome circumstances,the cumulative impact of procedural violations may result in a denial of a FAPE even when the individual deficiencies themselves do not”. See L.O. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 822 F. 3d. 95, 12324 (2d Cir. 2016); T.M. v Cornwall Cent. Sch. Dist., 752 F.3d 145, 170 (2d Cir. 2014); R.E. 694. F.3d at 190-91; see also A.M. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 845 F.3d 523, 541 (2d Cir. 2017).

Issues relating to the sufficiency of evaluative information:

The district’s CSE met on April 23, 2020 to develop the student’s IEP for the 2020-21 school year. According to the prior written notice, the CSE relied on a number of documents to develop student’s IEP. These included a February 13, 2019 classroom observation done as part of the student’s turning five evaluation, a February 1, 2021 teacher’s report from the student’s private school, and February 1, 2020 progress reports from the student’s speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, and physical therapist. The CSE’s district representative testified that she “did not believe the student had any recent testing” and that “she did not recall when the last psychological evaluation, speech-language evaluation, OT evaluation, PT evaluation, social history or classroom observation was completed”. With respect to the February 13, 2019

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classroom observation, the district representative testified that “she did not recall reviewing [that] prior to the April 2020 CSE meeting” and “nor did she believe that she discussed the results with the author of the report”. Additionally, “[a]t the time of the hearing” the district representative also testified that she “could not recall the last time specific evaluations were conducted”. Although the district representative and the CSE had access to records through the district’s “SESIS” system it is not clear whether they had this access prior to or at the time of the meeting and whether they had access to the dates and types of evaluations or the text as well. She also testified that at the time of the CSE meeting, the district was operating remotelydue to COVID 19 “so there was no real testing being completed and no assessments could be given”. The district representative further testified that the CSE relied onthe student’s private school reports “because, at the time, theywere the ones working directlywith the student”. Her testimonywas also that the district “developed an assessment-like checklist” for the teachers at the private school to complete but that this was not done as private school staff “felt that their progress reports were sufficient and encompassed everything about the student”. The district representative also “testified that the information the parent and teachers communicated at the time of the April 2020 CSE meeting suggested that the progress reports encompassed the student’s current levels of performance”.

The SRO reviewed in exhaustive detail the information in the classroom observation,the teacher’s progress report, and the speech-language, OT, and PT progress reports. The SRO concluded that given these documents as well as the teacher and parent’s input at the CSE meeting, “appear[ed]” to have provided “adequate information regarding the student’s strengths and needs”.

At the same time, the SRO also concluded that the hearing record “lacks information that should have been available to the April 2020 CSE”. Regarding this, the SRO cited to State and federal regulations relating to, among other things, the necessity for the “CSE to consider the results of the initial or most recent evaluations” “[i]n developing the recommendations for a student’s IEP and when conducting an annual review of the student’s IEP”. See 8 NYCRR 200.4(d)(2); (f)(iii); 34 CFR 300.324(a)-(b).

The SRO further pointed out that there was no information in the record from which it could be reliably determined that evaluative information other than the classroom observation was a part of the student’s turning five review. Likewise with respect to the April 2020 CSE meeting, other than the 2019 classroom observation and private school reports, as indicated above, there is no information in the record to show when and if the CSE considered the most recent evaluations of the student and nor was their evidence produced at the hearing to show that the student had been properly evaluated; “a procedural violation” the SRO said.

The SRO said that “most troublingly, by not including copies of the student’s most recent evaluation in the hearing record (whether or not it was reviewed by the April 2020 CSE), the district has made it impossible to properly review some of the evaluation claims contained within the parent’s due process complaint notice”. For example, these included claims that the district “failed to conduct sufficient evaluations of the student prior to the April 2020 IEP review; failed to include the student’s parents in the evaluation process:failed to review the alreadyexistingdata and decide what additional data/evaluations were required; and that these failures rendered the CSE unable to create an appropriate IEP”. Claims to answer, the SRO said, which would require

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“knowing when the student was last evaluated, what evaluative information was available to the CSE, or what information about the student was contained within the missing evaluations…”; all information that wasnotavailableintherecord. The SROpointedoutherethat “the SecondCircuit has held that the failure to memorialize which evaluative information a CSE reviewed constitutes a serious procedural violation.” See L.O. at 109-11.

The SRO reinforced this view byconcluding that as a result of“the failure ofthe CSE to document what, if any, information from the student’s initial evaluation was considered in developing the April 2020 IEP, other than the classroom observation, precludes me from finding that the CSE fulfilled its obligation to consider the student’s initial evaluation, and testimony referencing the general availability of such materials though “SESIS” does not suffice to overcome that conclusion”. “Accordingly”, the SRO said, “given the district’s failure to reference the student’s last evaluation in the IEP or prior written notice or to have the evaluative materials at issue admitted into evidence at the impartial hearing impedes any adjudication of the specific claims raised by the parent with respect to the sufficiency of the district evaluations”

The SRO found, as a result, that the district’s failure to consider the student’s initial evaluation was a procedural violation that contributed to a denial of a FAPE.

The parent’s lack of receipt of the IEP:

“The district is required to have an IEP in effect for each student with a disabilityat the beginning of the school year and provide a copy of the IEP to the parents”. Cerra v. Pawling Cent. Sch. Dist., 427 F.3d 186, 194 (2d Cir. 2005) (citing to the proposition that school districts must only ensure that a child’s IEP is in effect by the beginning of the school year and that the parents are provided a copy); see also 34 CFR 322(f); 300.323(a); 8 NYCRR 200.4(e)(1)(ii), (e)(3)(iv). “Failure to provide a finalized IEP before the beginning of the school year is a procedural violation that may result in a finding that the district failed to offer the student a FAPE if the violation (a) impeded the student’s right to a FAPE, (b) significantly impeded the parents’ opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of a FAPE to the student, or (c) caused a deprivation of educational benefits”. See 20 U.S.C 1415 (f)(3)(e)2; 34 CFR 300.513(a)(2); 8 NYCRR 200.5(j)(4)(ii).

In this case, the parent requested a copy of the IEP on a number of occasions, but did not receive it prior to the beginning of the 12-month school year. “The district acknowledges that the failure to provide the parent with an IEP is a procedural violation but argues that it does not rise to the level of a denial of FAPE because the parent attended the CSE meeting, was aware of the contents of the IEP, and received both the prior written notice and the school location letter”.

The SRO found that “the parent did attend the CSE meeting and there is evidence that she had at least some knowledge of the program andplacement recommendations” in the IEP. The SRO also found, however, that in the parent’s 10-day notice, the parent advised the district that “in the absence of an IEP or any information regarding the public-school placement, my client will place the student [at the private school] and if the parent’s concerns are not addressed, we will request an impartial hearing to pursue public funding for the student’s tuition and services at this placement.”

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The SRO pointed out that the prior written notice (which the parent received) “is not meant to be a substitute for an IEP and does not contain important educational information about the student such as the student’s present levels of performance, annual goals, and management needs”.

The SRO concluded that in this case, “the parent put the district on notice that she was requesting the April 2020 IEP and would pursue a unilateral placement at public expense absent receipt of that document”. The SRO pointed out that the parent’s dispute was the district’s “failure to provide” the parent with a copy of the April 2020 IEP “in the first instance, as it was obligated to do”. TheSROcontinuedthat “[t]he district wasgivenanopportunitytocure thatprocedural defect but failed” to provide a copy of the April 2020 IEP to the parent prior to the beginning of the student’s 12-month school year as required. “[U]nder the circumstances present, the parent lacked a complete understandingofthe student’seducational program,asshowninbothher10-daynotice and the due process complaint notice” because of this.

The SRO concluded that “the district’s failure to provide the parent with a copy of the April 2020 IEP contributed to a denial of a FAPE to the student”.

The district’s failure to provide an accurate school location letter and related issues:

“[T]he parent asserts that the school location letter [is] deficient as it did not contain the correct contactinformationfortheassignedschool” andfurther,“thattheassignedschoolfailedtorespond to her attempts to contact and obtain information from the school”. “The district acknowledges that the contact information was incorrect but argues that the parent did not detail her attempts to contact the school or demonstrate what information she was attempting to obtain. Additionally, the district assertsthat, in anyevent,a parent doesnot have anunqualifiedright to visit anassigned school”.

Regarding the parent’s right to receive information about an assigned school site, “OSEP has opined that the IDEAdoes not provide a general entitlement to parents of students with disabilities or their professional representatives to observe proposed school placement options for their children”. Letter to Mamas 42 IDELR 10 (OSEP 2004)46 See also J.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 242 F. Supp. 3d 186, 195 (E.D.N.Y. 2017); J.C. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 2015 WL 1499389 at *24 n. 14 (S.D.N.Y. 2015). “On the other hand, there is [extensive] district court authorityindicating that a parent has a right to obtain information about an assigned public-school site ... in order to evaluate whether the IEP can be implemented at the proposed location”. See H.L. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ, 2019 WL 181307, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Jan 11, 2019); F.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 132 F. Supp. 3d 522, 538-45 (S.D.N.Y. 2015); V.S. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 25 F. Sup. 3d 295, 299-301 (E.D.N.Y. 2014); C.U. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 23 F. Supp. 3d 210, 227-29 (S.D.N.Y. 2014).

46 The OSEP letter also advises that “[t]he determination of who has access to classrooms may be addressed by State and/or local policy” and further, that “we encourage school district personnel and parents to work together in ways that meet the needs of both the parents and the school, including providing opportunities for parents to observe…proposed placement options.”

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In this case and regarding the district’s claims that the parent failed “to provide sufficient detail with respect to her attempts to contact the assigned school”, the SRO found that “the parent informed the district in her 10-day notice … that she had called these contact numbers repeatedly, and left messages, but had not received a response and she also explicitly requested information as to how to receive information about the proposed program … or arrange for a visit”. Further, asindicatedabove,the district acknowledged “that the school locationlettercontainedanincorrect phone number and that this caused a continuous issue affectingthe assigned school and the district office”.

Notwithstanding this, the SRO pointed out that “the district did not respond to the parent or otherwise attempt to connect the parent to the school for the purpose of the parent receiving more information concerning the assigned school site”.

Further, as indicated above, the SRO pointed out that “[w]hile the district may be correct that a parent does not have a general entitlement to visit a proposed school, it [the district] also acknowledges in its answer that, in accordance with some of the case law cited above, a parent has a right to obtain information about an assigned public-school site”. Regarding the claim that the parent did not “demonstrate what information she was attempting to obtain”, the SRO pointed out that the district did “not cite any authority for the proposition that the parent must particularize his or her questions or concerns in order to find that a district impeded the parent’s ability to gain information from the assigned school”. With respect to this, the SRO pointed out that “[h]ere, the parent requested both a copy of the IEP and a means of contacting the assigned school to obtain additional information about the school and/or to arrange a visit”. The SRO also pointed out that “[t]he district [did] not dispute that it was obligated to provide the parent with a copy of the April 2020 IEP and also acknowledges that the parent had a right to obtain information about the assigned school”. The SRO concluded that “[d]espite being informed of the parent’s lack of an IEP or an effective way to contact the school, the district failed to provide the parent with either”

The SRO held that “[a]s a result, the district’s failure to respond to the parent’s request for further information regarding the assigned school also contributed to a denial of a FAPE to the student”.

CONCLUSION

As indicated above, the SRO concluded that “the district committed several procedural violations which impeded the parent’s ability to participate in the decision-making process regarding the student’s educational programming and, each of which contributed to a denial of FAPE”. The SRO continued and said that “[i]n review of the cumulative effect of these procedural violations, it cannot be determined that they did not affect the substantive appropriateness of the April 2020 IEP (see L.O. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 822 F.3d at 123-24). The SRO found that “[t]his impeded the student’s right to a FAPE, hindered the parent’s opportunity to participate in the decision-making process or otherwise deprived the student of educational benefits (20 U.S.C. 1415[(f][3][E][ii];34CFR300.513[a][2]; 8NYCRR200.5[j][4][ii]).” And,theSRO furtherfound that “the cumulative effect of these procedural violations resulted in a denial of FAPE to the student”.

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Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the district’s procedural violations denied the student a FAPE.

Conclusion: The Court found that the district’s procedural violations did not deprive the student of a FAPE.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

“TheSecondCircuithasemphasizedthatevenminor violationsmaycumulativelyresultinadenial of a FAPE”. See R.E. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 694 F.3d 167, 191 (2d Cir. 2012). However, “the cumulative effect of these violations … must display a pattern of indifference to the procedural requirements of the IDEA and carelessness in formulatinga child’s IEP”. See L.O. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 822 F.3d 95, 124 (2d Cir. 2016)

In this case, the Court found “that the [district] committed two procedural violations not waived by the [p]arents, in formulating [the student’s] IEP”. First, the district failed to list the names of the district physician and the parent member of the CSE in the notice of the CSE meeting. See 8 NYCRR 200.5(c)(2). Regarding this, the Court indicated that the parents recognized this and that the district corrected the error. “Second, the [district] permitted the [district] school physician to attend the CSE meeting electronically without the [p]arents’ permission.” See 8 NYCRR 200.3(a)(vii); (f); 200.5(d)(7).

The Court first stated that “[t]he IHO did not address the cumulative effect of the procedural violations” and that, while the SRO set forth the correct cumulative effect standard, he did not “expresslyaddress the [district’s] procedural violations’ cumulative effect”. The Court found that the IHO and the SRO each had a responsibility to address the cumulative effects of the relevant violations. That they did not, the Court said, was error.

Notwithstanding the SRO’s error in not determining whether the procedural errors denied the student a FAPE, the Court pointed out that the SRO did, however, define those violations as “relatively innocuous and that neither significantly impeded the [p]arents’ ability to participate in the IEPprocess” and that,infact,it was theparentsandnot the district “whoconductedthemselves in a manner that limited their own participation in the meeting”.

The Court agreed with the SRO that these two errors were innocuous and “further [found] that the two procedural violations, taken together did not result in the denial of a FAPE and did not significantly impede the parent’s participation in the IEP process”.

Endrew F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist. RE-1, 137 S.Ct. 9898 (2017)

Dispute: The parentsassert that FAPE isaneducation that aimstoprovide a childwith a disability opportunities to achieve academic success, attain self-sufficiency, and contribute to society that are substantially equal to the opportunities afforded children without disabilities. The district disagrees and asserts that an IEP need not promise any particular level of benefit so long as it is reasonably calculated to provide some benefit as opposed to none.

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Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that to meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.

Basis of the Supreme Court’s Decision: The Court rejected the district’s position, which was based on specific language in Bd. of Ed of Hendrick Hudson Cent Sch. Dist. Westchester Cty v. Rowley, 458 US 176 (1982) which, the Court said the district “made too much of. Regarding the statement that “the face of the IDEAimposed noexplicit substantive standard”,the Court [IDEA]”

(See Rowley at 193 n. 15). Relative to the language in Rowley “concerning the requirement that States provide instruction calculated to confer some educational benefit,” (emphasis added) (see Rowley at 200) the Court said that in Rowley there was “no need to say anything more particular, since the case before it involved a child whose progress plainly demonstrated that her IEP was designed to deliver more than adequate educational benefits” and that “(t)hat the Court was not concerned with preciselyarticulating a governing standard for closer cases”. Regarding Rowley’s statement “that the [IDEA] did not guarantee any particular level of education” (see Rowley at 192),the Court saidthat this“simplyreflectsthe unobjectionable propositionthat the IDEAcannot and does not promise anyparticular educational outcome.” “More important,” the Court said that the district’s reliance on these “isolated statements run headlong into several points on which Rowley is crystal clear.” First, the language in Rowley that “the determination of when handicapped children are receiving sufficient educational benefits presents a …difficult problem”

(Rowley at 200, 202) (emphasis in original) and second that Rowley “expressly declined to establish any one test for determining the adequacy of educational benefits under the Act”

(emphasis in original).

With respect to the parents’ position, the Court pointed out that their standard was “strikingly similar to the [position] the lower courts adopted in Rowley, and [that] it [was] virtually identical to the formulation advanced by Justice Blackmun in his separate concurring decision in Rowley; both of which were “rejected” by the majority in Rowley “in clear terms”.

As indicated above, the Court held that “[t]o meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances”. With respect here to its “reasonably calculated qualification”, the Court said that “[a]ny review of an IEP must appreciate that the question is whether the IEP is reasonable, not whether the court regards it as ideal.” (emphasis in original) With respect to the need to make “progress” the Court said that “the essential function of an IEP is to set out a plan for pursuingacademic andfunctional advancement” (emphasis added). Finally, that such progress be “appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances,” the Court said that this “should come as no surprise” and onlyreflects the fact that “a focus on the particular child is at the core of the IDEA”

Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021) Dispute: Whether the district provided the parents with notice of the student’s assigned school and if not, whether that deprived the student of a FAPE.

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Conclusion: The SRO upheld the IHO’s finding that the district did not properly provide the parents with notification of the student’s assigned school and that this was a denial of FAPE.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: A district is required at some point prior to or contemporaneous with the date of initiation of services under the IEP to notify parents in a reasonable fashion of the bricks and mortar location of the special education program and services in the student’s IEP. As set forth below, the absence of such notification is a denial of FAPE.

The district held a CSE meeting “on December 11, 2019 to develop an IEP for the student for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year and a portion of the 2020-21 school year”. The student’s mother testified that she never received a response to her August 2020 letter and that she did not receive the IEP or a school location letter. She testified that “she first saw the December IEP and the school location letter in April 2021, during the course of the impartial hearing”. She also testified that “there came a time when her husband did find the email from the district with the school location letter; however, but that because her husband had never been the point of contact for the district, and she had been”, her husband merely put it amongst his papers. Further, accordingtotheevidenceatthe hearing, “the district usedanincorrectemail addressfor themother and sent the student’s school location letter to that incorrect email address”.

The SRO also concluded that the IHO correctly found that the “district’s attempt to deliver the school location letter via email was not in accord with its own practices and was not reasonably calculated toprovide theparentswithnotice”. Inparticular,accordingtothe FAQson the district’s website, “documents maybe sent to a parent via email after getting the parent’s consent to receive documentsviaemail”.Thewebsite“furtherindicatedstepsthatshouldbetakentoobtainaparent’s consent for communication via email, including attempting to reach the parent by telephone”. Here, “[t]he student’smothertestifiedthatthe CSE hadnot communicatedwiththe student’sfather toobtain hisemailaddressandconsent toprovide documentationbyemail”.“The student’smother also testified that the district had not ever requested permission or consent to communicate with her via email”. The record also showed that notwithstanding that the district had the parents’ mailing address and that it had previously provided “important” documents such as IEPs or school location letters “by mail”, in this case, the district appeared to have elected to only email those documents to the parents without even a follow-up telephone call.

The SRO concluded that “the district failed in its obligation to notify the parents, either in writing or orally, as to where or how the student could access his IEP services despite efforts made by the parents to obtain that information from the district.” The SRO held that this was a “procedural inadequacy” which “resulted in the parents being provided with too little information as to how or where the recommended special education program would have been implemented and therefore resulted in a denial of FAPE”.

MISCELLANEOUS

Doe v. E. Lyme Bd. of Educ., 962 F.3d 649 (2d Cir. 2020)

Dispute: Did Endrew F. change controlling law regarding FAPE in the Second Circuit.

Conclusion: The Circuit Court held that Endrew F. did not change controlling law in the Second Circuit with respect to FAPE.

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Basis of the Second Circuit’s Decision:

“In Endrew F47 ., the Supreme Court determined that the IDEA’s substantive requirements were not met where the student had received an educational benefit that is merely … more than de minimis”. With respect to this, the Circuit Court characterized the holding in Endrew F. as the requirementthattheIDEA“demandsmore”;andinparticular,“aneducationalprogramreasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances”.

According to the Circuit Court, it had previously held that to be adequate an IEP “must be likely to produce progress that is more than trivial advancement” (Doe v. E. Lyme Bd. of Educ.,790 F.3d 440, 450 [2d Cir. 2015], quoting Cerra v. Pawling Cent. Sch. Dist. 427 F.3d 186, 194-95 [2d Cir 2005]). In light of that and the above, the parent in this case equated “trivial advancement with a de minimis educational benefit” and claimed that therefore under Endrew F. “the IEP was evaluated under too low a standard because providing more than trivial advancement is hardly offering an education at all”.

Not the case, said the Circuit Court, which went on to write that “[h]ad the school district successfully defended [the student’s] IEP as adequate because it provided only a trivial advancement there would be a gooddeal oftractionto[the parent’s]argument”. TheCircuit Court said that this was “not how [it] measured the adequacy of [the student’s] IEP”. To the contrary, the Circuit Court said that under Cerra, “a school district fulfills its substantive obligations under the IDEA if it provides an IEP that is likely to produce progress, not regression, and if the IEP affords the student with an opportunity greater than mere trivial advancement”. In a post-Endrew F. case, the Circuit Court went on to explain that Cerra did “not stand for the proposition that the IDEA is satisfied with any progress above the floor of trivial advancement and it should not be cited for that proposition” (see Mr. P. v. W. Hartford Bd. of Educ., 885 F.3d 735, 757 n.12 [2d Cir. 2018]). In a sleight of hand, the Court said that this was because in Cerra the State Review Officer found that the student had made meaningful – not simply more than trivial or de minimis –progress.

The Circuit Court also set forth that in Mr. P., 885 F.3d at 757, it had previously “specifically observed that prior decisions of [the Circuit Court] are consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Endrew F.” and that Endrew F, did “not signal a change in the law of this Circuit”.

INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION AT PUBLIC EXPENSE (IEE)

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-150 (Jan. 9, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the parent requested an IEE using the proper procedures.

Conclusion: The SRO upheld the IHO in relevant part and concluded that the parent did not properly raise the request for an IEE.

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47 Endrew F.l ex. rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist. RE-1, U.S. 137 S.Ct. 988, 997 (2017).

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

The parent included a request for an IEE in the due process complaint notice. Among other reasons, the IHO denied the request because of that reason andalso because the parent did not seek an IEE prior to the due process complaint notice.

The SROdeterminedthat theIHO’sconclusionwascorrect.More particularly,the SROconcluded that while he had not finished his thinking about the matter and pointed to an exception that was not relevant to the matter here, a request for an IEE should not be first raised in a due process complaintnoticeandtodoso“wasnottheprocesscontemplatedbythe IDEAanditsimplementing regulations”. The SRO concluded “that the parent delayed the IEE request in favor of including it inthedueprocesscomplaint notice orincludingthe request foranIEEinthe dueprocesscomplaint notice as an afterthought”. This, the SRO said, was an “improper use of the due process procedures”

The SROpointed outthat “the parentfaultsthe district initsrequest forreviewfor failingtoinitiate an impartial hearing to defend its evaluations, but [the] district cannot be faulted for that because [1] there is no evidence the parent requested an IEE or articulated anydisagreement with a district evaluation prior to seeking the IEE in the due process complaint notice, [2] he did not identify which districtevaluationhedisagreedwith, and[3]didnot articulatethe statementofdisagreement during the impartial hearing”. The SRO said that the parent’s failure to follow the process was “further compounded” as the parent framed the issue in the due process complaint notice in terms of “a procedural violation underlying a denial of a FAPE instead of as a separate articulation of disagreement with a district evaluation underlying a request for an IEE”.

With the above in mind, the SRO upheld the determination of the IHO in relevant part.

Finally, the SRO’s decision advised the parent that “if the parent still desires that the student undergo [an IEE] he should request that the district conduct such evaluation” and follow the procedures set forth in the IDEA subsequent to that.

B.D. v Eldred Cent. Sch. Dist., 22-CV-03637 (PMH), 2023 WL 3025308 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the patents were entitled to an independent educational evaluation at public expense.

Conclusion: The Court held that the parents were not entitled to an independent educational evaluation at public expense as there was no district evaluation to disagree with.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The student in this case has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder, reading and writing impairments, and chronic kidney disease. The student is eligible for special education programs and services as a student with a disabilityand in particular a student with another health impairment.

The student requested reimbursement in the amount of $6,800 for a private neuropsychological evaluation. Both the IHO and the SRO concluded that the parent did not have a right to an

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individual educational evaluation (IEE) atpublic expense. More specifically, the SRO determined that the parents were not entitled to a private evaluation at public expense because parents “are only entitled to a private evaluation at public expense after the [d]istrict conducts an evaluation with which they disagree, and because [in this case] no [d]istrict evaluation was conducted prior to the private evaluation”.

The Court agreed and cited to D.D. v. Trumbull Bd. of Educ., 975 F.3d 152, 158 (2d 2020) and 34 CFR 300.502(b)(1) for the proposition that “a parent is entitled to a publicly funded IEE if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency”. The Court pointed out that in this case, the parents “refused to consent to a [d]istrict neuropsychological evaluation”. Again citing to Trumbull, the Court explained that “[t]he IEE process attempts to level the playing field between parent and government bysecuringa parent’s abilityto obtain anindependent assessment of their child’s disability if the school’s falls short”. The Court continued that “[t]here is simply no entitlement to a private evaluation before a public one has been taken because [the parents] cannot know whether the public evaluation falls short before it even exists”. Further, the parents had argued “that they contracted for the private evaluation because they did not like the psychologist that the [d]istrict proposed for the public evaluation”. Regarding this, the Court said that the parents “cite to no authority – and the Court is unaware of any – for the proposition that such a disagreement would exempt them from first receiving a public evaluation”.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-127 (Dec. 2022) Dispute: Whether the district should pay for an Independent educational evaluation for the student.

Conclusion: The parties agree that an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) should be provided to the student and the SRO ordered the district to allow the parent the opportunity to demonstrate that “unique circumstances” justify an IEE that did not fall within the district’s cost containment criteria.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In this case, the student had a “diagnosis of autism and a severe intellectual disability”. Regarding this, student evaluations indicated that the student’s intellectual abilities were at the first percentile and that such might be an “overestimate”. The student’s score on the Vineland-3 comprehensive interview form given to the student’s parent to assess the student’s adaptive functioning also resulted in a score below the first percentile. The student exhibited significant sensory needs and presented with “significant language delays, pervasive difficulties with communication and comprehension”, and accompanying attention and sensory deficits.

In December 2020, the parent advised the CSE that “the student had not been recently evaluated and he was concerned that there was insufficient information to understand [the student’s] needs and current functioning levels”. According to the parent, he requested a reevaluation. Thereafter and on January 26, 2021, the parent “requested that the district conduct a neuropsychological evaluation”. As part of the student’s August 18, 2021, due process complaint notice, the parent also requested an IEE. Finally, in a letter dated February 8, 2022, “the parents claimed that the

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student was evaluated by an outside provider in December 2019, but indicated they believed the student’s needs had changed and an updated evaluation was required”. “The parents requested a neuropsychological evaluation and any other indicated testing”.

In response to the parents’ February 8, 2022, request, “the district sent the parents a prior written notice… for a revaluation”. “The districtdeterminedthatthe student neededa neuropsychological evaluation as part of the reevaluation”. As part of the documentation provided to the parents by the district, the district provided the parents with its “maximum allowable [district] rates for assessments”, which for a neuropsychological evaluation was $1,000.

On March 5, 2022, the parent “requested an authorization form requesting funding of a neuropsychological evaluation up to $5,000” based on their hearing that such evaluations can cost between $4,000 to n $6,000.

“Regarding the issue of the maximum reimbursement rate, when a parent requests an IEE, the district must provide the parent with a list of independent evaluators from whom the parent can obtain an IEE, as well as the district’s criteria applicable to IEEs should the parents wish to obtain evaluations from individuals who are not on the list”. “Additionally, a school district must not restrict the providers of an IEE to a set list and must give parents the opportunity to show that circumstances require choosing an evaluator who does not meet school district criteria”. “If the district has a policy regarding reimbursement rates for IEEs, it may apply such policy to the amounts it reimburses the parent for the private evaluations”. “The district may also establish maximum allowable charges for specific tests to avoid unreasonable charges for IEEs”. “When enforcing reasonable cost containment criteria, the district must allow parents the opportunity to demonstrate that unique circumstances justify an IEE that does not fall within the district’s cost criteria”.

Here, the SRO concluded that while the parents submitted a request for an IEE and that while the district thereafter consented to same, “the parents did not provide adequate justification for why the district’s cost containment policy should not apply”. In particular, the SRO determined that “the parents had failed to identify an evaluator to conduct an evaluation of the student and have not adequately identified the cost of such evaluation”. The SRO also said that “[t]he parents’ assertion that neuropsychological evaluations cost between $4,000 and $6,000 is not supported by the hearing record”.

The SRO pointed out that in this case, “the district agreed to the neuropsychological evaluation”. The SRO advised that “[a]s the parents have not yet obtained an IEE, there is no harm in requiring that the IEE conform to the district’s criteria”. “Therefore”, the SRO concluded that “the parents areentitledtoreimbursementforanIEEsubjecttothedistrict’scriteriaand,intheeventtheparents wish to obtain an evaluation from an evaluator whose fee is greater than permitted by the district’s cost containment criteria, the district must provide the parents with an opportunity to demonstrate that unique circumstances justify an IEE that does not fall within the district’s cost containment criteria”.

Application of the Dept of Educ., Appeal No. 22-081 (Aug. 26, 2022)

Dispute: Should the costs of the parent’s evaluation be reimbursed by the district.

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Conclusion: Contrary to the IHO’s conclusion, the SRO found that the parents should be reimbursed for the costs of their evaluation.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

“The IDEAand State and federal regulations guarantee parents the right to obtain an [Independent Educational Evaluation] IEE, which is defined by State regulation as ‘an individual evaluation of a student with a disability or a student thought to have a disability, conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public agency responsible for the education of the student’. Parents have the right to have an IEE conducted at public expense if the parent expresses disagreement with an evaluation conducted by the district and requests that an IEE be conducted at public expense”.

“If a parent requests and IEE at public expense, the school district must, without unnecessary delay, either (1) ensure that an IEE is provided at public expense or (2) initiate animpartial hearing to establish that its evaluation is appropriate or that the evaluation obtained by the parent does not meet the school district criteria. If a school district’s evaluation is determined to be appropriate by an IHO, the parent may still obtain an IEE, although not at public expense. Additionally, both federal and State regulations provide that ‘a parent is entitled to only one IEE at public expense each time the public agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees’”

Moreover, “[i]n order for an IEE to be provided at public expense, State and federal regulations only require that ‘the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency’; the regulations do not speak to how a parent must manifest this disagreement to the district. In addition,federalguidance suggeststhat adistrict‘maynot require thata parentprovide notification of the parent’s intent to obtain an IEE at public expense as a precondition for public payment for an IEE’ andthat ‘a parent mayobtainanIEE without providingpriornotice tothe public agency’”.

In this case, the parents wrote a letter to the district. “The parents informed the district that they paid$3,000foraneurophysiologicalevaluation‘tohave[thestudent]properlyassessedandfinally diagnosed with specific learning impairments, ADHD, and a language disorder’” and at the same time “sought reimbursement” for the costs of the evaluation. The parents stated that they did not believe they should have had to obtain such [evaluative] information as the district evaluated the student, but the district’s evaluations failed to reveal similar findings”.

In this case, the district did not request an impartial hearing to defend its evaluation.

The IHO denied the parents’ request for an IEE because there “was no evidence in the hearing record that the parents requested an IEE prior to obtaining it”.

Consistent with federal and state regulations and guidance, the SRO concluded that “the parents effectively informed the district that they had an independent evaluation of the student conducted because theywere not satisfied that the district evaluations had properlyassessed the nature of [the student’s] learning needs”. The SRO found that “[g]iven the lack of any requirement to express disagreement through formal words or phrases[,] as long as the parents’ dissatisfaction with the district’s assessment of the student is conveyed to the district in order to give the district an opportunityto defend its evaluation …” the parents’ letter “suffices for purposes” of the “relevant

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regulations and, given the district’s failure to defend its evaluation of the student, the parents are entitled to reimbursement of the costs of the neurological evaluation”48

Application of the Bd. of Educ., Appeal No 22-047 (June 30, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the district should pay for the student’s private neuropsychological evaluation.

Conclusion: The State Review Officer (SRO) upheld the decision of the IHO that the district should pay the cost of the student’s private neuropsychological evaluation.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: This case concerns the appropriateness of a reevaluation in the context ofan Independent Educational Evaluation at public expense (IEE). “Parents have the right tohave anIEE conductedatpublic expense iftheparent expressesdisagreement withanevaluation conducted by the district and requests that an IEE be conducted at public expense”. Further, “if a parent requests an IEE at public expense, the school district must, without unnecessary delay, either (1) ensure that an IEE is provided at public expense; or (2) initiate an impartial hearing to establish that its evaluation is appropriate or that the evaluation obtained by the parent does not meet the school district criteria”.

Here, the district conducted a reevaluation of the student. The reevaluation included an updated social history, a PT reevaluation, and a psychological reevaluation, the latter which included the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children-Second Edition and a classroom observation. Prior to the completion of the reevaluation, the “the student received diagnoses of craniosynostosis and ERF gene mutation”.

“Any evaluation of a student with a disability must use a varietyof assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the student, including information provided by the parent, that may assist in determining, among other things, the content ofthe student’s IEP (20 U.S.C.1414[b][2][A]; 34 CFR 300.304[b][1][ii])…”. Further, “[s]tate regulations require that, as part of a reevaluation, the CSE, with input from the student’s parents, should review existing evaluation data and on the basis of that review, identify what additional data is needed to determine continuing eligibility for special education programs and services and present levels of academic performance and the related developmental needs of the student, and should administer tests and other evaluative materials to gather the data needed (8 NYCRR 200.4[b][4], [5][i]-[iii])”.

During the course of the reevaluation here, a private physician recommended that the student undergo a neuropsychological evaluation. The parents subsequently advised the district of this recommendation. Among other things, the completed neurophysical evaluation “offered the student a diagnosis of a specific learning disorder with impairment in reading (dyslexia)”. In a follow-up CSE meeting, the district changed the student’s disabilitycategoryto “learningdisabled with dyslexia”. At least overthe course of the student’sreevaluation, the student’sfather “asserted that the parents informed the CSE of the student’s craniosynostosis diagnosis constantly and with every teacher and provider and conveyed to the district that there was a significant family history

48 As indicated above, the SRO’s decision also references the relevant evaluation as a neuropsychological evaluation. It is unclear from the text of the decision whether the parents requested reimbursement for the costs of a neurological evaluation or for the costs of a neurophysiological evaluation

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of dyslexia at numerous CSE meetings and in numerous history discussions since the student was in kindergarten and every year at everyCSE meeting”. Additionally, “the parents discussed their concernsabout the student’sprogress onhisreadingandhis writing… withhisteachers,including his fourth-grade teacher in addition to their concerns about the student’s performance in math”.

“[T]he parents disagreed with the scope of the district’s evaluations that had been conducted and were being conducted as not sufficient to provide a diagnosis and requested an independent neuropsychological evaluation of the student at public expense”.

The district subsequently “requested an impartial hearing to establish that its evaluations were appropriate, asserting that the parents’ request for an IEE at public expense should be denied”. Upon review, “the IHO found that the district’s evaluations were not sufficiently comprehensive and orderedthe district toreimburse the parentsfor the cost ofthe independent neuropsychological evaluation the parents had obtained”. Regarding the IHO’s finding that the district’s evaluations were “insufficiently comprehensive”, the IHO concluded that this was “because collectively they had failed to produce data to determine the student’s present levels of academic achievement, failed to determine the student’s educational progress and achievement, failed to inquire into the student’s levels of knowledge and development in subject and skill areas, and failed to obtain accurate information on what the student knew and could do academically”.

Upon its review, the State Review Officer (SRO) found that “[o]verall, while the hearing record shows that the (sic) academics were not the student’s most prominent area of need, there is insufficient basis in the hearing record to disturb the IHO’s conclusion that the district’s evaluations were not sufficiently comprehensive to assess the student in all areas of suspected disability given the lack of academic testing”. The SRO pointed to the fact that there was “evidence in the hearing record that the parents communicated information about the diagnoses that the student had received since his initial evaluation and the possible ramifications of the identified syndromes, as well as information about the family’s history, the fact that the student received support from a tutor, concerns about the student’s performance in school and the recommendation of the student’s medical team that be undergo a neuropsychological evaluation”.

The SRO further pointed out, among other things, that “the district did not offer into evidence documentation about the student’s classroom-based performance”, that the psychological evaluation in relevant part “did not speak to the student’s academic performance on the mathematics worksheet he completed during the observation or include any quantitative assessment of the student’s academic skills or progress”.

Additionally, the SRO explained that it had been “four years since the student’s last psychological evaluation, whichhad beenconductedaspart ofhisinitial evaluation…”. Regardingthis,the SRO pointed out that at that time, “the student was four months into kindergarten and his academic testing …measured early academic skills…”. The SRO concluded that “[c]onsidering this and given the student’s ERF gene mutation and craniosynostosis diagnoses, his family history of dyslexia and the parent’s concerns there is insufficient basis in the hearing record to disturb the IHO’s finding that the district had a responsibility to ensure that there was sufficient data on all areas of suspected disability, including the student’s academic ability, as part of the district’s

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reevaluation of the student for the CSE to determine both accurate present levels of performance and eligibility for special education programs and services.

As a result of all of the above, the SRO upheld the IHO’s order that the district pay the cost of the student’s private neuropsychological evaluation.

D.S. v. Trumbull 2020 WL 5552035 (9/17/2020)

Dispute:“The issue iswhether an FBAisanevaluation withwhicha parentmaydisagree toobtain an IEE at public expense.”

Conclusion: In an issue of first impression, the Court of Appeals found that an FBA is NOT an evaluation that triggers a Parent’s right to an IEE at public expense.

Basis of the Court of Appeals’ Decision: The Court of Appeals based its decision on its conclusion that an evaluation under IDEA was a “comprehensive, multi-focused assessment of ALL areas of the child’s disability” (emphasis supplied) and was limited to an initial evaluation and a reevaluation which wasconsistent with the IDEA’s statutoryandregulatorylanguage aswell as “the purpose of the publicly funded IEE right”. The Court concluded that an FBA was simply an” assessment tool” or “evaluation material” "a purposefully targeted examination of the child’s behavior” – "that a school can use in conducting an evaluation”. The Court further concluded that if the parents were not satisfied with the evaluations provide by the district to date, they could have requested another reevaluation and if they disagreed with that, they could have thenrequestedacomprehensive reevaluation at public expense. TheCourt ofAppealsalsoadvised that neither the statue nor the regulations precluded a parent from challenging an evaluation on the basis that its scope was too limited.

INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP)

AMENDMENT

Bd. of Educ. of Yorktown Cent. Sch. Dist. v. C.S., No. 19-270, F.3d – 2021 WL 800579 (2d Cir. Mar. 3, 2021)

Dispute: Whether a district may unilaterally amend a student’s IEP during the course of the 30day resolution period after the filing of a due process complaint.

Conclusion: In a matter of first impression, the appeals court determined that a district may not unilaterally amend a student’s IEP during the course of the 30-day resolution period the filing of a due process complaint but must do so by the end of the 10-day notice requirement provided by the statute for the parent to set forth their concerns and advise the district that they intend to enroll the student in a unilateral placement.

Basis of the Appeals Court’s Decision: In this case, the CSE convened on June 9, 2016 to develop the student’s IEP for her seventh-grade school year. Albeit the district contended that at that meeting the CSE recommended a 15:1+1, the Court indicated that it was unclear whether the CSE recommended such a class or a 12:1+1 class. At the end of June, a parent of the student visited the middle school that the student would attend and was advised bystaff there that because

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the student would be in seventh grade, she would be in a 15:1+1 class. On August 17, the parents provided the district with a 10-day notice. Among other things, the notice advised that the district had not yet provided an IEP and that in anyevent, the district “failed to recommend a small class.” The 10-day notice also advised the district that the parent intended to enroll the student in a unilateral placement. Late in August and a day or so after the expiration of the 10-day notice period the district issued a written IEP which advised that the student would be placed in a 12:1+1 class. The parents filed a due process complaint dated September 26. The parents and representatives of the district met for a reconciliation meeting on October 7. At this meeting, school staff advised that the August IEP had mistakenly advised that the student would be placed in a 12:1+1 class instead of a 15:1+1 class. The district repeated this in a letter dated October 21, 2016. Subsequent tothe expirationofthe resolutionperiodthe district unilaterallyissueda revised IEP dated September 26, setting forth that the student would be attending 15:1+1 classes. An amended due process complaint was thereafter filed to address the October IEP. Among other things, the amended complaint advised that while the parent had been told that the student would be placed in a 15:1+1 class the IEP advised that the student would be placed in a 12:1+1 class and that therefore the student had been recommended a placement that the district was unable to provide which constituted a denial of a FAPE.

Consistent with specific language in R.E. v. New York City Department of Education, 694 F.3d 167,188(2dCir2012),49 theSROandtheDistrictCourtassumedthatthedistrictcouldunilaterally correct an IEP before the end of the resolution period. Upon review, the appeals court, however, determined that such language was “non-binding dictum”. Thereafter and in addressing the question of whether a district may unilaterally amend an IEP during the reconciliation period, the Appeals Court determined “that the text and structure of the IDEA necessarily foreclosed this. With respect to the text of the statute the appeals court pointed out that the IDEA “gives no evidence” to suggest that a school district has the right to unilaterally amend the IEP during the resolution period. Further, the IDEA provides “detailed procedures” to amend an IEP; none of which includethe unilateral amendment ofan IEPduringthe resolutionperiod.Finally,the appeals courtsaidthattheIDEA’s“descriptionofdueprocesshearingsconflictswiththenotionofaschool district’s unilateral right to make IEP amendments during the resolution period”. With respect to the structure of the IDEA, the appeals court held that it was the 10-daynotice period that provided the district with the opportunity to offer changes in an IEP that would address the parent’s objections to it and that this period was prior to a parent’s enrollment of the child in a private school and the filing of a due process complaint.

SSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

L.J. B. v. North Rockland Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 21-CV-7028 (CS), 2023 WL 2692335 (Mar. 29, 2023)

Dispute: Should the Court defer to the SRO with respect to the appropriateness of the district’s AT recommendations.

49 If, at the end of the resolution period, the parents feel their concerns have not been adequately addressed and the amended IEP still fails to provide a FAPE, they can continue with the due process proceeding and seek reimbursement. The adequacy of the IEP will then be judged by its content wat the close of the resolution period.

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Conclusion: Based on the circumstances, the Court concluded that the SRO decision’s AT recommendations merited deference.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, the student has been diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. The student has speech-language deficits that make “it difficult for his verbal communication to be understood by an unfamiliar listener”. During the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 school years, the student was placed in a BOCES program’s “8:1+2 social communication special class, and qualified for extended school year services”. Because of the student’s language deficits, during this period, the CSE consistently recommended assistive technology (AT) for the student as well as an alternative augmentative communication (AAC) device. Over the course of the student’s attendance at the BOCES program, the student used an iPad with different applications to assist in his communication. The applications on the student’s iPad were different but the student was able to use each of the applications with differing levels of success. While the student’s IEP recommended that the student use his AT at home, his ability to do so was “problematic” due to the student’s deletionof applications there and because the student did not always bring the AT device back to school. The student’s IEPs did not specifically recommend parenttrainingandeducationbut hadgeneral requirementsforthatandoverthe course of the period, the district provided opportunities for parent training and education relative to AT but the parent did not take advantage of this.

Among other things, the parent argued that the SRO erred with respect to the evaluation of student needs relatingto AT and ACC devices. More specifically, the parent argued before the Court “that the SRO erred in determining that (1) the failure of [the student] to bring his AT device home … was not a significant deviation from the IEP; (2) the district did not deny a FAPE by providing an inappropriate device despite evidence of device abandonment,50 and (3) the lack of parental AT training was a minor error”.

With respect to whether, during relevant time periods, the district’s “failure to allow [the student] to bring his device home” deprived the student of an educational benefit, the Court pointed out that the argument was “summarily” made and “[did] not cite toanyevidence showingthat keeping the device at school deprived [the student] of an educational benefit”. Further, the Court determined that “[t]he SRO’s finding that the lack of a home AT option was de minimis was supported by the record.” The Court pointed out that the student’s “IEPs and assessment of goals demonstrate[d] that despite not havingaccess toa device at homeconsistently,he still progressed”. Relative to this, the Court pointed out that these goals included many if not all of the student’s speech-language goals. TheCourtalsopointedoutthat“whilehavingdevicesinbothplaceswould have been ideal, [the student] was plainly able to make progress appropriate to his circumstances despite having the iPad only at school”. The Court found that because of this, there was “not such a material deviation from the student’s IEP that he was denied a FAPE”. See Y.F. v. New York

50 Relevant testimony was that “device abandonment occurred “when an [AT] device is not the right fit or the user does not have the right training so they just give up

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City Dep’t of Educ., No. 15-CV-6322, 2015 WL 4622500, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. July 31, 2015), aff’d, 659 F. App’x 3 (2d Cir. 2016)

Relating to the parent’s argument that the SRO erred in determining that “the district did not deny [the student] a FAPE by providing an inappropriate device despite evidence of device abandonment”, the Court found that the determination to use one application over another “was sound”. It pointed out that “[t]he IDEA does not require a school district to provide a specific program or employ a specific methodology in providing for the education of children with disabilities”. See H.C. v. Katonah-Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 09-CV-10563, 2012 WL 2708394, at *16 (S.D.N.Y. May 24, 2012), aff’d sub nom H.C ex rel M.C. v. Katonah-Lewisboro Union Free Sch. Dist., 528 F. App’x 64 (2d 2013). The key, the Court said, was whether “the device employed is reasonably calculated, to allow the child to receive educational benefits”. See H.C., 528 F. App’x at 67. Relative to this, the Court said that the parent “provides no evidence to suggest that [the ACC] did not function or was otherwise inadequate” only that she “preferred another application”. This is ”not enough” the Court said “especially” since the student used the district recommended application “independently and was very good at it”. “Given that the record supports the view that [the student] progressed and achieved his IEP goals while using[the district recommended application] the Court said that it was “clear that [the district-recommended application] conferred an educational benefit on [the student], and therefore the SRO did not err in finding that the district provided [the student] with a FAPE as to his AT needs”. The Court reiterated that preference was not critical and that the fact that the student’s “experts” “disagreed as to which application would be better does not suggest that the Court should not defer to the SRO’s conclusion that [] the [parent’s] preferred application was not necessary to provide [the student]witha FAPE”. The Court saidthat thistype ofdecisionwas“preciselythe kindthat courts are ill equipped to make”. Regarding the claim that “device abandonment” was “not sufficiently consider[ed]”, the Court said that this contention was “belied by the record”. Here, the SRO took the relevant testimony “under consideration” and found “that the record demonstrates that the student used the iPad and the applications thereon with success”. The Court therefore found that there was “no evidence in the record” that the student experienced device abandonment.

Relative to the question of whether the SRO erred when concluding that “the lack of parental AT training was a minor error” the Court said that the parent’s “contention” that this was the case was “unavailing”. “The SRO correctly noted [the Court said] that the Second Circuit has held that though the failure to include parent counseling in the IEP may, in some cases (particularly when aggregated with other violations), result in a denial of FAPE, in the ordinary case, that failure, standing alone, is not sufficient to warrant a finding that a FAPE has been denied.” See R.E. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 694 F.3d 167, 191 (2d Cir. 2012). Consistent with this, the Court said that “the [d]istrict’s failure to include AT training for the parents as part of [the student’s] IEPs did not rise to the level of a denial ofa FAPE.” The Court also pointed out that,[“as the SRO noted”], while the student’s IEPs did not include recommendations for [parent] AT training specifically”, the IEPs for two of the three years “called for parent training generally, and the parentswere repeatedlyofferedtrainingand counseling[bythe BOCESschool], whichcould have included AT training, but they never tried to take [the BOCES school] up on the offer, even after

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learning went remote”. The Court concluded that it had no basis “to disturb the SRO’s conclusion that the effect of the lack of parental training [regarding AT] in the IEP was minimal”.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-127 (Dec. 2022) Dispute: Whether the district’s related services goals and objectives were appropriate.

Conclusion: The SRO determined that the district’s goals and objectives for the student’s related services were procedurally inadequate.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In this case, the student had a “diagnosis of autism and a severe intellectual disability”. Regarding this, student evaluations indicated that the student’s intellectual abilities were at the first percentile and that such might be an “overestimate”. The student’s score on the Vineland-3 comprehensive interview form given to the student’s parent to assess the student’s adaptive functioning also resulted in a score below the first percentile. The student exhibited significant sensory needs and presented with “significant language delays, pervasive difficulties with communication and comprehension”, and accompanying attention and sensory deficits.

With respect to the goals and objectives of the student’s IEP, the SRO pointed out that since the student participated in “alternative assessment” the district had an obligation to provide “[s]hort term instructional objectives or benchmarks” – “measurable intermediate steps between the student’s present levels of performance and the measurable annual goal”. Regardingthis, the SRO pointed out that the IEP did not include short term objectives for any of the recommended related services. However, the SRO concluded that this “was a procedural error” and pointed out that “a procedural violation onlyresults in a denial of FAPE if the procedural inadequacy (a) impeded the student’s right to a FAPE, (2) significantly impeded the parents’ opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of a FAPE to the student, or (3) caused a deprivation of educational benefits”. The SRO indicated that this procedural violation would “be considered along with the substantive appropriateness of the December 2020 IEP recommendations”.

Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022)

Dispute: Did the IEP include an appropriate set of annual goals?

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the IEP’s annual goals had some defects but that such was insufficient to result in a denial of a FAPE.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: “An IEP must include a written statement of measurable annual goals including academic and functional goals designed to meet the student’s needs that result from the student’s disability to enable the student to be involved in and make progress in the general educational curriculum; and meet each of the student’s other educational needs that result

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from the student’s disability”. “Each annual goal shall include the evaluative criteria, evaluation procedures and schedules to be used to measure progress toward meeting the annual goals during the period beginning with placement and ending with the next scheduled review by the committee”.

“The student’s … IEP featured three annual goals to address the student’s needs in executive functioning and writing.” With respect to the student’s annual goals, the SRO advised that “the IDEA does not require that a district create a specific number of goals for each of a student’s deficits, and the failure to create a specific annual goal does not necessarily rise to the level of a denial of FAPE; rather a determination must be made as to whether the IEP, as a whole, contained sufficient goals to address the student’s areas of need”.

In this case, the SRO concluded that there was “merit…to the parents’ argument that the annual goals were lacking, particularly given the lack of focus of the student’s difficulty with storage and retrieval of information, despite the articulation of the student’s needs in the present levels of performance”. Further, the SRO also concluded that “the annual goal targeting the speed at which the student could write an essay did not seem to take into account whether an essay developed more quickly would be written with improved retrieval skills.

Based on the above, the SRO found that “the annual goals had some defects; however, such deficiencies, without more, would not support a finding that the district denied the student a FAPE”.

Application of the Bd. Of Educ., Appeal No. 22-037 (June 9, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the development of the student’s IEP goals considered parental input and whether the IEP included a sufficient annual goal to address the student’s feeding needs.

Conclusion: The SRO reversed the IHO’s conclusions that the IEP did not consider parental participationinthedevelopment ofannualgoalsandthattheIEPdidnot include a sufficient annual goal relating to feeding.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: “An IEP must include a written statement of measurable annual goals including academic and functional goals designed to meet the student’s needs that result from the student’s disability to enable the student to be involved in and make progress in the general educational curriculum; and meet each of the student’s other educational needs that result from the student’s disability”. “Each annual goal shall include the evaluative criteria, evaluation procedures and schedules to be used to measure progress toward meeting the annual goals during the period beginning with placement and ending with the next scheduled review by the committee”.

The IHO held that the CSE “did not consider the parent’s input in developing the student’s annual goals and that the … CSE did not include a sufficient annual goal to address the student’s needs relating to feeding”.

With respect to the question of parental input and the development of the annual goals, the IHO relied on a series of emails between the principal of the student’s pendency placement and the district’s supervisor of case management and nonpublic school services. The SRO concluded that

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the IHO’s finding was “inconsistent with the testimony and reported purpose of the emails”. In particular, the SRO found that “these email discussions solely pertained to pendency services and were not pertinent to an analysis regarding parental input as to the proposed annual goals”.

As it relates to the sufficiency of the student’s annual goal relating to feeding, the SRO in part extensively analyzed the student’s feeding needs and relevant present levels of performance and indicated that these were supported by the record. With respect to the enunciated goal relating to feeding – that of the development of a “chewing pattern using a chewy tube”, the record indicated that this skill “had not yet emerged” and that the feeding therapist had developed an appropriate feeding goal which was “to begin to establish a chewing pattern”. The feeding therapist indicated that this was a “foundational skill that wasnecessaryand potentiallyobtainable for the student and no other goal can reallybe worked on or addressed until we start to get that pattern.” With respect to the overall program, the feeding therapist recommended a 30-minute in-classroom weekly feeding consultation and three, 30-minute sessions per week of speech-language therapy.

All in all, the SRO concluded that notwithstanding the IHO’s findings to the contrary, “the hearing record shows that the CSE recommended a feeding goal that was consistent with the student’s needs” and that the “IEP appropriately addressed the student’s feeding needs”.

EVALUATIONS

Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-152 (Jan. 13. 2023)

Dispute: Whether the IHO’s determination that the district did not base its IEP on sufficient evaluative information was correct and denied the student a FAPE.

Conclusion: The SRO upheld the IHO’s determination that the district did not have sufficient evaluative information to develop the student’s IEP and that the district therefore denied the student a FAPE

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In this case, the April 2019 psychoeducational evaluation, which was prepared because of a reevaluation, in relevant part advised that because of the student’s behaviors, the evaluation “may not be a valid and reliable assessment of [the student’s] current level of cognitive and academic abilities”.

The IHO cited to this and “concluded that the record did not support the district’s claims that it had sufficient evaluative information” based on the record before it and further “that the IEP was not developed based upon valid and reliable evaluations”.

The district admits that the statement in the psychoeducational evaluation but argues that the information otherwise in that report included much relevant evaluative information and that between that and the other information before the CSE, the CSE had sufficient evaluative information to develop an appropriate IEP.

The SRO concluded that “rather than focusing on the limitation contained in the April 2019 psychoeducational evaluation, the parties and the IHO should have focused on whether the May 2020 CSE had sufficient evaluative information available from a variety of sources to develop the

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student’s IEP for the 2020-2021 school year”. With respect to this, the SRO concluded that “review of the evidence inthe hearing record supports the IHO’s conclusion that the district lacked evaluative information regarding the student’s stutter and sensory and emotional regulation”

The SRO pointed out that the relevant social history and psychoeducational evaluation “did not mention the student’s stutter or sensory and emotional regulation needs”. Further, while the CSE recommended that the student receive speech-language therapy, none of the annual goals related to that focused on the student’s stuttering. Additionally, the SRO concluded that the evidence in the record regarding the student’s stutter did not make it clear that the IEP addressed the student’s needs as it should have. Moreover, the SRO concluded that the evaluative information before the CSE did not “reflect evaluative informationabout the student’ssensoryandemotional regulation”. Additionally, the SRO advised that the IEP contained only limited and insufficient information regarding the student’s “sensory and emotional regulation”. The SRO further pointed out that the while the IEP recommended OT for the student, the OT annual goals “appeared unrelated to any sensory regulation needs the student may have been exhibiting”. With respect to the student’s emotional needs, the IEP recommended that the student receive counseling and included some counseling goals. However, the SRO said that “it [was] difficult to ascertain whether those goals appropriatelyaddressed the student’s emotional regulation skills and needs, if any, without further evaluative information as to what the student’s needs in those areas were at the time of the CSE meeting”.

Based on the above, the SRO concluded that there was “insufficient information available in the hearing record to overturn the IHO’s determinations that the May 2020 CSE lacked sufficient information regarding the student’s sensory and emotional regulation or related to his stutter”51 and that therefore “the district denied the student a FAPE”.

O.A. v. Orcutt Union Sch. Dist., 2:21-cv-02026-RGK-MAA, 81 IDELR 109 (C.D.Cal. May 27, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the District conducted evaluations that assessed the student in all areas of suspected disability and otherwise adequately evaluated the student.

Conclusion: The Court upheld the ALJ and determined that the District appropriately evaluated the student during his kindergarten year but did not do so during his first-grade year.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

Prior to offering a student special education services, a District must conduct a full and individual initial evaluation meant to ensure that the student receives an assessment in “all areas of suspected disability” See 20 U.S.C. Section 1414(a)(1)(A), 1414(b)(3)(B). Additionally, the IEP Team is to develop an IEP in considerationof, interalia,the strengthsofthe child,the concernsof the parents, the results of the initial evaluation or most recent evaluation of the child, and the academic, developmental and functional needs of the child. See 20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(3). Further, in

51 The SRO decision pointed out that while referenced on occasion, the December 2019 private school progress report, which may have included relevant information regarding the student’s stutter and sensory and emotional regulation, was not included in the hearing record or provided to the SRO for review.

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circumstances of a reevaluation, the student must also be evaluated in all areas of suspected disabilities. See 20 U.S.C. 1414(b)(3)(B)

In this case, prior to the beginning of the student’s kindergarten year, the student’s pediatrician referred the student to a psychologist to see if the student should be formallydiagnosed for autism. The psychologist was unable to complete his analysis because of the student’s behavior. The CSE met duringthe first part ofthe student’skindergartenyear. Afterthe parentreachedout,the district conducted a “Multidisciplinary Psychological Evaluation.” The district assessed the student for ADHD which was the primary issue identified in medical records and by District employees. As a result of this assessment the District, in an October 31, 2017 meeting, offered the student an IEP.

The parent asserts that the district should have evaluated the student for autism. The ALJ found that the district was not on sufficient notice to have an obligation to assess the student for autism or its related symptoms. The Court upheld the ALJ’s findings. It found that the student’s medical records reflected that the student’s primary diagnosis and educational concern was ADHD. Further, as indicated, while the parent hadconsulteda psychologist to assess the student for autism prior to the beginning of the school year, the Court pointed out that the psychologist was unable to complete the autism assessment and did not qualify the student for autism services at that time. Additionally, the Court pointed to the fact that while the student was observed by District employees to have an inability to stay on task, the student could be redirected back, which, based on the record, indicated symptoms of ADHD and not autism.

The parent further asserts that the student should have been assessed for autism during the balance of his kindergarten year. The ALJ disagreed. The Court agreed with the ALJ. It reasoned that for all of the prior reasons plus the fact that throughout the student’s kindergarten year, District staff observed “continued progress” in the student’s education and also because the student had made several friends as he grew accustomed to the school environment there was insufficient reason to suspect that the student had autism. The Court also pointed out that neither the student’s parents nor his teachers requested a reassessment for autism.

The parent also asserts that the student should have been assessed for autism during his first-grade year. The ALJ agreed and the Court upheld that determination. Regarding this, the Court specificallypointed tothe fact that bythis time the student’s psychologist had provided the student with a formal diagnosis of autism prior to first grade and that, additionally, the parents had officially requested that the student be assessed for autism. The Court advised that these factors put the District on notice of the student’s autism.

Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022)

Dispute: Did the CSE consider sufficient evaluative information?

Conclusion: The SRO reversed the hearing officer and concluded that the CSE did not consider sufficient evaluative information.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: In this case, the district was conducting an initial evaluation to determine whether the student was eligible for special education as a student with a disability.

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Upon review of the evaluative information, the district’s CSE determined that the student was eligible for special education. Regarding this, among other issues, the student’s needs included academic struggles in reading, language comprehension, and writing. More specifically, the student’s neuropsychological evaluators found that the student met the criteria for a specific learning disorder with impairment in reading, a specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression, and an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) predominantly inattentive presentation.

Upon review of the evaluative information considered by the district’s CSE, the SRO concluded that it was “unclear why the district representative chose not to conduct subtests to assess the student’s written expression, given his concession in testimony that among the reasons for the referral of the student for an evaluation was his writing … not matching up with his oral abilities, along with his time management, ability to complete assignments, and reading comprehension”. Additionally, the SRO pointed out that “[t]he district representative could not recall if the CSE had a copy of the student’s report card at the meeting” and also concluded that “of note [was] the lack of information in the hearing record indicating that the CSE considered data demonstrating that, prior to or as part of the referral process, the student was provided appropriate instruction or databased documentation of repeated assessments of achievement at reasonable intervals, reflecting formal assessment of the student’s progress during instruction”.

The SROfoundthat“[i]nlight ofthe foregoing, the evidenceinthe hearingrecorddoesnot support the IHO’s conclusion that the CSE considered sufficient evaluative information”.

The SRO pointed out that “the deficienciesin the evaluative information are a procedural violation and the degree to which the violation impeded the student’s right to a FAPE, significantly impede the parent’s opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of a FAPE to the student, or caused a deprivation of educational benefits”. Relative to this, the SRO concluded that based on this aforesaid deficiency as well as the district’s failure to show that the IEP’s recommendation for a SETSS program for the student was appropriate and that the district failed to meet its burden to show that the supports included in the IEP were sufficient to address the student’s social/emotional needs supports a finding that the district did not show that it offered the student a FAPE.

ROUPING

Thomason v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-cv-6713 (LJL), 2023 WL 1966207 (Feb. 13, 2023)

Dispute: Was the student appropriately grouped with other students in his proposed special class.

Conclusion: The Court held that the parents did not show that the student was not appropriately grouped with the other students in the proposed special class.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

State regulation provides, among other things, that a student should be appropriately “grouped” in a special class in that “the size and composition of a class shall be based on the similarity of the individual needs of the students according to: levels of academic or educational achievement and

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learning characteristics; levels of social development; levels of physical development; and the management needs of the students in the classroom.” See 8 NYCRR 200.6(h)(2), (3). Further, “[a] special class shall be composed of students with disabilities with similar individual needs.”

See 8 NYCRR 200.6(a)(3), (h)(2), (3). At the same time, a uniformity of needs is not required. See id. Consistent with this State regulation specifically points out that the level of physical development and management needsin a special class “mayvary”. See 8 NYCRR 200.6(a)(3)(iii), (iv)

In this case, the parents assert that the grouping in the special class in the proposed district school was not appropriate for the student because of a “disparate and wide variance” relating to the student’s physical development andmanagement needs vis a vis the other students in the proposed class.

As indicated above, and relative to grouping, in addition to providing guidance relating to the importance of students with similar needs being placed in the same classroom [see 8 NYCRR 200.6(a)(3), (h)(2), (3)], there is no requirement for students in a proposed special class to have a uniformity of needs. See id.

Additionally, the Court pointed out that relevant State regulation specified that “a functional grouping is appropriate so long as, inter alia, (1) the student’s management needs are met and do not [consistently] detract from the learning opportunities of the other students and (2) the student isprovided appropriate opportunitiestobenefit in spite ofthe physical differences.” See 8NYCRR 200.6(a)(3)(iii), (iv). More broadly, and as indicated above, State regulation specificallypoints out that the level of physical development and management needs in a special class “may vary”. See 8 NYCRR 200.6(a)(3)(iii), (iv).

Upon review, the Court concluded that “[t]he [p]arents have offered no objective evidence that the class grouping [in this case] would have inhibited [the student’s] development or that of the other students in the proposed classroom.”

MISCELLANEOUS

Retrospective Testimony: C.N. and M.N. v. Katonah Lewisboro Sch. Dist., No.-19-CV-6793 (CS), 2020 WL 7496435 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2020)

Dispute: The parents assert that the SRO relied on “retrospective testimony” to find that the district met its burden to show that the recommended program was appropriate. The district disagrees that the SRO relied on such testimony.

Conclusion: The Court concluded that the SRO did not rely on such testimony in order to prove that the district’s program was appropriate.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The second circuit has held that an IEP “must be evaluated prospectivelyas of the time of its drafting … and therefore retrospective testimonythat the school district would have provided additional services beyond those listed in the IEP may not be considered. R. E v. New York City Dept of Educ. 167, 186 (2d Cir. 2012) Because of this “a deficient IEP may not be effectively rehabilitated or amended after the fact through testimony

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regarding services that do not appear in the IEP”. id. at 185. However, all testimony that goes beyond the face of the IEP is not prohibited as it is permissible for testimony “that explains or justifies the services listed in the IEP.” id. at 186.

In this case, the parents assert that a district witness testified on a retrospective basis with respect to the IEP and that the SRO relied on such to find that the district provided the student a FAPE. The Court pointed to the fact that relevant testimony “merely” explains or justified the relevant portion of the IEP and that the SRO “explicitly stated” that to the extent that the witnesses’ testimony went beyond explaining the IEP, it was not relied on. The Court further found that to the extent that the particular witness’s testimony “exceeded her bounds bydiscussing some topics not discussed at a CSE meeting” “or written in [the] student’s IEP”, the witness’s testimony was not “dispositive” of whether the district offered the student a FAPE.

LOCATION

Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022)

Dispute: Didthe parent showthat the recommendedschool wasunabletoimplementthe student’s IEP.

Conclusion: Contrary to the IHO’s determination, the SRO concluded that the parent did not show that the recommended school was unable to implement the student’s IEP.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: “Generally, the sufficiency of the program offered by the district must be determined on the basis of the IEP itself”. “The Second Circuit has explained that speculation that the school district will not adequatelyadhere to the IEP is not an appropriate basis for unilateral placement”. “However, a district’s assignment of a student to a particular public school site must be made in conformance with the CSE’s educational placement recommendation, and the district is not permitted to deviate from the provisions set forth in the IEP”. However, “[t]he Second Circuit has held that claims regarding an assigned school’s ability to implement an IEP may not be speculative when they consist of prospective challenges to the assigned school’s capacitytoprovide the servicesmandatedbythe IEP”. “Additionally,the SecondCircuitindicated that such challenges are only appropriate if they are evaluated prospectively (as of the time the parent made the placement decision) and if they were based on more than mere speculation that the school would not adequately adhere to the IEP despite its ability to do so”. “In order for such challenges to be based on more than speculation, a parent much allege that the school is factually incapable of implementingthe IEP”. “Such challenges must be based on something more than the parent’s speculative personal belief that the assigned public school site was not appropriate”.

The SRO pointed out that in this case, “the IHO failed to appreciate that the February 2020 IEP had already been implemented beginning on February 24, 2020 during the 2019-20 school year while the student attended eighth grade”. “The enrollment contract with [the private school] was fully executed on August 13, 2020, and the parents provided a ten-day written notice of their intention to unilaterallyenroll the student at [the private school … priortothe first dayof the 202021 school year”. “Here, the notion that the district would simplycease implementingthe student’s current IEP for the sole reason that the student would be movingto a new school buildingfor ninth

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grade represents the type of mere speculation that the school would not adequately adhere to the IEP despite its ability to do so”.

Further, the SRO pointed out that “the parents did not allege any prospective, non-speculative challenges to the district’s capacity to implement the SETSS recommended in the IEP”. “As a result, the district’s burden to present evidence about the capacity of a proposed assigned school site to implement every aspect of the [IEP] when the student changed schools for the 2020-21 school year was never triggered”.

Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021) Dispute: Whether the district provided the parents with notice of the student’s assigned school and if not, whether that deprived the student of a FAPE.

Conclusion: The SRO upheld the IHO’s finding that the district did not properly provide the parents with notification of the student’s assigned school and that this was a denial of FAPE.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: A district is required at some point prior to or contemporaneous with the date of initiation of services under the IEP to notify parents in a reasonable fashion of the bricks and mortar location of the special education program and services in the student’s IEP. As set forth below, the absence of such notification is a denial of FAPE.

The district held a CSE meeting “on December 11, 2019 to develop an IEP for the student for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year and a portion of the 2020-21 school year”. The student’s mother testified that she never received a response to her August 2020 letter and that she did not receive the IEP or a school location letter. She testified that “she first saw the December IEP and the school location letter in April 2021, during the course of the impartial hearing”. She also testified that “there came a time when her husband did find the email from the district with the school location letter; however, but that because her husband had never been the point of contact for the district, and she had been”, her husband merely put it amongst his papers. Further, accordingtotheevidenceatthe hearing, “the district usedanincorrectemail addressfor themother and sent the student’s school location letter to that incorrect email address”.

The SRO also concluded that the IHO correctly found that the “district’s attempt to deliver the school location letter via email was not in accord with its own practices and was not reasonably calculated toprovide theparentswithnotice”. Inparticular,accordingtothe FAQson the district’s website, “documents maybe sent to a parent via email after getting the parent’s consent to receive documentsviaemail”.Thewebsite“further indicatedstepsthatshouldbetakentoobtainaparent’s consent for communication via email, including attempting to reach the parent by telephone”. Here, “[t]he student’smothertestifiedthatthe CSE hadnot communicatedwiththe student’sfather toobtainhisemailaddressandconsent toprovide documentationbyemail”.“The student’smother also testified that the district had not ever requested permission or consent to communicate with her via email”. The record also showed that notwithstanding that the district had the parents’ mailing address and that it had previously provided “important” documents such as IEPs or school location letters “by mail”, in this case, the district appeared to have elected to only email those documents to the parents without even a follow-up telephone call.

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The SRO concluded that “the district failed in its obligation to notify the parents, either in writing or orally, as to where or how the student could access his IEP services despite efforts made by the parents to obtain that information from the district.” The SRO held that this was a “procedural inadequacy” which “resulted in the parents being provided with too little information as to how or where the recommended special education program would have been implemented and therefore resulted in a denial of FAPE”.

V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ.,20 CV-0989 (EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 (E.D.N.Y. May 10, 2022)

Dispute: Does the proof show that the district issued a “school location letter” to the parent.

Conclusion: The proof did not show that the district issued the parent a “school location letter”.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The IDEA requires that the IEP include the frequency, location, and duration of the services to be provided. See 34 CFR 300.320(a)(7)”. Consistent with this, a school location letter advises the parent of which school the student is slated to attend. And “the Second Circuit has held that it is not a per se procedural violation for the IEP to omit the name of the specific school, with such informationto follow. T.Y. New York CityDept of Educ., 584 F.3d 412, 419-20 (2d Cir. 2009); see also C.F. 746 F3d 68, 79 (2d 2014).” However, and citing cases, the Court concluded that the “school designation cannot come so late that it impedes the parents ’ability to participate meaningfully in the school selection process”. See S.Y. v. New York City Dept of Educ.,210 F.Supp, 3d 556, 574-75 (S.D.N.Y. 2016); see also F.B. v. New York CityDept of Educ. 132 F.Supp. 3d 522, 541-43 (S.D.N.Y. 2015); C.U. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 231 F. Supp. 3d 210, 227 (S.D.N.Y. 2014). The Court also opined that it “[o]bviously follows” that a school district commits a procedural violation when it fails to send a school location letter at all”. See C.U. 23 F.Supp. 3d at 228. The Court also cited to the SRO’s finding that “in light of the immense size ofthe district inthiscase,it [was]reasonable toholdthat the districtwasrequired to notify the parent where the IEP services would be implemented before the IEP went into effect as part of its obligations to implement the student’s services”52 .

In this case, the district asserts that it mailed a school location letter to the parent on July12, 2018. Meanwhile, the parent sets forth that she never received such a letter. In relevant part, the IHO and/or the SRO asserted that the evidence showed (1) the “actual mailing” of the letter on July 12 and (2) that the facts showed a presumption arising under New York state law that the letter had been mailed on July 12. Upon extensive review of New York state law, the Court found that the IHO and SRO did not have sufficient evidence to support the view that actual mailing of the letter had taken place or that the presumption of mailing the letter in accordance with New York state

52Citing to relevant authority, the SRO has also found that the district has an “obligation to notify parents, either in writing or orally, as to where or how the student [can] access his IEP services” and that the failure to do this is a violation of the student’s right to a FAPE. See Application of the Dept of Educ, Appeal No. 21-184 (Oct. 27, 2021); see also T.C. v New York City Dept of Educ., 2016 WL 1261137, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2016);,Tarlowe v. New York City Dept of Educ., 2008 WL 2736027 at *6 (S.D.N.Y. July 3, 2008); M.O. v. New York City Dept of Educ. 793 F.3d 236, 244-45 (2d Cir. 2015); H.L. v. New York, City Dept of Educ, 2019 WL 181307 at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 11, 2019); F.B. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 2015 WL 5564446 at *11-*18 (S.D. N.Y. Sept. 21, 2015); V.S. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ. 25 F.Supp. 3d 295, 299-301 ( E.D.N.Y. 2014); C.U. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 2014 WL 2207997 , at *14-*16 (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 2014).

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law applied. See V.A. v. New York City Dept of Educ., 20 CV-0989(EK)(RML), 2022 WL 1469394 at *7 - *11 (E.D.N.Y. May 10,2022). This being the case, the Court held that the record didnot showthat the district providedthe school locationlettertothe parentspriortothe beginning of the school year.

A procedural violation will deny the student a FAPE “if [it] impeded the child’s right to a free appropriate public education, significantly impeded the parents’ opportunity to participate in the decision-making process, or caused a deprivation or educational benefits”. The Court held that here, “the failure to identify any school at which the IEP services would be provided constituted a serious procedural error”. With appropriate citations, the Court held that “[m]oreover the failure to identify a school meant that [the parent] was unable to arrange for a visit to the school or to inquire about its facilities or programs (C.U. 23 F.Supp.3d at 228)4 or otherwise meaningfully participate in the school selection process”. (F.B. 132 F. Supp. 3d at 542)”.The Court concluded that “because this procedural violation significantly impeded [the parent’s] opportunity to participate in the decision-making process concerning the provision of a FAPE, this procedural violation constitute[d] a denial of FAPE.

NEEDS OF STUDENT

Application of the Dept of Educ., Appeal No. 22-081 (Aug. 26, 2022)

Dispute: Whether the October 30, 2020 IEP and the student’s program for the 2021-122 school year provided the student with a FAPE.

Conclusion: The SRO agreed with the IHO that the district failed to provide the student with a FAPE but on different grounds.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

The student was found eligible as a student with a speech or language impairment when she was in kindergarten during the 2018-19 school year. Initially, during the 2019-20 school year when thestudentwasinthefirstgrade, shewasassignedtoa generaleducationclassroomwithintegrated co-teaching services (ICT).53 She also received speech-language therapy twice a week for 30 minutes and “at risk SETSS” 54 Midway through that school year and for reasons that are not entirelyclear,the student’sclassroom program waschangedtoa general educationclassroom.The student underwent a private neuropsychological evaluation in May 2020. The private evaluation “yielded the following diagnoses: specific learning disorder with impairment in reading (dyslexia, fluency, oral reading); specific learning disorder with impairment in mathematics (fluent calculation); specific learning disorder with impairment in written language (spelling); attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (inattentive type); and a language disorder”. Among other

53 State regulations define ICT services as “specially designed instruction and academic instruction provided to a group of students with disabilities and nondisabled students” in a classroom staffed “minimally” by a “special education teacher and a general education teacher” (see 8 NYCRR 200.6[g]).

54 SETSS is not defined in the State continuum of special education services (see 8 NYCRR 200.6).

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recommendations, without saying how small, the evaluator recommended a “small class” as well as “intensive academic instruction in reading and spelling, using Orton Gillingham or Wilson method” and continued speech language therapy three times a week. In June of 2020, for her second-grade program, the CSE changed the student’s classification to learning disability. That CSE also recommended the student attend a general education classroom, receive three periods a week of direct, group SETSS in English language arts, two periods a week of group SETSS in math and two 30-minute sessions of speech-language therapy.55 The CSE met again on October 30, 2020, to review the May 2020 private neuropsychological evaluation. After review of the evaluation report, the CSE made no changes to the student’s program or related services but added testing accommodations and special transportation. Based on her review of the October 30, 2020 IEP, which IEPtook intoaccount the private neuropsychological evaluation andteacherandparent reports, the SRO concluded that “the student exhibited deficits in her reading; writing, including spelling; math and math fluency; memory, attending, and following directions: organization; and functional communication”. The parents did not agree with the CSE’s October 2020 recommendation, gave the district notice of their intent to place the student at Churchill, a private school on Juned 23, 2021, and again on July 19, 2021, and thereafter did so for the 2021-22 school year when the student would be in the third grade. The CSE convened on November 17, 2021, and continued to recommend that the student attend a general education classroom, with direct, group SETSS programming for ELA and Math as well as speech-language therapy. As indicated, the student was in the third grade at the time of the November 2021 CSE meeting.

By due process complaint notice dated September 10,2021, the parentsalleged that the district did not provide the student with a FAPE for the 2020-21 and the 2021-22 school years. Among their objections were concerns regarding the class size of the recommended program and related services.

Upon review, the Impartial Hearing Officer (IHO) concluded that the district failed to provide the student with a FAPE for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. Among other things, the IHO concludedthatthe studentrequiredsmallclasses,specializedreadinginstructionandthree sessions a week of direct, group speech-language therapy.

The district appealed. It argued that the recommendations for SETSS and speech language therapy in the general education settingwas appropriate. It also pointedtothe fact that,asindicatedabove, “in first grade the student was removed from a general education classroom with ICT services and placed in a general education classroom with SETSS because the parent thought it ‘was a better fit’ for the student”. The district also pointed to the October 2020 social history update which indicated that the parents had stated there that “the general education class had more structure and was a better fit for the student than the ICT class had been”. The district also asserted that the student was “making progress” in the CSE’s recommended program. The parents answered and argued “that the evidence in the hearing record [did] not support a finding that the student made adequate progress with the district’s recommendation …”, that they were “not consistent with the private neuropsychological evaluation which recommended “a small student /teacher ratio and

55 The school psychologist testified at the hearing that a general eeducatyi8on class “could have as many as 323 students in it.”

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intensive academic instruction”. Regarding the recommendations for the 2021-22 school year the parents argued “that the CSE had the opportunity to assess the student’s progress but did not.”

With respect to the October 30, 2020 CSE, the SRO indicated that she found a denial of FAPE but on a different basis than did the IHO. The SRO found an“evidentiarydeficiencyunderpinning the district’s failure to meet its burden that it provided the student with a FAPE [which was] the dearth of evidence supporting the CSE’s recommendation to place the student in a large general education setting with no special education support in the classroom given her well documented attentional needs and significant academic needs in the areas of reading, writing, and math. Further, among other things, the SRO pointed to the testimony of the SETTS provider, who was a special education teacher, and who participated in the October 2020 CSE meeting that “it was her impression that an ICT classroom was a better fit for the student than a general education class because of [the student’s] difficulties with decoding, but she did not believe that the parents had agreed to an ICT setting”. The SETSS provider also testified“that the October 2020 IEP indicated the student was ‘far below grade level in writing and math, and at an end of kindergarten level in reading’ which was not consistent with a student who would benefit from SETSS because the student ‘belonged in an ICT’”. Regarding the parents’ opinion, the school psychologist testified that “the student’s mother felt strongly that an ICT class was not an appropriate placement for the student.” The student’s speech-language therapist also testified that “there were concerns from the family about placing the student in an ICT class”. Additionally, there was disagreement between the parents and the school psychologist regarding whether the parents had expressed an opinion regarding the ICT program at the October 2020 CSE meeting. The school psychologist reported that the mother communicated that she “was not interested in that type of setting”. The parent set forth that there was no discussion of an ICT program at the CSE meeting. Regarding class size and whether a special class was appropriate, the SRO pointed out that “a special class [was] not the onlyoption on the continuum available tothe CSE with respect to a student who may need special education support in the classroom”. The SRO concluded here that the district “did not provide evidence supporting the appropriateness of a general education placement for the student or whySETSSandspeechlanguage servicesalone wouldbeadequatetomeetthe student’s needs, particularly given the student’s specific need for classroom support … individually or in small groups to ensure that she [was] able to individually manage necessary tools and practices and practice the taught strategies using manipulatives and visuals”. With respect to the student’s previous first grade experience in an ICT classroom, the SRO pointed out that “the hearing record [was] devoid of any evidence as to whether the CSE previously recommended ICT services for the student on an IEP, whether such services were removed and why and if the student had been in a classroom with ICT services as a special education student or as a general education student.”

The SRO further concluded that “the hearing record gives the impression that ICT services were in some respects ‘off the table’ for the 2020-21 school year due to parental concerns, despite the student’s deficits in reading, writing, and math skills and performance below grade level as well as evidence that the student required some level of special education support in the classroom in order to address her needs, thereby raising the question – not answered by evidence in the hearing record – as to whether the CSE may have been acquiescing to parental misgivings rather than evaluating the potential merits of an ICT services recommendation”.

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With respect to the 2021-22 school year, again, the SRO conveyed that while she agreed with the IHO that the district did not provide the student a FAPE, it was on a different basis than the IHO’s determination. In this regard, the SRO advised that while there was “extensive testimony from the student’s providers for SETSS and speech-language therapy concerning the student’s progress during the 2020-21 school year, neither provider appeared at the November 2021 CSE meeting and none of their input regarding the student’s performance during the school year was reflected in the November 2021 IEP”. “Moreover” the SRO said that “the student’s performance during the 2020-21 school year in her general education classroom setting (conducted remotely) [was] not reflected in the IEP”. Rather, the SRO said, “the entirety of the information concerning the student’s present levels of performance as reflected in the November 2021 IEP appears to be derived from the approximately two months she attended Churchill prior to the November 2021 CSE meeting”. The SRO said that “[t]his [was] especially troubling from an evidentiary perspective given that there is also evidence in the hearing record that the student attended school entirely on a remote basis during the 2020-21 school year with extensive one-to-one support from her mother and scheduling of her SETSS and speech-language therapy sessions around her classroom instruction so that the sessions were effectively not ‘pull out’ sessions as envisioned by the October 2020 IEP”. The SRO also pointed out that [t]he student received private tutoring sessionsthroughout the 2020-21school year.” The SROconcludedthat“[a]ccordingly,the district has failed to meet its burden that program recommendations identical to those recommended for the 2020-21 school year (which it similarly failed to demonstrate were appropriate to meet the student’s needs at the impartial hearing) would be appropriate for the 2021-22 school year, particularly given that the assessment of the student’s current educational needs contained in the November 2021 IEP was not based on information concerning her performance during the bulk of the 2020-21 school year, taking into account that school year’s attendant unusual implementation of classroom instruction and related services on a remote basis with one-to-one support from the student’s mother and private tutoring.”

Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022)

Dispute: Did the CSE sufficiently address the student’s social/emotional needs.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the district did not meet its burden to prove that the CSE sufficiently addressed the student’s social/emotional needs.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The IEP reported that the student had “a significant level of emotional distress”. The parents asserted that the IEP was “deficient” because it did not include counseling. “The CSE rejected counseling because it believed that the student’s needs could be addressed by providing appropriate instructional support”.

The SRO concluded that “the district failed to meet its burden to show that the supports included in the IEP were sufficient to address the student’s social/emotional needs, which the IEP itself described as significant”. With respect to the effect of (additional) structural support on the level of the student’s distress, the SRO concluded that there was “insufficient evidence in the hearing record to indicate that the student’s perception of his abilities was the only factor underlying the student’s emotional distress and that additional supports were not warranted”.

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The SRO concluded that based on this deficiency as well as the lack of sufficient evaluative information before the CSE, and the district’s failure to show that the IEP’s recommendation for a SETSS program for the student was appropriate supports a finding that the district did not show that it offered the student a FAPE.

Application of the New York City Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-019 (May 2, 2022)

Dispute: Did the IEP include recommendations for small-group instruction in the classroom or sufficient supports for the student’s challenges with attention.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that the district addressed the student’s need for small group instruction in the classroom and provided sufficient supports for the student’s challenges with attention.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision: The SRO reviewed the IEP and the student’s needs and concluded “that the CSE identified the resources and strategies necessary to address the student’s management needs”. That further, the SRO pointed out that “supports for the student’s management needs were developed in accordance with evidence-based strategies to help students with organization, memory retrieval, and comprehension” and that the record showed that “the management needs [sic] were designed to maximize the student’s performance and help him become more self-sufficient and self-regulating”.

Application of the Dep’t of Educ., Appeal No. 22-035 (May 4,

2022)

Dispute: Whether an Interim Plan in the student’s IEP with respect to the student’s language needs was appropriate.

Conclusion: The SRO concluded that an Interim Plan inthe student’s IEP to address the student’s language needs was not appropriate.

Basisof the SRO’sDecision:“The districtallegesthattheIHOerredinhisdeterminationsrelating to the assigned public school’s site’s capacity to implement the 12:1+1 special class mandated on the student’s IEP in a classroom with a Yiddish-speaking special education teacher during the summer portion of the student’s 12-month program … [and] assertsthat the student did not require a Yiddish speakingspecial educationteacherduringthe summermonthstoaccessthe curriculum.”

“The district asserts that the student’s IEP stated that the student could be placed in a monolingual English-speaking class on an interim basis and that having an English-speaking teacher with a class paraprofessional translating instruction into Yiddish for two months qualified as the type of interim instruction contemplated by the student’s IEP”. “The parents contend that the IHO correctly determined that the lack of proper bilingual instruction during the summer portion of the student’s12-monthprogram was inappropriate,and furthercontendthat the district erred in failing to properly assess the student’s language needs as required by State regulation and guidance”.

With respect to interim plans on an IEP, the SRO advised that “Federal and State regulations provide that a CSE must consider special factors including, in the case of a student with limited

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English proficiency, how the student’s language needs relate to the student’s IEP”. “Pursuant to State guidance, when developing an IEP for a limited English proficient student with a disability, the CSE must consider the special education and supports and services a student needs to address his or her disability…” “Such considerations include but are not limited to the student’s need for special education programs and services to support the student’s participation and progress in English language arts instruction, content area instruction in English and ESL instruction, and whether the student needs bilingual special education and/or related services…”.

“With respect to [this] student’s language needs, the January 2019 IEP noted that the student had limited English proficiency and required special education to address his language needs as they related to his IEP”. “[A]lthough the student spoke “both English and Yiddish, his testing performance improved in Yiddish and Yiddish was the student’s dominant language”. “[T]he student’s parents’ language is Yiddish”.

The IEP called for a 12:1+1 special class in a specialized school with the language of the service being Yiddish, along with the related services of OT and PT in English and speech-language therapy in Yiddish … The IEP also call[ed] for the same services to be offered during the summer portion of the student’s 12-month program”. The IEP further states that “if there is no provider available [in Yiddish], the student would be provided interim service in English pending availabilityof a bilingual provider and contemplates placingthe student in an interim monolingual class”.

The SRO said that, among other things, “[t]there may be circumstances when it is appropriate to develop an interim plan for a student” and noted authority “that interim IEPs should only be used inspecial circumstanceswherenecessary”, that “[a]districtmaynot utilize aninterimplanin order to postpone the provision of a FAPE to the student”, and that “[j]ust as with any IEP recommendations, an interim plan must be related to the student’s needs, not administrative convenience of the district.” Further, the SRO said that “if a CSE develops an interim plan, the interim plan must offer the student a FAPE”.

The SRO concluded that in this case the “the district’s attempt to build into the student’s IEP a contingency plan is problematic as the interim plan was developed, not to address the student’s needs but to address the district’s anticipation that it could not fulfill the terms of the IEP”. And, the SRO said, “in this instance the district [did] not purport to argue that the interim plan included in the [IEP] a monolingual classroom – was appropriate for the student on an interim basis or otherwise”. The SRO pointed out that the district’s only argument was that “on an interim basis, the student would have received the support of a Yiddish-speaking paraprofessional”. However, the SRO pointed out. that “the IEP did not include a recommendation for a paraprofessional, and testimony indicating that the student would have received paraprofessional services on an interim basis constitutes impermissible retrospective testimony that attempts to rehabilitate or revise the IEP (R.E. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ, 694 F. 3d 167, 186-88 [2d Cir. 2012])”. Additionally, the SRO said that “there [was] no indication for how long the CSE contemplated that an interim placement would be in place”.

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The SRO concluded that “[h]aving found that the district essentially conceded that the interim arrangement of a monolingual classroom would not have been appropriate for the student, the January 2019 IEP, which contemplates this temporary program was not appropriate and did not offer the student a FAPE”.

NEEDS OF STUDENT:METHODOLOGY

Falmouth School Dep’t v. Mr. and Mrs. Doe, 44 F.4th 23 (1st Cir. 2022)

Dispute: Did the reading methodology used by the district deny the student a FAPE?

Conclusion: The Circuit Court upheld the Hearing Officer’s and District Court’s rulings that the reading methodology used by the district for the student denied him a FAPE.

Basis of the Circuit Court’s Decision:

This case concerns the period of time January 2018, to March 2019, and September 2019, to February2020, the IEPsdatedJanuary2018, January2019,September2019,andNovember 2019, and the appropriate methodology for the student’s reading.

Before addressing this period of time and the IEPs at issue, it is useful to start with the student’s January 2017 IEP when he was in first grade. At that point in time, the district considered the student a “non-reader”. To address the student’s reading difficulties, the student’s special education teacher initially taught the student in accordance with the Wilson Method but soon shifted to the SPIRE reading methodology.

At the time of the student’s January 2018 IEP, when he was in the second grade, the student was still significantly behind in reading. His special education teacher had identified the student’s “biggest challenge” as orthographic processing and phonological processing. Notwithstanding the student’scontinuingdifficultywithreading, the January2018 IEPcontinuedtoprovide the student with SPIRE reading programing. By June 2018, his special education teacher at that time commented that the student “had taken longer to complete the first level of the BASS reading measurement system than any other student the special education teacher could recall.

The student began third grade in the fall of 2018. The IEP team met in September 2018. The IEP team again suggested nothing different than SPIRE. Although the student’s new special education teacher initially used the Wilson Foundation materials in instructing the student, later in the fall she switched back to the SPIRE methodology. The student’s significant reading difficulties continued. In December 2018, the student underwent a private reading evaluation from a private school. The evaluators assessed some of the student’s “core reading skills” to be at the pre-k to kindergarten levels. The evaluators specifically recommended use of the Lindamood-Bell curriculum of LiPS followed by/overlaid with the Seeing Stars program for the student’s reading development. Prior to the January 2019, IEP Team Meeting, the student’s parents requested that the district’sreadinginstructioninclude the Lindamood-Bell curriculum followed by/overlaid with the Seeing Stars program. At this point in time, the student remained considerably behind in reading, as he was only at an early first grade level. The IEP Team met again in January 2019. It provided that the student would receive nine hours of weekly instruction using the Seeing Stars methodology. The student would be taught bya teacher who had not previouslytaught the student

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and would consult with a trainer certified in Lindamood-Bell programming every other week for fifty minutes. At the January 2019, IEP Team meeting the parents advised the district they would remove the student from the district’s school every afternoon so that he could receive “intensive” one on one reading programming at the private school using the Lindamood-Bell LiPS and Seeing Stars program for two hours a day. The parents requested that the district adjust the student’s programming so that he could remain in his mainstream classroom during the mornings and receive afternoon reading instruction at the private school in the afternoons. The district was not agreeable to this and advised the parents that they would continue to provide the student with specialized instruction during his morningprogram. The parents revoked their consent for services under the 2019 IEP on March 12, 2019 and requested that the district provide them with accommodations in a Section 504 plan. The student continued to spend his mornings in his mainstream classroom and received specialized reading instruction at the private school in the afternoon.

The student received a number of assessments during the Spring and Summer of 2019. Among these, a neuropsychological evaluation recommended Lindamood-Bell programing. The evaluation concluded that the student was still reading at the first-grade level. Consistent with this, a district-referred evaluator concluded that the student was “well-below average…across all core domains”.

The district proposeda new IEP in September 2019, when the student started the fourth grade. The IEP team indicatedthat it would not offer any Lindamood-Bell programmingin that new IEP. The IEP team met again in November 2019. The district again conveyed to the parents that it would not offer any Lindamood-Bell programing. The parent rejected this IEP and enrolled the student in the private school that November. In March of 2020, accordingto the private school, the student was reading at a mid-second grade to early third grade level. In the fall, the student’s report card indicated that the student was “practicing reading” at a third-grade level.

After an impartial hearing, the Hearing Officer concluded that the district had denied the student a FAPE from January 2018, to March 2019, and from September 2019, through February 2020, which excludedonlythat periodoftimewhenthe parentshadrevoked theirconsentthatthe student receive IDEA services at the district school.

The Hearing Officer determined that the January 2018 IEP was not reasonably calculated to provide the student with a FAPE because of its reliance on SPIRE. Among other things, the Hearing Officer pointed to the district’s failure to request additional evaluations focused on the student’s orthographic processing and its continued reliance on SPIRE programming rather than “considering a change in the methodology being used for [the student’s] programming”. The hearing officer specifically identified the Seeing Stars program that a number of evaluators or teachers had testified was specifically designed for children who have orthographic dyslexia as an alternative methodology.

The Hearing Officer next turned to the January 2019 IEP which the parents had rejected. The Hearing Officer called that IEP “a step in the right direction” but “too little too late” given the

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district’s reluctance to conduct further evaluations and its staff’s lack of experience in delivering Lindamood-Bell programming.

The Hearing Officer addressed the September 2019 IEP and concluded that it was “not reasonably calculated and reasonably ambitious to enable the student to make appropriate progress in light of his circumstances”. The hearing officer found it “incongruous” that the district seemed to hold out hope that the SPIRE program would work for the student after two years of limited progress, even as it offered and then abruptly removed the Lindamood-Bell programming, declaring that it was ineffective after the student had only incorporated it into his learning for a period of six months.

The Hearing Officer also determined that the private school was an appropriate placement and ordered the district to reimburse the parents for the cost of the student’s tuition from January2019, to September 2019, and for the 2019-20, school year.

The district sought Court review and the District Court found in favor of the parents. The district appealed that decision to the Circuit Court.

On Appeal, the district first argued that the District Court had erred because it based its conclusion on the finding that SPIRE did not address orthographic processing. The Court concluded that this is not what the District Court said but only that the preponderance of the evidence supported the Hearing Officer’s conclusion that none of the IEPs at issue were reasonably calculated to ensure that the student would receive a FAPE because none used Seeing Stars or a similar program and so none was specificallydesigned to address the student’s specific orthographic processing deficit given both what the record showed about the acuity of that deficit and the way that Seeing Stars was specially designed to address it while SPIRE was not. The district does not dispute that, as the District Court pointed out, the record contains an evaluation that specifically recommended using Seeing Stars programing to address the student’s specific orthographic processing deficits.

In a related argument, the district asserts that the District Court erred in ruling that the district denied the student a FAPE during the time in question because it erred in assessing whether an IEP that relied on Seeing Stars would be reasonably calculated to ensure that the student would make appropriate progress relative to whether an IEP that relied on SPIRE would be. The Circuit Court first pointed out that the district did not deny that the record contained an evaluation from the private school that “specifically recommended using Seeing Stars programing to address the student’s specific orthographic processing deficits”. The district contends however, that this is not critical because of contradictory testimony in the record. The Circuit Court looked at the referenced testimony and concluded that the testimony was not “contradictory” to that of the parents’ and did not require the District Court’s ruling be overturned.

In a related matter, the district cited to First Circuit case law and to the Supreme Court’s Endrew F. decision56 to assert that the District Court erred in ruling that the IEPs at issue were not “reasonably calculated” to ensure that the student would receive a FAPE. The Circuit Court pointed to the same case law which provided that Courts are entrusted with ascertaining the

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56 See Endrew F. v. Douglas Cnty. Sch. Dist., 580 U.S. 386 (2017)

adequacyofan IEP’scomponentsandimportantly,that accordingto EndrewF.,adequacyincludes whether the instruction offered is specially designed to meet a child’s unique needs through an IEP. The Circuit Court said that the District Court applied just that standard in assessing whether or not the student was denied a FAPE.

The district also argues that the District Court erred with respect to its assessments of all the IEPS at issue because it ignored clear evidence that the student was going to progress at best slowly under any reading program, instead of finding FAPE violations based on the student’s slow growth. The Circuit Court said that this was not the case and that the District Court did account for the fact that the student was a “slow learner” – or more precisely, that the student had orthographic and phonological processing deficits – in its analysis of each of the relevant IEPs.

The district further asserts that the District Court by approvingly citing the slow gains that the student made at the private school while not doing the same with respect to his slow gains at the district only “selectively relied on the student’s unique circumstances. The Circuit Court pointed out, however, that the District Court found that the student’s progress at the private school was still greater than his progress at the district over a much longer time.

Citing to Fourth Circuit caselaw, the district contends that parents have to offer expert testimony to show that a proposed IEP is inadequate. Here, the Circuit Court pointed out that the parents offered testimony from experts from the parent’s private school that the student had a serious orthographic processing deficit, that SPIRE was not a program whose use made an IEP specially designed to meet the student’s unique needs in consequence of his having a deficit of that kind, and that a program (Seeing Stars) did exist that would have resulted in an IEP that was designed to do so if that program had been employed.

Next, the district argues that in the context of this case – whether the comparison was between the pubic placement and eithera part time private placement or a full-time private placement that LRE considerations precluded each of these comparisons. After an extensive analysis, the Circuit Court disagreed with the district’s argument and determined LRE considerations did not affect the analysis.

The district also takes issue with specific IEPs. With respect to the January 2018, IEP, the district asserts that the District Court arrived at its conclusion that the recommended program did not provide the student with a FAPE on the basis of evidence of improvement after the January 2018, CSE meeting. The Circuit Court looked at the evidence and concluded that there was sufficient evidence prior to the CSE meeting to determine that the district’s proposal did not constitute a FAPE for the student. The District Court also determined that given its findings, “the preponderance of evidence” supports a finding that the IEP the district developed for the student in early 2018, failed to provide programming that would allow the student to make more than de minimus progress on basic reading and writing skills over the following year.

Regarding the January 2019 IEP, which the Hearing Officer and the District Court had characterized as “too little too late,” the Circuit Court found that this was a defensible conclusion asthe HearingOfficerconcludedthattheevidence showedthat the district’splanforimplementing a Seeing Stars program, includingutilizinga teacher who was not certified in Lindamood-Bell and

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lacked recent experience in using Lindamood-Bell was at best “a work in progress”. The district pushes here and said that the record requires the conclusion that by agreeing to start the Seeing Stars/Lindamood-Bell methodology with implementation overseen by an outside literary expert while increasing even further the amount of literacy instruction on top of a host of other important supportive services, it “made a reasonable calculation of how to provide [the student] with meaningful benefits”. The Circuit Court advised that the district “facesan uphill climb” withthat.” It pointed out that the District Court impliedly found that “the outside literary expert” would not change its conclusion with respect to whether the IEP was “reasonably calculated to enable the student to make progress”. The Circuit Court indicated that it applied a deferential standard of review for “mixed questions of law and fact” that are “fact dominated”. Doe v. Cape Elizabeth Sch. Dist., 832 F.3d 69, 76 (1st Cir. 2016). Under such a standard and the facts here, the Circuit Court saidthatitcouldnotacceptthe district’sargument. Regardingthis,theCircuitCourt pointed to facts in the record which showed that the “outside expert” was “dismissive towards and relatively unfamiliar with the program that she was hired to oversee”. The “outside expert’s” testimony also indicated that notwithstanding the district’s knowledge of the seriousness of the student’s orthographic processing deficit, the district did not communicate to “the outside expert” when it proposed to hire her that orthographic processing was a challenge to the student let alone that it was his “biggest challenge”. The Circuit Court said that the record also showed that the “outside expert” planned to help the special education teacher stress phonological processing and phonemic awareness in the student’s programming instead of orthographic processing. In summary, the Circuit Court concluded that it saw “no basis” for overturning the district Court’s “too little, too late assessment on the record before it.

Regarding the September 2019 IEP, the district contends that it was justified not to use the Seeing Stars methodology because the student was making only slow progress at the private school that used the Seeing Stars methodology and because the district offered to provide the student with multisensory synthetic phonics instruction as well as an additional hours per week of reading instruction. The District Court disagreed. Regarding this, the Circuit Court again pointed to its deferential review of a District Court’s conclusion with respect to its “fact dominated nature”. In this case, the Circuit Court pointed out that the District Court – which was required to give “due weight” to the Hearing Officer’s determination found that the preponderance of evidence supported the Hearing Officer’s conclusion that the student was denied a FAPE by the September 2019 IEP. The rationale was that the student needed programming that would more explicitly target his orthographic processing deficits than SPIRE did due to the acuity of that deficit.

COUNSELING AND TRAINING

L.J. B. v. North Rockland Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 21-CV-7028 (CS), 2023 WL 2692335 (Mar. 29, 2023)

Dispute: Should the Court defer to the SRO with respect to the determination that the absence on the IEPs of parent training relative to assisted technology specifically did not deprive the student of a FAPE.

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Conclusion: Based on the circumstances, the Court concluded that it was appropriate to defer to the SRO’s decision that the absence on the IEPs of parent training relative to assisted technology specifically did not deprive the student of a FAPE.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, the student has been diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. The student has speech-language deficits that make “it difficult for his verbal communication to be understood by an unfamiliar listener”. During the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 school years, the student was placed in a BOCES program’s “8:1+2 social communication special class, and qualified for extended school year services”. Because of the student’s language deficits, during this period, the CSE consistently recommended assistive technology (AT) for the student as well as an alternative augmentative communication (AAC) device. Over the course of the student’s attendance at the BOCES program, the student used an iPad with different applications to assist in his communication. The applications on the student’s iPad were different but the student was able to use each of the applications with differing levels of success. While the student’s IEP recommended that the student use his AT at home, his ability to do so was “problematic” due to the student’s deletion of applications there and because the student did not always bring the AT device back to school. The student’s IEPs did not specifically recommend parenttrainingandeducationbut hadgeneral requirementsforthatandoverthe course of the period, the district provided opportunities for parent training and education relative to AT but the parent did not take advantage of this.

Among other things, the parent argued that the SRO erred with respect to the evaluation of student needs relating to AT and ACC devices. More specifically, among other things, the parent argued before the Court that “the SRO’s conclusion that “the lack of parental AT training was a minor error”.

Relative to the question of whether the SRO erred when concluding that “the lack of parental AT training was a minor error” the Court said that the parent’s “contention” that this was the case was “unavailing”. “The SRO correctly noted [the Court said] that the Second Circuit has held that though the failure to include parent counseling in the IEP may, in some cases (particularly when aggregated with other violations), result in a denial of FAPE, in the ordinary case, that failure, standing alone, is not sufficient to warrant a finding that a FAPE has been denied.” See R.E. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 694 F.3d 167, 191 (2d Cir. 2012). Consistent with this, the Court said that “the [d]istrict’s failure to include AT training for the parents as part of [the student’s] IEPs did not rise to the level of a denial ofa FAPE.” The Court also pointed out that,[“as the SRO noted”], while the student’s IEPs did not include recommendations for [parent] AT training specifically”, the IEPs for two of the three years “called for parent training generally, and the parentswere repeatedlyofferedtrainingandcounseling[bythe BOCESschool], whichcouldhave included AT training, but they never tried to take [the BOCES school] up on the offer, even after learning went remote”. The Court concluded that it had no basis “to disturb the SRO’s conclusion that the effect of the lack of parental training [regarding AT] in the IEP was minimal”.

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PARENT CONCERNS

Dispute: Did the IEP Team review existing evaluations including evaluations and information provided by the parents of the student and did the IEP Team consider the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child? And relatedly, did the district provide the student with a FAPE?

Conclusion: The Court concluded that IEP Team neither reviewed existing information including evaluations and information provided by the parents of the student nor considered the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child. And relatedly, the district did not provide the student with a FAPE.

Basis of the Court’s Decision: The IHO determined that the district failed to comply with its procedural and substantive obligations under the IDEA. The SRO disagreed. The Court, found, among other things, that the SRO erred by rejecting a number of the IHO’s credibility determinations. These concerned, among other things, whether the IEP Teams reviewed evaluations provided by the parents; whether the IEPs at issue included the components of the Orton-Gillingham approach; whether “the evaluations plainlyindicated that [the student’s] unique needs mandated the inclusion of a specific methodology”; and that because, “the IEPs only included multisensory instruction”, whether the IEP Teams could have meaningfully considered the evaluations or [the parents’] concern”. This being the case, the Court found that the SRO improperly rejected the IHO’s conclusion that the IEP Team did not “review existing evaluative data of the child including … evaluations and information provided by the parents of the child”; did not “consider the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of the child…” and that the district “substantively violated the IDEA.

According to the Court, “the primary dispute at the center of [the] action [was] whether the IEP [T]eam was required to include the Orton-Gillingham methodology or a similar program, in [the student’s] IEP.

As indicated above, the Court found that the IHO properly concluded that the IEP Teams did not comply with the IDEA’s procedures in that “the IEP [T]eams did not adequately review the evaluations provided by [the parents]” nor “meaningfully consider [the parent’s] concerns for enhancing the education of their child.”

With respect to the former the Court found that “the [d]istrict ignored the central findings and recommendations of the professional evaluations of [the student]”. More specifically that these evaluations did not only call for multisensory instruction but “stressed the importance of the delivery mechanism by which [the student] would receive that instruction.” In particular, a 2009 evaluation expressed the opinion that “[m]ethodology will be a key factor in improving [the student’s] academic standing and that “[the student] will respond best to instructional programs that provide simultaneous, multisensory programs … and are also systematic and cumulative”. The subsequent 2013 evaluation, which was prepared bythe same evaluator, repeatsthe above and

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Rogich v Clark Co. Sch. Dist., No. 2:17- cv-01541-RFB-NJK. 2021 WL 4781515, at *2 -*8 (D. Nev. Oct. 12, 2021)

also stated “[u]nless the student has multimodalityteaching, i.e.,a combinationof visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic, she will most likely have difficulty in academic settings, especially as the academic tasks become more abstract.” Further, a 2015 evaluation states that “[the student] will continue to require intensive, multimodal, research-based learning programs for reading comprehensionand math”. In testimonybefore the IHO this evaluator stressedthat “it matter[ed]” howthe multisensoryor multimodalityapproachisimplemented andthat it required “thatit should be a program approach… there should be a methodology to it” and there “should be a philosophy to it and one that is applied with really rigorous consistency.”

In contrast to these evaluations, the Court observed in its decision that “the 2014 IEP included, [among other things], the instruction that a multisensory approach to teaching was to be used throughout the school day.” “[T]he 2016 IEP included, among other things, “multisensory instruction that will incorporate the simultaneous use of two or more sensory pathways during teacher presentations and student practice in Special Education classes”. According to the Court, neither the 2014 nor the 2016 IEPs “identified a specific methodology, or program, or structured curriculum format that teachers were obligated to utilize in meeting [the student’s] unique needs”.

The Court concluded that “[t]hus “it [was] evident from the undisputed evaluations, which stress the importance of methodology and the use of the research-based learning programs that the IEP [T]eam failed to consider the evaluations in any meaningful way”. With respect to the SRO’s position that the inclusion of “multi-sensory instruction” in the two IEPs were components of Orton-Gillingham and that this independently supported the conclusion that the district had considered the evaluations, the Court said that “the issue [was] not onlythe type of instruction but the way in which it [was] delivered”. The Court admitted that “[the district was] not generally required to include a methodology in the IEP, [but that] the district’s own Procedures Manual makes plain that in rare circumstances a student’s individual needs may require a certain methodology if the IEP [T]eam determines that it would be necessary to receive a FAPE. The Court found that had the IEP Team considered the student’s evaluations and their recommendations they “would have recognized that this was one of those rare circumstances”.

With respect to whether “the IEP [T]eams failed to consider [the parents’] concerns, the Court cited testimonyto the effect that “the IEP [T]eams failed to respond to their inquiries about which programs, if not Orton-Gillingham, the District was able to provide that would address [the student’s] unique needs”.

The Court also found that the district violated the substantive obligations of the IDEA. The Court said that taking into account the district’s procedural violations “and as the record and the evaluations make clear, [the student] required a specific methodologyin order to receive a FAPE”. The Court went on to say that “this is not to say that [the student] necessarily required the OrtonGillinghammethodologybutshedidrequireanequivalentmethodologythatwas[]researchbased, [] systemic, [] cumulative and [] rigorously implemented”. The Court found that the district did not have any such program and that the district’s representation that its “multisensory program in the IEP was illusory”.

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The Court concluded that the procedural andsubstantive violationsdeprivedthe student ofa FAPE because they “seriously infringed the parents’ opportunity to participate in the IEP formulation process” and “also resulted in the loss of educational opportunity for [the student]”. The Court also concluded that “as made plain by the evaluations and their recommendations [the student] cannot learn without a consistent and structured approach to multisensory instruction throughout the school day.” Further, the Court went on to state that by [f]ailing to identify a methodology that would ensure that the same approach is consistently utilized throughout the school day by all of [the student’s] instructors necessarily means that [the student] will not have the opportunity to learn as she needs to”.

PLACEMENT

J.D. and L.D. v. Rye Neck Union Free Sch. Dist., 22 CV 3039 (VB), 2023 WL 1797170 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the student needed special classes in order to receive a FAPE.

Conclusion: The Court agreed with the IHO and the SRO that the student did not need special classes in order to be provided with a FAPE.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

In this case, the parents challenged the IHO and SRO decisions that the student did not need a special class placement in order to be provided a FAPE.

The CSE initially met on May 21, 2019, to develop an IEP for the 2019-20 school year when the student would be inthe third grade. The CSE recommendedthat the student receive “an integrated co-teach class (ICT) for math and English language arts (ELA) and a general education class for science and social studies”. Additionally, the CSE recommended supports for the student in the form of specializedreadinginstruction,specializedmathinstruction,andspeechlanguage therapy. Because of regression during breaks, the “CSE also recommended specialized math instruction for six weeks during the summer”. Finally, the CSE recommended that the student “receive encouragement to attempt tasks she perceived as difficult”. Subsequent to that CSE meeting, the parents made arrangements for a private neuropsychological evaluation, which was conducted in early June 2019. The CSE met again on September 3, 2019, to discuss the parents’ concerns and the resultsofthe privateevaluation. Asa result ofthismeeting,“the CSE continuedtorecommend [that the student] be placed at a district school, in an ICT class for math and ELA and a general education class for science and social studies”. However, the CSE also “adjusted” the May IEP as a result of the parent concerns and the private evaluation. These adjustments included “a teaching assistant cluster for science and social studies, increased specialized reading instruction” and modification in part of the manner in which the student would receive speech-language therapy. The CSE alsoadded additional supportstothose whichwere includedinthe MayIEP. The parents were dissatisfied with the September IEP and placed the student at a private school.

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The CSE met on May20, 2020, to develop the student’s IEP for the 2020-21 school year when the student would be in the fourth grade and during which time the student continued to be enrolled at the private school. “The CSE again recommended that the student be placed at a district school in an ICT class for math and ELA and a general education class for science and social studies with a teaching assistant cluster”. The CSE recommended additional intensive reading services and the same level of math and speech-language therapy as in the previous IEP. In addition to continuing provision of math and reading instruction during part of the summer. The CSE recommended the same supplemental aids and services as it had for the most recent IEP for the 2019-20 school year. The parents disagreed with the IEP. The CSE met again on August 28, 2020. At that time the CSE added 30 minutes of counseling once a week and additional testing prior to making anyother recommendations. According to notes from the meeting, also at that time, the CSE offered the parent the option of a special class program, which the parent did not agree to because of the lower functioning level of the students in that class. As a result of the additional testing and a reading assessment, the CSE met on October 2, 2020, and recommended that the student “be placed in a special class for math and ELA, with direct reading instruction using a” particular methodology. Math goals were also adjusted and “[t]he CSE continued to recommend a general education class for science and social studies with a teaching assistant cluster”. “[T]he CSE retainedthe [existing] supports and added a recommendation that spelling be waived on writing assignments”.

The parents had filed due process complaint notices for both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. They were consolidated and after hearing, the IHO determined that the district provided the student with a FAPE for both school years. The SRO affirmed.

The parents claim upon judicial review that the district failed to provide “substantively adequate IEPs for both school years” and asserted that the student needed a full complement of special education class “to progress”. The Court determined that the IHO and SRO’s decisions were entitled to deference. On its own review, the Court also concluded that “the substantive adequacy of the IEPs was supported by a preponderance of evidence in the record”.

Regarding the 2019-20 school year, as indicated above, both IEPs recommended placing the student at a district school in an ICT class for math and ELA, a general education class for science and social students, specialized mathand readinginstruction, speech-language therapyand several services and supports. The Court pointed out that in making these recommendations, the CSE relied on materials including a private evaluation, progress reports from the student’s teachers and the speech-language therapist, and the results of district assessments.

The Court relied in part on the fact that the evidence showed that when the student was in the second grade in a general education class and receivingfewer services and supports, she had made “considerable progress.” The Court said that “[t]his evidence supports a finding that the IEPs for 2019-20, which offered [the student] more support than she had in the second grade would enable her to make meaningful progress”. The Court further pointed out that “the SRO concluded – and the IHOcreditedtestimonythat –[the student’sneeds]couldbe met bythe district’srecommended program and services”.

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“[G]iving due weight to the SRO decision and the IHO’s credibilityassessments, and based on the Court’s independent examination of the record, the Court conclud[ed] that the district’s recommended programs and services were reasonably calculated to enable [the student] to access educational benefits in the least restrictive environment consistent with her needs, and therefore provided [the student] with a FAPE”.

With respect to the 2020-21 school year, as indicated above, the first two IEPs “continued to recommend an ICT class in math and ELA and a general education class for science and social studies with several services and supports”. As also indicated, after further testing, the CSE changed its conclusion and determined that the student “would benefit from a more intensive program to develop her reading and decoding skills as well as additional support in math”. As a consequence, the CSE changed its recommendation to a special class for math and ELA, “with intensive direct readinginstruction” using the same methodologyas the private school. The Court pointed out that “[i]n developing its recommendations, the CSE considered evidence including progress reports from [the private school], the results of assessments performed bythe district and [the private school, and prior educational and psychological evaluations”.

The Court pointed out that “[t]he evidence before the CSE showed that [the student] was making some progress in her small classes at [the private school]” but that she “continued to struggle with decoding, fluency, spelling,writtenexpression, mathwordproblems,recall ofmathfacts,listening comprehension, and following multi-step directions”. “The progress reports [also] indicated that [the student] experienced some difficulty with concepts and skills in social studies and science, although she showed improvement in several areas”. The evidence further showed that the student “consistently followed classroom instructions and maintained attention”.

Representatives from the private school “advised” the CSE that the student “benefits from a high level of teacher support in reading and needs prompts to use spelling skills and to expand her written expression”. Regarding math, the private school representative “reported [the student] benefits from direct teaching and modeling in math and multisensory approach and needs repetition, re-teaching and spiraling review of previously taught concepts”. Further, “[c]iting testimonyfrom several witnesses the IHO found credible, [the court pointed out that] the SRO and IHO concluded [that the student’s] particular needs could be met by the district’s recommended programs and services” for that school year.

The Court reported that a parent evaluator/expert “ whose testimony the IHO found only somewhat credible – [presented the opinion] that [the private school’s] special class would be a more appropriate placement”. Importantly, the Court said that this did “not mean the district’s proposed program was inappropriate”. Regarding this, the Court explained that “[a]though the parents understandably, want the best possible program for their child, the IDEA guarantees only a program that confers educational benefits not one that maximizes the student’s potential or provides everything that might be thought desirable by loving parents.” Walczak v. Fla. Union Free Sch. Dist, 142 F.3d 119, 132-33 (2d 1998).

The Court concluded that in this school year as well, there was “sufficient evidence here to find [that the student]could receive educational benefits without a full-time special education program.

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The Court found that “[a]ccordingly, given the due weight to the SRO decision and the IHO’s credibility assessments, and based on the Court’s independent examination of the record [] the district’s recommended program and services for the 2020-21 school year were reasonably calculated to allow [the student] to access educational benefits in the least restrictive environment and therefore provided [the student] a FAPE”.

Carrillo v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 21-2639, 2023 WL 3162127 (2d. Cir. May 1, 2023)

Dispute: Whether the recommended placement for the student was appropriate.

Conclusion: The Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the IHO, the SRO, and the District Court that the CSE’s recommended placement of the student in a 12:1+4 classroom provided a FAPE.

Basis of the Second Circuit’s Decision:

The student “is a nonverbal and non-ambulatory student with significant disabilities”. As part of the development of the student’s IEP, the CSE “classified the student’s disability as multiple disabilities, assigned specialeducationprogramsand services,andrecommendedthat[the student] be placed in a 12:1:4 classroom57”. Such a classroom structure “is the most supportive classroom environment contemplated by the applicable New York regulations”.

The parents asserted that the placement violated the student’s right to a FAPE, “provided notice of their intent to unilaterally place [the student] in a private [school … ] and filed a due process complaint [notice] seeking reimbursement of tuition and other costs related to the student’s attendance at the private [school]”. The parents preferred a 6:1+1 placement58

After a hearing, the IHO issued a “thorough” decision finding that the CSE’s proposal provided the student with a FAPE. The parents appealed that decision to the State Review Officer (SRO), who “issued a detailed thirty-four-page decision finding that the IHO had correctly determined that the student was offered a FAPE”. The parents filed an actionin District Court challenging the SRO’S decision. The District Court affirmed that the 12:1+4 placement provided the student with a FAPE.

On appeal to the Second Circuit, the parents restated their argument that the district failed to provide the student with a FAPE because the district placed the student in a 12:1:4 placement instead of a 6:1+1 placement, which was desired by the parents. According to State regulations relating to continuum of services (see 8 NYCRR 200.6) a 12:1+4 placement is “appropriate for students with severe multiple disabilities, and whose programs consist primarily of habilitation and treatment”. See 8 NYCRR 200.6(h)(4)(iii). According to the continuum of services regulations, a 6:1+1 placement “is appropriate for students whose management needs are

57 That is, a classroom placement of 12 students, I licensed special education teacher, and three paraprofessionals

58 That is a classroom placement of six students, one licensed special education teacher and one paraprofessional.

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determined to be highly intensive, and requiring a high degree of individualized attention and intervention”. See 8 NYCRR 200.6(h)(4)(ii)(a)

The Second Circuit stated that the CSE found, “based on [the student’s] individual needs, that [the student] should be placed in a 12:1+4 classroom”. Moreover, the Second Circuit said that “the IHO and SRO appropriately considered the options available under [the continuum of services regulations] and agreed that a 12:1+4 classroom complied with the IDEA and with New York regulations”. Further, the Second Circuit said that “[t]he SRO found that the 12:1+4 special class ratio for students with severe multiple disabilities … [was] preciselythe type of programming that [would] address this student’s unique needs”. The Second Circuit said that “[t]he CSE, the IHO, and the SRO all concluded that [the student’s] IEP was tailored to meet the unique needs of [the student]”.

The Second Circuit pointed out that the District Court concluded that the student had “highly intensive management needs that require a high degree of individualized attention and intervention”. The parents argued that “because the student [had] highly intensive management needs, [the student] “requires a 6:1+1 classroom, and that it was error for the CSE to place the student in a 12:1+4 classroom”.

The Second Circuit disagreed with the parents’ argument and found that it was “not supported by the plain language of the regulation”. The Second Circuit said that the classroom defined by the continuum of services regulations “are not mutually exclusive” and that the student has highly intensive management needs and severe multiple disabilities, and received programming that is focused on habilitation and treatment”. The Second Circuit said that the regulation “describes a continuum of classroom environments and students, like [the student here], whose needs justify placementinahigh-support[12:1+4]classroom…wouldalsobeexpectedtohaveneedssufficient for placement in a lower-support classroom”.

The Second Circuit stressed that “[t]he CSE determined based on [the student’s] individual needs that [the student] should be placedina12:1+4 classroom”andthat“[n]othingabout the regulations prohibits this”. The Second Circuit said that “[t]he CSE met its obligation to carefullyconsider the student’s needs, and developed a plan that would provide [the student] with a FAPE”.

The Second Circuit reminded the parents that a “parents’ preference for a different placement was notcontrolling”andthat“[t]heIDEAguarantees…anappropriateeducation,notonethatprovides everythingthat might be thought desirable byloving parents”. See Walczak v. Florida Union Free Sch. Dist., 142 F. 3d 119, 132 (2d Cir. 1998).

The Second Circuit said that “[d]eference to the local decision-makers is particularly appropriate in this case because both the IHO and SRO issued thorough and careful decisions agreeingthat the IEP offered [the student] a FAPE ….” Walczak, 142 F.3d at 129. And the Second Circuit pointed out that “[w]e must always be mindful that the judiciarygenerallylacks the specialized knowledge and experience necessary to resolve persistent and difficult questions of educational policy”. Id. “Applying these standards, [the Second Circuit said that] the District Court properly affirmed the SRO’s decision”. The Second Circuit also pointed out the District Court’s observation that “the SRO like the IHO before him, concluded that the child suffered from so manydifferent disabilities

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that [the student’s] needs were best served by being in the 12:1+4 classroom”. And, the Second Circuit said, “the SRO specifically found that the presence of additional adults in the classroom wasmost likelyto provide preciselythe type ofprogrammingthatwilladdressthestudent’sunique needs”.

With the above in mind, the Second Circuit found “no error” in the District Court’s conclusion.

E.H. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 164 F. Supp.3d 539, 551-54 (S.D.N.Y. 2016)

Dispute: Whether the district’s recommendation of a 6:1:1 placement was predetermined.

Conclusion: The Court determined that the IHO was correct and that the SRO erred when the IHO determined that the student’s placement in a 6:1:1 class was predetermined.

Basis of the Court’s Decision:

The student is an eleven-year-old student with autism. For several years, prior to the school year inquestion, the student hadbeenenrolledina private year-round, school that specializesin serving students with neurodevelopmental delays such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. The student’s teacher to student ratio (level of support) at the private school is 2:159

The parents are seeking tuition reimbursement for the student.

The CSE met as a part of its annual review. Among other things, the CSE recommended that the student be placed in a 6:1:160 classroom. In part because of that, the parent subsequently gave notice to the district that the student would be reenrolled in the private school. An initial and amended due process complaint notice was filed. The IHO found in favor of the student with respect to the parent’s claim that the student’s 6:1:1 placement was predetermined and that as a result the parent did not have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the CSE meeting. The SRO reversed the IHO’s decision and held that the CSE did not predetermine the student’s placement.

“By statute, reviewingcourts afford such deference via application of the preponderance standard. 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii). However, the preponderance standard does not alone capture precisely how much deference to apply, when to apply more or less, and to whom. As between the conflicting opinions of an IHO and SRO, the reviewing federal court is generally required to defer to the SRO. See M.H.v, New York City Dep’t of Educ., 685 F. 3d 217, 246 (2d 2012). Conversely, where “the SRO’s determinations are insufficiently reasoned to merit that deference, and in particular where the SRO rejects a more thorough and carefully considered decision of an IHO, it is entirely appropriate for the court, having in its turn found the SRO’s conclusion unpersuasive even after appropriate deference ispaid, toconsiderthe IHO’s analysis, whichisalso

59 This is one student and 2 teachers.

60 This is six students, one teacher and four paraprofessionals.

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informed by greater educational expertise than that of judges, rather than to relyexclusivelyon its own less informed educational judgement” Id

“These inquiries ultimately translate to a review of the persuasiveness of the SRO’s decision. Id at 244. However, the persuasive inquiry“must also be colored byan acute awareness of institutional competence and role” Id. “mindful that the judiciary generally lacks the specialized knowledge and experience necessary to resolve persistent and difficult questions of educational policy”

Walczak v. Florida Union Free Sch. Dist., 142 F.3d 119, 129 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Bd. of Educ. v Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 206, 208) (1982)

“Predetermination is inconsistent with the goals of the IDEA, which envision a collaborative process in developing a uniquely suitable educational placement for each child. See 20 U.S.C. 1415(b)(1); see also 34 CFR 300.322; 8 NYCRR 200.5(d). Predetermination therefore amounts to a procedural violation of [the IDEA at] Section 1415 and can rise to the level of a substantive harm and therefore deprive a child of a FAPE, where the child’s parents are effectively deprived of meaningful participation in the IEP process”. “However, where a [p]arent has actively and meaningfully participated in the development of an IEP, courts have rejected predetermination claims”. The Court stressed that “[t]he CSE may consider and reject the [p]arent’s point of view, but it maynot deprive the [p]arent of meaningful participation byrefusing to consider the parent’s concerns.”.

“The IHO found no evidence that the CSE considered a more [supportive] setting for [the student than 1 6:1:1 setting and], in doing so denied the [p]arent of an opportunity to meaningfully participate, and the violationrose tothe level ofa denial ofa FAPE”. “The SROdisagreed,finding that evidence in the record shows that the parents attended and participated in the [] CSE meeting, and that the IEP shows the CSE considered other options before choosing the 6:1:1 placement.”

The Court said that the CSE had predetermined that student’s classroom placement at a 6:1:1 staffing ratio. It said that this was not a case where “the CSE did not adopt [the parent’s] opinion”. The Court said that the issue here was “whether the CSE had an obligation to consider that [the student] neededa more [supportive environment]” (i.e.,a 2:1 placement). The Courtsaid that “[i]f the CSE refused to consider a more [supportive environment] than its public offerings were able to provide, that would amount to predetermination of [the student’s] educational program regardless of what [the student] needed or what his parents contributed to the process”.

The Courtsaidthatthe decisionregardingpredeterminationrelated“solelytothe record” and“thus would ordinarily merit deference to the SRO’s findings”. The Court said, however, that the SRO “did not analyze the record to determine whether the CSE considered the parent’s point of view that [the student] needed a more [supportive environment] than 6:1:1”. What the SRO did, the Court said was to relyon evidence that the CSE analyzed the appropriateness of placements based on what types of classrooms the district had. These included a 12:1:4 classroom; a 12:1:1 classroom;an8:1:1classroom;anda6:1:1 classroom. TheCourtwrotethatthiswasnotthecorrect standard, which was what level of support was “appropriate” for the student. And that “the statute does not require that a parent’s view need only be considered if it is consistent with available public offerings”. The CSE “was obligated[the Court said] toconsider the [p]arent’s point of view

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that a 6:1:1 placement was not appropriate for [the student] and 2:1 was necessary, particularly in light of the fact that [the student] was then being educated in a 2:1 [supportive environment]”.

The Court said that “[i]n light of the fact that the SRO failed to analyze the record to answer the relevant question of whether the [p]arent was denied a meaningful opportunity to participate with respect to her concern that [the student] required a more [supportive environment] than a 6:1:1, the SRO’s finding is not supported by a preponderance of the relevant evidence”. The Court concluded here that “[t]he SRO’s reasoning supporting the conclusion is therefore neither persuasive nor consistent with the proper inquiry” and declined to defer to the SRO’s conclusion.

With respect to the IHO’s decision, that Court reviewed that and concluded that the IHO “performedthe properanalysis,askingwhether the CSE considered the parent’sconcernregarding this issue, and if not, whether that failure in context of what the CSE did or did not consider amounted to a denial of the [p]arent’s opportunity to participate”. In particular, the Court found that the IHO considered the testimony of both the district (a 6:1:1 environment was appropriate) and the parent (that a 2:1 environment was appropriate); determined that the CSE did not consider the parent’s concerns regarding the [level of support] of the student’s recommended placement, and that such failure denied the parents’ opportunity to participate in the formation of their son’s education plan”. The Court pointed out that the IHO concluded that this violation “alone rose to the level of a FAPE violation”. The Court found this analysis to be “both persuasive and wellconsidered, and according defer[ed] to it”.

With respect to the Court’s independent review of the record, it said that it “also demonstrates that the [d]istrict did not enter the IEP with an open mind as to what was appropriate for [the student], but was rather predetermined as bound by the few options cited in the IEP”. “Accordingly and as reasoned above,” the Court said that “the [p]arent was denied an opportunity to meaningfully participate when the CSE failed to consider her point of view that [the student] required a more [supportive] setting than 6:1:1, in violation of the IDEA.

With respect to whether the finding of predetermination was a denial of a FAPE, the Court pointed to caselaw for the proposition that a “procedural inadequacy that individually or cumulatively result in the loss of educational opportunity or seriously infringe on a parent’s participation in the creation or formulation of the IEP constitute a denial of FAPE” See W.S. v. Rye City Sch. Dist., 454 F.Supp.2d 134, 138 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). The Court concluded that the circumstances here met that standard.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-127 (Dec. 2022) Dispute: Whether the inadequacy of goals and/or objectives is a procedural violation.

Conclusion: The SRO held that the IEP had no objectives for its related services goals and that since the student participated in “alternative assessment” this was a procedural violation of the IDEA.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In this case, the student had a “diagnosis of autism and a severe intellectual disability”. Regarding this, student evaluations indicated that the student’s intellectual abilities were at the first percentile

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and that such might be an “overestimate”. The student’s score on the Vineland-3 comprehensive interview form given to the student’s parent to assess the student’s adaptive functioning also resulted in a score below the first percentile. The student exhibited significant sensory needs and presented with “significant language delays, pervasive difficulties with communication and comprehension”, and accompanying attention and sensory deficits.

With respect to the goals and objectives of the student’s IEP, the SRO pointed out that since the student participated in “alternative assessment” the district had an obligation to provide “[s]hort term instructional objectives or benchmarks” – “measurable intermediate steps between the student’s present levels of performance and the measurable annual goal”. Regardingthis, the SRO pointed out that the IEP did not include short term objectives for any of the recommended related services. However, the SRO concluded that this “was a procedural error” and pointed out that “a procedural violation onlyresults in a denial of FAPE if the procedural inadequacy (a) impeded the student’s right to a FAPE, (2) significantly impeded the parents’ opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of a FAPE to the student, or (3) caused a deprivation of educational benefits”. The SRO indicated that this procedural violation would “be considered along with the substantive appropriateness of the December 2020 IEP recommendations”.

Application of a Student with a Disability, Appeal No. 22-127 (Dec. 2022)

Dispute: Whether the district’s recommended program was appropriate for the student.

Conclusion: The SRO determined that the recommended program was not appropriate for the student.

Basis of the SRO’s Decision:

In this case, the student had a “diagnosis of autism and a severe intellectual disability”. Regarding this, student evaluations indicated that the student’s intellectual abilities were at the first percentile and that such might be an “overestimate”. The student’s score on the Vineland-3 comprehensive interview form given to the student’s parent to assess the student’s adaptive functioning also resulted in a score below the first percentile. The student exhibited significant sensory needs and presented wit