I stopped updating this page as of September, 2010. Anyone who can summarize and link to the latest rulings is encouraged to continue... GS
Kotin and Crabtree comments on some of the cases, from a legal stand point, here: http://www.kcslegal.com/articles.html
The DESE web site contains the rulings but it posts them in no particular order under links with cryptic names.
The following links and summaries make it easier to find relevant legal and educational references on special education.
The school systems almost always win these cases because they only go to hearing if they are sure they will win. If they have any doubt, they settle in advance. Nonetheless, each case gives a detailed description of the experience of one child and family. Those descriptions are very valuable for learning about services and practices in special education.
Under each link I note the key points of the case as I see them. These stories are very sad, but the perserverance and committment of parents and children is uplifting.
Discussion of when the school district can remove a child from special education. If the school tries to do that and the parents disagree in writing, parent's have stay put rights. In that case the school system must provide services until they go to hearing and prevail.
Dispute over which school system the student belongs to.
The school system is kept anonymous to protect the family's confidentiality.
This decision includes details on reading methodologies, especially the Reading Recovery program (http://www.readingrecovery.org/) with some mention of "sequential, rules-based special education methods such as Wilson, Project Read, or Orton-Gillingham". Lots of examples of reading tests and diagnostic tools. Also gives a very good explanation of how difficulty with learning to read can cause a child emotional stress.
The hearing officer decided "where the School’s chosen methodology is solidly grounded on unrefuted diagnosis of the Student’s area of weakness, there is no basis for the BSEA to disturb the School’s decision". I interpret that to mean, only the school gets to decide which method will be used and it doesn't matter if it works or not. What matters to the law is if the school thought it might work based on the information they had at the time the IEP was written.
Case of a child with Aspergers who wants to go to "school with like peers, that is, other gifted students within his age range". Lexington says he should go to Pathways. Detailed explanation of the challenges and opportunities facing a high school student "on the spectrum". Lexington wins, because they don't need to provide the best placement, only an "appropriate" one. This case uses the "you don't get a Cadillac you get a working Chevy" metaphor. The parents are also rebuked for not providing Lexington with all available information which allows the school system to say their IEP was valid based on the limited information they had at the time.
- Whether Student is safe in school?
- Whether Student’s paraprofessional is appropriate?
Excellent explanation of the challenges faced by a girl with PDD in middle school.
Involves a 13 year old child with ASD who was in a partial inclusion program which I believe is called the Compass program. The parent felt it wasn't working: she was "having many problems and was coming home in crisis every day". The school system used a CHINS against the parents. Extensive discussion of a Behavior Plan and details on social skills issues for a student with PDD. The student testified at this hearing and the hearing officer made comments on the relationship between the student and parent. Both points above ruled in favor of Salem so the student was denied the opportunity to change class or change aide.
A dispute between Somerset and Fall River about a Kindergarden age student from Somerset who is put in foster care in Fall River by DCF. Somerset tries to block her from attending school in Somerset, saying Fall River is responsible. Hearing officer disagrees and says Somerset is responsible since the DCF foster home is analogous to being homeless and so she has a right to continue going to school in the same place as before.
No one spoke on behalf of the best interests of the child.
High school student with emotional challenges whose Parent’s wanted him to go to the Hampshire Educational Collaborative Academy (www.collaborative.org). Greenfield wanted him at the Poet Seat school which had become part of the Greenfield public schools (http://www.gpsk12.org/poetseat/poetseathome.html). Good description of Poet Seat school and an explanation of "desensitization" for handling school aversion/anxiety at the high school level. Greenfield wins due to lack of experts and evidence presented by parents.
- Is Randolph’s most recently proposed individualized education program (IEP) calling for Student to be placed in a substantially-separate classroom at the Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC) at the Lyons Elementary School (exhibits S-1, P-30) reasonably calculated to provide Student with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment?
- If not, can Student’s special education and related services be appropriately provided by his continuing placement within a general education classroom?
11 year old student with PTSD and ADHD and behvaioral issues. There is detailed discussion of behavior plans, their implementation and creation. Also, very informative testimony from a Professor of Psychology at Harvard (the school's expert) who designs and implements behavior plans. Parents win and the student can go back to school with the staff and plan written by the professor.
- It is not disputed that Sudbury did not provide Student with an individualized education program (hereinafter, IEP) for Student’s 5th grade (2008-2009 school year). Was Sudbury responsible for providing an IEP for 5th grade?
- If so, did Parent’s unilateral placement at The Carroll School provide Student with a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment?
- If so, is Parent entitled to reimbursement for part or all of her out-of-pocket expenses for The Carroll School for 5th grade?
- Is the IEP most recently proposed by Sudbury for 6th grade (2009-2010 school year) reasonably calculated to provide Student with a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment?
- If not, did Parent’s unilateral placement at The Carroll School satisfy this standard?
- If so, is Parent entitled to reimbursement for part or all of her out-of-pocket expenses for The Carroll School for 6th grade?
Parents represented themselves without a lawyer (aka pro se).
Sudbury wanted the student in their Language Learning Disabilities program (http://fc.sudbury.k12.ma.us/~sseac/?OpenItemURL=S00E757D1#What%20specific%20programs). Parents wanted him in The Carrol School in Lincoln (http://www.carrollschool.org/).
There is extensive discussion of each progam and how it addresses Language Learning Disabilities. Also a good explanation of how background noise affects a students ability to learn. Here's an example from an audiologist:
"She explained further that Student “is at risk of inaccurately perceiving auditory information. This is particularly true when information is presented in a noisy background, involves multiple parts, is presented quickly or contains unfamiliar language concepts.” She also emphasized that “[t]he mishearing would affect all academic learning in the classroom and social communication situations, particularly in larger classrooms and noisy settings.… The mishearing difficulty should not be underestimated and can interfere greatly in a classroom setting.”
No reimbursement for unilateral placement in 5th grade, but school system pays for 6th grade and I think that means the student gets to stay at Carroll school.
School system is anonymous to protect the confidentiality of the student.
Parents wanted the student with Aspergers to go to the League school (http://www.leagueschool.com/) and school system wanted him in regular education classroom. Very smart student who's challenge is social skills and is teased and bullied at school. School system wins. A few additional services were required but the student was denied the opportunity to go to League School.
Language based learning disability case for student entering high school. Parents placed student at Landmark School (http://www.landmarkschool.org/) when she wasn't making progress in Middle School. "It is Arlington’s position that any failure on Student’s part was due to Student’s failure to access the in-class support offered and because she did not use the learning center time properly as she chose to use it to complete homework or 'chill'."
Arlington agreed that Landmark is appropriate but said that the Arlington High School program was also appropriate so they don't need to pay.
Extensive examples of tests including results and how they are interpreted.
Parents win re-imbursement for Landmark and continuation at Landmark, but Arlington can reconvene the "Team" and try to force the student to come back in 2011 school year.
Is an extended evaluation of Zack necessary in order to write an appropriate IEP for Zack and provide FAPE?
If so, is the Stony Brook program the appropriate placement for the extended evaluation?
Some discussion of Stony Brook program and 4th grade child's problematic behavior in regular education class. Parents want him evaluated in public school and want him to remain in public school. School system wants him evaluated in private, therpeutic day placement. School system wins.
School system wants the 17 yeard olf child in therapeutic day program (READS Academy http://www.readscollab.org/Academy.htm). Parents want him in a residential program (Chauncy Hall Academy http://www.nafi.com/program_detail.htm?id=29). Parents win. Note: after this case, Hingham hired an attorney to be the director of their SPED program!
Child needed transition services from high school for social skills. Natick recommended the Achieve program (http://teachers.natickps.org/webpages/npsachievestu/index.cfm) but did not provide sufficient information for parents to decide if it was right. Parents win one year of re-imbursement for unilateral placement at Riverview
School system name is removed to protect the privacy of the family.
The issue to be decided in this case is whether the educational evaluation conducted by XYZ in February and March 2009 was appropriate and comprehensive; and if not, whether XYZ must fund an independent educational evaluation. Extensive discussion of evaluations for reading and writing challenges. After a round of requests, parents requested funding of an independent evaluation. A week later, the school system responded by filing a hearing request.
School system wins and no further evaluations are done.
Student privately placed in Learning Prep School (http://www.learningprep.org/) in 3rd grade, primarily for language and auditory challenges which interfere with learning. Newton insists on the Reach program (http://www.newton.k12.ma.us/central_admin/documents/SPEDProgramGuide_final_merged.pdf). Excellent description of Newton's Reach program with a lot of added detail beyond what is posted on NPS site. Lots of testing and evaluation data related to learning and auditory challenges. NPS tries to criticize LPS and the child's work. Hearing officer gave more credence to parents experts than to NPS employee re: LPS being appropriate.
Parents ask for recovery of costs and prospective placement at LPS going forward. They don't recover the costs but do win the prospective placement.
- Whether Attleboro was responsible to provide Student transportation to Willett Elementary School during the 2008-2009 school year? If so,
- Whether Parents are entitled to reimbursement for provision of transportation during the 2008-2009 school year?
Also includes a denied request for the hearing officer to recuse himself.
"Whether Sharon Public Schools (Sharon) must reimburse Parents for their payment of the residential component of the residential placement at Longview Farm". Student went to Longview under a 45 evaluation agreement. Parents wanted him to continue there as a residential placement. Sharon agreed to pay non-residential portion but not residential. Parents lose.
Cases Argued by Larry Kotin or Robert Crabtree Edit
Language learning and ADHD case for a student going in to High School. Parents placed him at Learning Prep (http://www.learningprep.org/) after Marblehead High School didn't work well. He was in a Charter school in Middle School. Parents win LPS placement going forward.
Pre-school student with language learning issues (and Leukemia). Parents placed her in a fully integrated pre-school at Tufts (Tufts Educational Day Care Center). Belmont wanted her in their pre-school which had less hours of time with other neurotypical kids. Parents win.
14 year old girl with non-verbal learning disability, Asperger’s Syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety. Parents took student out of Mary Lyon elementary school in the middle of 8th grade and placed her in Learning Prep. Boston tried to hold her back a year and make her return to Mary Lyon and stay back to redo 8th grade (Mary Lyon only goes through 8th grade).
This is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgement. The quick win is denied but the question of whether an IEP team can deny a student promotion to the next grade is left open.
Issue 1: Whether Student sufficiently completed the requirements of 8th grade English language arts to entitle her to be promoted to the 9th grade.
Issue 2: Whether BPS complied with the procedural requirements of its Promotion Policy; if BPS did not so comply, whether its violations of such Policy caused substantive harm to Student; and if substantive harm occurred, what relief, if any, should be provided Student.
8 year old student on the autism spectrum. Parents want better communication from school, a single person to work with the student at school and at home, and they contest the Goals and Objectives section of the IEP as well. Parents win 10 hours per month of social skills consulting. The hearing officer denies or declines to rule on all other points.
The decision also includes an interesting and unusual comment from the hearing officer asking that the parents and school try to work together better: "By deciding the extent of Medfield’s legal obligations regarding Student’s special education and related services, this Decision hopefully will allow the parties to let go of some of the many disputed issues which have come between them."
13 year old boy with learning emotional and behavioral challenges. Boston insisted on the Alliance for Inclusion and Prevention program at Irving Middle School http://www.aipinc.org/programs_inclusion.htm (according to their web site, their main "accomplishment" is to reduce out of district placements). There is a detailed description of AIP and explanation that it is not a language based school. Parents placed him at Learning prep. but wanted him at Dearborn. Parents win out of district placement.
It's very rare to see an out of district placement win against Boston. In this case they brought three lawyers including the litigation director and Bob Crabtree still won!
5th grade student had behavior regulation challenges. Belmont tried to impose a behavior plan which kept him out of school with gradual re-entry over the course of several months. Parents asked to be included in the development of the behavior plan. Decision emphasizes that a behavior plan must be written as part of the IEP team process.
These are a little more legalistic and less education focused. Some contain statements of fact and they show the tricks of the trade used by lawyers on both sides to advance their case.
- Westwood Public Schools’ Motion To Dismiss Parent’s Hearing Request With Prejudice and/or Motion for Summary Judgment and Mother’s Motion to Require the District to Allow the Parent to Audiotape the Team Meeting 10-07-2009
- Bridgewater-Raynham Ruling on Parent’s/Student’s Motion for Re-Assignment of the Hearing Officer/Recusal and Bridgewater-Raynham Public Schools’ Request for Issuance of Subpoena to Dr. Steven Auster and Motion to Leave Open the Record for the Testimony of Dr. Auster 7-29-2009
- Motion of the Springfield Public Schools to Join the Department of Mental Retardation, the Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind in this appeal. 6-03-2009