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Supreme Court Steers Clear Of Special Education Dispute


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The U.S. Supreme Court declined this week to weigh in on whether or not parents should have a say in deciding which school their children with disabilities attend.

The court said it would not hear an appeal in a case brought by the parents of a boy with autism against the New York City school system.

The parents, known in court documents as R.E. and M.E., sued after the school district selected a “final” placement for their son without their input. Though the parents said they worked with the district to develop an individualized education program, or IEP, they argued that they did not agree with the placement selected and were not given any other options.

As a result, the parents proceeded to enroll the child in a private school where he had previously attended and requested reimbursement from the district for tuition costs, arguing that the school district placement did not offer the one-to-one attention that the child needed.

A federal district court ruled in favor of the parents. But the decision was reversed by a federal appeals court last year with the panel writing that the school district “may select the specific school without the advice of the parents so long as it conforms to the program offered in the IEP.”

Now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the case known as R.E. v. New York City Department of Education, the ruling in favor of the school district will stand. The high court did not offer any comment on its decision.

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Comments (14 Responses)

  1. Debra says:

    How can we claim that we want to fix special education, when we keep taking sides against children with disabilities? I guess if kids had money to give to political campaigns, things would be different. These type of rulings just empower some of the bullies who work in school districts to behave even worse than they do already.

  2. Maureen Ahearn says:

    In my opinion, this decision by the Supreme Court demonstrates that Parents are not perceived as equal members of the IEP team as in this case their input clearly being ignored. What I find most troublesome is the fact that the Parent(s), who have the most knowledge about the child than anyone on the team, their imput is given the least amount of weight. Very sad.

  3. Misty Gate says:

    This doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think parents understand when your child walks into the public school doors, the administration and teachers have control and power over what they deem is best for your child. Sure you are afforded a place on the IEP team as the parents, but how many IEPs end up with the parent having to hire a lawyer?

    More and more parents in my state are removing their children to homeschool because they are being failed. They either don’t want to fight anymore, don’t believe their children should stay in a bad placement because the damage that will be done is not worth the fight , and/or they have zero faith in the school after trying for years to work with the “system”.

  4. Greg says:

    BY law parents are supposed to be important parts of team with unique and critical information about their childs needs. By law if parents are denied effective and meaningful input into IEP development, denial of FAPE may be concluded. Yet time and again parents may be excluded in the IEP process and those entrusted to interpret the law rule that the district can do what it chooses with respect to IEP or placement. We must request our legislators clarify the law so that parents are gaurenteed effective and meaningful input and districts cannot exclude parents and do what they choose (with courts ultimately allowing districts to skirt the letter and intent of the law).

  5. sidra says:

    What they failed to understand is that all children in NYC have a choice of what school they can attend, except for disabled children. No choice = discrimination!

  6. Mary says:

    Parents face an uphill battle advocating for their disabled children. Most cannot afford to hire an Attorney to represent them, most experts work on behalf of school districts because that is where the money is, and even if parents can afford to hire an attorney, school districts prevail at due process hearings an overwhelming majority of the time. Most Hearing officers are closely aligned with state
    Education Departments. As a result of SCOTUS interpretation of IDEA, unless parents substantially prevail at the hearing, attorney fees are not covered. This essentially denied parents an equal footing in the IEP process. This needs to change.

  7. Tom says:

    BOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I am going through something similar with my son who has DS. It is sad that the schools are ill equipped. I support the family 100%.

  8. Dee says:

    Yet another demonstration about how parents are not really fully equal members of the IEP team. Why should the schools treat them that way? They know they can make the decisions they want with impunity.

  9. VMGillen says:

    The issue should have been framed as failure to meet the IEP mandates – not choice. Either the attorney or the reporter covering this story needs additional training. @Sidra: in NYC even D75 (generally, segregated ed settings) can transfer… it isn’t easy for spec ed or the “regular” students. I submit that, in a way, children with a Dx have more choice than gen ed: one cannot access a private school and expect tuition repayment (absent school vouchers, or similar programs).

  10. sherna pinnock says:

    Bullies? Harsh. I have a few questions. Did the district take the decision based on assessment feedback and as a team effort? How old is the child? The parents think he needs 1:1 support, why? What did the assessments say? How will their child’s reliance on 1:1 support advance his ability to generalize skills across persons and situations? I appreciate what seems to be some parents desire to always have a prop for their child, but I encourage all parents to ask; is this the best thing for my child?

  11. Michele R says:

    @DEBRA so AGREE with you. This just proves that it does not matter what the special educational laws claim to provide to students with any kind of disability. IEP’s we have had our share. Meetings endlessly, attempting to work with the district-what choice do we have other than to do so in order to get a FAPE-which by the way we did not. Spec Ed advocates advised us to get a human rights lawyer, washed their hands of helping, and after reading this article am more disgusted by the “system” called education, and the governing laws meant to provide in yet another “system” that fails children & families daily…Good Job.

  12. David Snow says:

    We have been homeschooling our son now for the past 6 years. Didn’t like the “no child left behind” details because it actually meant that my son ran the risk of being “left out” not “left behind”.

  13. Felicia says:

    Well given the fact that a lot of disabled children are bullied, and mistreated by students and teachers alike, sometimes a 1 0n 1 is needed just for safety.

    I am not in NY, but LA. I am disgusted at the Supreme Court’s position, they have rendered themselves useless, heretofore.

    I personally feel that most children’s needs are not met in LAUSD, so you better believe that for the most part a child in an inclusion setting, has an even lesser degree of safety and security.

    We don’t want a crutch as a previous writer stated, instead a guide on the side. And for as long as the two highest populated school districts in the nation are performing as poorly as they are, special education will be perfunctory and, custodial care at best.

    Sherna, obviously no one wants they child to be more dependent and not progress……. but our children, especially with developmental disabilities need more intense instruction and reminders to become less dependent and an over worked teacher surely can’t give that additional attention when she’s in the classroom. It’s like chasing cats, just trying to wrangle a classroom of typical children some days.

    And IEP’s are a bad experience sometimes. In LA, LAUSD doesn’t even pay their private school contracts in a timely manner, so the pickings are slim. Some schools have cancelled their contracts with LAUSD because of this.

    I have heard it said that LAUSD was ill prepared for the influx of immigrant children and families and now they are just putting out fires and trying to accommodate English learners, and their families. This is also taking up a large part of the budget.

    Special programs for non English speaking children and families takes up much more of the budget than Special Education ever will.

    A child with a disability can not help it. People that come here from other countries can. They had a choice to go several places but chose USA.


  14. Stephenie Blakemore says:

    Interesting. That same week in June the 9th District Court ruled in favor of a parent who could not/did not attend an IEP meeting that also resulted in a new placement of his son from a private school to a public school. Doug C. v Hawaii. I cannot attach here but I have a copy of the court ruling if anyone is interested..I believe the court date was June 13…There were difficulties in getting a date the parent could attend due to schedule, called in with illness on schedule meeting day. The care coordinator/specail education teacher rescheduled enough times and notified over three times about meeting dates and also was concerned the IEP annual timeline, (if not met would services lapse) so the school held the meeting without him, during which the team reconsidered the student’s school placement. The court said the team should have held the meeting with the parent and his presence there was of greater weight in their deceison than the rescheduling and timeline for annual IEP. The lapse of services after the date the court ruled would not need to have occurred..the goals, objectives and services from the annual IEP that was in place could continue.

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