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DISABLED EDUCATION NEW YORK UNIVERSITY PRESS (2013) Ruth Colker Distinguished University Professor The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

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Presentation on theme: "DISABLED EDUCATION NEW YORK UNIVERSITY PRESS (2013) Ruth Colker Distinguished University Professor The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law."— Presentation transcript:

1 DISABLED EDUCATION NEW YORK UNIVERSITY PRESS (2013) Ruth Colker Distinguished University Professor The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

2 SCOPE OF RESEARCH Read complete legislative history Read background to all major Supreme Court cases Read about 100 hearing officer decisions from California, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, and the District of Columbia

3 DISABILITY CLASSIFICATION DATA (2010) African-American (14 % of population) Hispanic (22 % of population) White (55 % of population) Mental Retardation 32.5 %12.8 %51.4 % Speech or Language Impairment 16.5 %18.1 %61.6 % Visual Impairment 16.3 %26.7 %52.3 % Emotional Disturbance 28.5 %11.9 %56.7 % Orthopedic 14.2 %20.6 %61.4 % Other Health Impairment 18.9 %9.8 %68.4 % Specific Learning Disability 21.2 %23.8 %52.1 % Multiple Disabilities 18.8 %12.6 %64.8 % Hearing Impairment 16.2 %24.9 %52.9 % Autism 14.0 %11.3 %69.7 % Developmental Delay 23.7 %9.6 %59.4 %

4 SUSPENSION DATA African-AmericanWhite %0.2 % %0.74 % %0.67 % %1.09 %

5 THEMES IN STATES

6 OHIO Large number of sufficiency determinations under 2004 Act Many cases involved issue of whether child was even eligible for special education; not a lot of cases about adequacy of IEP Parents won 32.7 % of first-level hearing officer decision in a 2-tier system

7 FLORIDA Half of cases involved children with autism Parents prevailed in 15.1% of cases but very high rate of settlement Pattern of substantive violations without effective remedies

8 NEW JERSEY School district has burden of proof, except for emergent petitions, but seemed to have little impact on outcome Overall, parents prevailed in 13 % of cases

9 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Learning disability was most common disability; few cases involving autism Nearly all parents were represented by legal counsel Most students were in high school Parents prevailed in 57 % of cases

10 CALIFORNIA Parents prevailed in 34.6 % in cases Parents prevailed in 11.5 % of cases in which school district had BOP Parents prevailed in 11.1 % of cases in which school district challenged parents’ right to an IEE Autism was most frequent disability More situations where: Foreign language interpreter Challenge to IEE request

11 RECURRING PROBLEMS Burden of Proof: Schaffer v. Weast Adequacy of IEP: Rowley v. Board of Education Procedural Errors Causing Harm

12 BURDEN OF PERSUASION

13 SCHAFFER V. WEAST 7 th grade boy, Brian Schaffer, who was seeking to enroll in public school for first time in 8 th grade Parents rejected two possible public school placements, initiated a due process hearing, and sought reimbursement for unilaterally sending Brian to private school

14 HOLDING Burden of proof is on parent when they are the moving party seeking relief Case was in “equipoise” so allocation of BOP was determinative to outcome

15 BURDEN OF PROOF The Schaffer Court noted that the term “burden of proof” encompasses two burdens the burden of persuasion and burden of production The Schaffer case only involved the “burden of persuasion” who wins if the evidence is closely balanced.

16 FAIRNESS PREDICATE: FLEXIBLE, INFORMAL HEARINGS “IDEA hearings are deliberately informal and intended to give ALJs the flexibility that they need to ensure that each side can fairly present its evidence. IDEA, in fact, requires state authorities to organize hearings in a way that guarantees parents and children the procedural protections of the Act.”

17 FAIRNESS PREDICATE: RECORD REVIEWS “[P]arents have the right to review all records that the school possesses in relation to their child.”

18 FAIRNESS PREDICATE: INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION “[Parents] also have the right to an ‘independent educational evaluation of the[ir] child.’ The regulations clarify this entitlement by providing that a ‘parent has the right to an independent educational evaluation at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency.’ IDEA thus ensures parents access to an expert who can evaluate all the materials that the school must make available, and who can give an independent opinion. They are not left to challenge the government without a realistic opportunity to access the necessary evidence, or without an expert with the firepower to match the opposition.”

19 INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATIONS 34 C.F.R. § (b) Parent right to evaluation at public expense. (1) A parent has the right to an independent educational evaluation at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency (2) Parent is entitled to evaluation at public expense unless agency demonstrates at a due process hearing that its evaluation is appropriate … (4) The public agency may ask for the parent’s reason why he or she objects to the public evaluation. However, the public agency may not require the parent to provide an explanation and may not unreasonably delay … (5) A parent is entitled to only one independent educational evaluation at public expense each time the public agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees.

20 WHEN IS SCHOOL’S EVALUATION “APPROPRIATE”? 20 U.S.C. § 1414(b): Variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information, including information provided by the parent Not use any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion Use technically sound instruments that may assess the relative contribution of cognitive and behavioral factors, in addition to physical or developmental factors Provided and administered in the language and form most likely to yield accurate information The child must be assessed in all areas of suspected disability Special rules for assessing specific learning disabilities, including use of scientific, research-based intervention

21 STAY PUT CONTEXT Burden of proof is on the school district when it is seeking to challenge an existing IEP. Those same considerations also exist when a parent seeks to retain an existing placement or service.

22 CHILD FIND CONSIDERATIONS Child Find obligation is an “affirmative duty” of the State or LEA “the threshold for ‘suspicion’ is relatively low, and … the inquiry was not whether or not she actually qualifies for services, but rather, … whether she should be referred for an evaluation” Obligation helps neutralize what Schaffer Court called the school’s “natural advantage” In other jurisdictions, Child Find cases have been important and successful

23 ADEQUACY OF INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATIONAL PLANS

24 ROWLEY V. BOARD OF EDUCATION: AMY’S STORY First grade IEP: Tutor for deaf for one hour per day Speech therapist for three hours per week FM amplification device Issue: Whether Amy would also receive a sign language interpreter

25 FACTUAL BACKGROUND Three week trial with interpreter scheduled in kindergarten Ended after two weeks Amy resisted using his services Interpreter’s Report: “I would say that as far as interpretive services are concerned, they are not needed at this time. However, this does not rule out the fact that an interpreter will not be needed at a future date when the classroom work becomes more involved and large group discussion becomes the rule.” Moved to new school district in 5 th grade where she received interpreter

26 EDUCATIONAL BENEFITS STANDARD Supreme Court repeatedly focuses on the importance of “access to specialized instruction and related services” State satisfies its FAPE requirement by “providing personalized instruction with sufficient support services to permit the child to benefit educationally” The “basic floor of opportunity” consists of “access to specialized instruction and related services which are individually designed to provide educational benefits”

27 MEANINGFUL EDUCATION STANDARD Third and Sixth Circuits support a “meaningful educational benefit standard” under which one would measure educational benefit “in relation to the potential of the child at issue” Ninth Circuit in Mercer Island says that “educational benefit,” “some educational benefit,” and “meaningful” educational benefit standards all “refer to the same standard”

28 APPLIED TO AMY ROWLEY Amy was receiving “substantial specialized instruction” “We do not hold today that every handicapped child who is advancing from grade to grade in a regular public school is automatically receiving a ‘free appropriate public education.’ In this case, however, we find Amy’s academic progress, when considered with the special services and professional consideration accorded by the Furnace Woods school administrators, to be dispositive.”

29 CODIFIED IDEA Findings: education for children with disabilities can be made more effective by “having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom, to the maximum extent possible” Department of Education regulations: Children can be classified as disabled and therefore entitled to a FAPE “even though they are advancing from grade to grade”

30 RELIEF

31 PROCEDURAL ERRORS THAT CAUSE HARM

32 IMPEDED THE CHILD’S RIGHT TO A FAPE

33 SIGNIFICANTLY IMPEDED THE PARENT’S OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DECISIONMAKING PROCESS REGARDING THE PROVISION OF A FAPE TO THE PARENT’S CHILD

34 CAUSED A DEPRIVATION OF EDUCATIONAL BENEFIT

35 THE FUTURE Congress amended the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2008 to broaden the definition of disability Learning disabilities clearly covered ADHD clearly covered More and more parents filing Section 504 complaints Hearing officers do not have power to hear Section 504 claims but parents often required to exhaust their IDEA rights before bringing Section 504 claims Quite a mess is ahead of us.


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