Supreme Court Seeks Input On Special Education Case
The U.S. Supreme Court is asking the Obama administration to weigh in on whether or not school districts should be liable for failing to identify a child’s special needs.
On Monday, the high court asked the U.S. solicitor general for input on a case involving a California high school student whose disabilities went unidentified by her school district for years.
The student, known as Addison in court papers, went without special education services as teachers reported that the 10th-grader “colored with crayons at her desk, played with dolls in class and urinated on herself.”
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Even after an outside mental health counselor recommended that the girl be evaluated for learning disabilities, the Compton Unified School District instead promoted her to 11th grade.
Finally, in 2004 Addison’s mother requested an educational assessment. At a subsequent individualized education program, or IEP, meeting it was determined that the girl qualified for special education.
The mother then took action against the school district for failing to spot Addison’s needs sooner. The claim: under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools have an obligation to identify students who may have special needs under what’s known as the “child find” clause.
An administrative law judge sided with Addison’s mother, granting the girl services designed to compensate for the fact that educators didn’t recognize her needs earlier.
The school district appealed arguing that the ruling would expose schools to claims of “educational malpractice,” but lost its case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last year, paving the way for the matter to come before the Supreme Court.