On May 27, 2019, the Special Education Hearing Officer came to a decision regarding the case between two parents and the Local Education Agency of the West Chester Area School District. Both parties worked to prove their case for and against a child receiving special education services. The parents filed a complaint stating that the school wrongly found their child ineligible for these services.
Before the hearing began, counsel found that there were three issues present in this case:
- Was the eligibility committee determination that the student was not eligible for special education and related services under IDEA or Section 504 inconsistent with the law?
- Did the school district violate its child find duty with regard to the student for the period from September 2016 to the date of the hearing?
- Is the school district required to reimburse the parents for an independent educational evaluation?
Findings in the Case
On September 4, 2017, the child’s parents requested that the district perform a neurological assessment. When conducted, the evaluation observed the student’s scores on various tests. This found that the child was performing at an average level for their grade. Therefore, the school determined they were not eligible for special education services because they did not require the instruction.
The child’s mother disagreed with this and hired an independent evaluator to observe the child at school. During this time, the child’s grades remained in the A and B range. In addition to this, they did not have attendance issues, show signs of anxiety, or behavioral problems at school. The testing scores from the school district evaluator and the independent evaluator were consistent.
Based on the arguments presented in court, the following conclusions were made:
- All assessments of a child must be administered in accordance with the instructions that are provided by the assessment producer. The evaluation must ensure that a student is assessed in all areas of a potential disability.
- In order to be eligible for special education services, a student must be a “child with a disability.” This means they must have a specified condition and need special education services.
- No qualified individual with a disability can be excluded or denied the benefits of special education services.
- School districts are required under the IDEA child find requirement to evaluate all students who are suspected of having a disability.
- Parents have a right to an independent educational evaluation. If they request it at public expense, the public agency must either file a due process complaint to show that it is appropriate or ensure that the evaluation is provided at public expense. If the evaluation is obtained at private expense, the results must be considered by the public agency if it meets agency criteria.
Overall, the hearing found that the parents did not demonstrate that the school was responsible for providing special education services and did not violate its child find duty. In addition to this, the parents were not found to be entitled to receive reimbursement for the independent evaluation.
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