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Court Cases of Interest

 Links to sites where you can search court decisions and opinions:

Can Religious Schools Discriminate Against Students With Disabilities? - Michigan Supreme Court looks at decisions at Catholic school.


Supreme Court Ruling, Rising Police Presence in Schools Spur Miranda Questions - A few weeks before summer break, an eighth-grader in Fairfax County was pulled from his civics class and led into an office. An assistant principal told him that classmates had reported hearing him say he’d smoked marijuana with five other boys — days earlier, after school hours, off campus. A uniformed police officer joined the interview.


Court Grants Cert in Private Placement Case - The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in a private placement case from Oregon, giving it a new opportunity to decide under what circumstances families of students with disabilities can be reimbursed for the cost of private tuition. Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v. T.A., 50 IDELR 1 (9th Cir. 2008), petition for cert. filed (U.S. 09/03/08) (No. 08-305). The court announced its decision Jan. 16, after first discussing it Jan. 9. Briefs by the district are due Feb. 25, and briefs by the family of T.A. are due March 25. The Oregon case is important because it gives the Court another chance to decide what Congress meant in 1997 when it amended the IDEA and described at least one scenario under which parents could be reimbursed for the private education of a student with disabilities. Under that scenario, a court or hearing officer may award tuition reimbursement to the parents of a child who has previously received special education services under public auspices if the district failed to offer FAPE. (From Special Ed News, Jan 22, 2009)


FL Disabled Palm Beach County Students Unfairly Punished for Behavior, Group Claims - Palm Beach county students with documented behavioral or emotional disabilities are not getting the academic or emotional services they need and are instead being unfairly punished for behaviors that are due to their disabilities, according to a complaint submitted today to the State Department of Education. The complaint was filed on behalf of four county students and the Florida State Conference of the NAACP by the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, the Southern Legal Counsel and the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group.

Do Parents Really Have a Right to Participate in IEP Decision-Making? Seventh Circuit Says No. Parents Take Case To U.S. Supreme Court. J. H. – a child with behavioral and social challenges – was removed from the public schools by his parents, placed at a private school and later diagnosed with autism. The public school district vowed to “start from scratch” in crafting a new Individualized Educational Program (IEP) that would meet his needs. Despite that stated intention, the district had already decided to place J.H. in a district school. District personnel then wrote an IEP for J.H. with goals and objectives that fit that placement determination. Placement at the private school was not considered. As an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) later noted, under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) “placement” must be determined based upon the IEP, which takes into account a child’s needs and includes parental input. The ALJ held that deciding placement before the IEP was written was premature, denied the parents meaningful participation in the IEP process, and ultimately constituted a denial of a free and appropriate education as required by IDEA. A lower court disagreed saying that the school district had no obligation to consider placing J.H. in the private setting until it had concluded he could not receive an appropriate education in a public district school. The parents appealed. A split panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court saying that “IDEA actually required that the school district assume public placement” for J.H.. The parents now seek leave to appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Read the parents’ brief to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as supporting briefs from Autism Speaks and the Tourette Syndrome Association.

AZ Arizona School Voucher Programs Ruled Unconstitutional - It is unconstitutional for the state to give parents money to help pay private-school tuition for their disabled or foster children, the Arizona Court of Appeals decided Thursday. The 2006 law violates the state Constitution's ban on using public money to aid private schools, the panel said.


FL Low Graduation Rate Draws Florida Lawsuit - Amid mounting national frustration over high school graduation rates, the School District of Palm Beach County in Florida has been thrust onto center stage. In a class-action lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union is demanding that the district boost its graduation rates and reduce the gaps in those rates between racial and socioeconomic groups. "If the ACLU is successful, this is going to shake everything up, because it will be a whole different set of expectations about who is supposed to solve the problems," says Paul Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators in Arlington, Va.


Appeals Court Upholds Award of Four Years of Compensatory Ed - On March 20, 2007, the District Court of Georgia ordered the Atlanta Independent School System to pay Jarron Draper's tuition at a private special education school for four years, or until he graduated from high school, as prospective compensatory education for their persistent failure to educate him.

CA Home Schooling Case: Rachel L v LA County Department of Children and Family Services - In the context of a child under California protective services jurisdiction, In re Rachel L holds it is not unconstitutional to require home schoolers to obtain teaching certification ("credentials"), just as any other teacher would be statutorily required to do. The 2/28/08 decision and the 3/07/08 amendment to that decision are available for download.

Government Concedes Vaccine-Autism Case in Federal Court - Now What? - After years of insisting there is no evidence to link vaccines with the onset of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the US government has quietly conceded a vaccine-autism case in the Court of Federal Claims.

Parents Don't Need Lawyer in Ed Cases - Parents need not hire a lawyer to sue public school districts over their children's special education needs, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The decision came in the case of an autistic boy from Ohio, whose parents argued they were effectively denied access to the courts because they could not afford a lawyer. Federal law gives every child the right to a free appropriate public education, which in the case of special needs children sometimes means enrollment in a private facility.


Lawyer Argues for Parents' Right to Sue - Parents should not be forced to hire a lawyer to sue public school districts over their children's special education needs, the lawyer for parents of an autistic child told the Supreme Court Tuesday.


MI Children's Rights Files Lawsuit On Behalf Of Kids Abused And Neglected In Michigan Custody - Recently in Detroit Federal Court, the advocacy group Children's Rights filed suit against Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Marianne Udow, Director of the Department of Human Services (DHS), for failing to take the necessary steps to protect the nearly 19,000 foster care children in the custody of the state. The state immediately agreed to enter into settlement negotiations with plaintiffs to resolve the lawsuit.


MI Michigan Appeals Court Finds Lawyer is Owed Open Meetings Fees - Attorneys who represent themselves in successful Open Meetings Act cases are entitled to an award of attorney fees from public bodies, a divided Court of Appeals has ruled.


Province Wins Autism Ruling - Family worries what will happen now to 9-year-old son. Natoma Houston sat at her computer frozen in disbelief yesterday morning as she read the bottom line of the Ontario Court of Appeal's decision on funding for intensive therapy for autistic children over age 5.

Parents Prevail in ABA Case, Costs Could Exceed Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars - On May 26, 2006, U. S. District Court Judge Robert Payne issued an extensive pro-child decision in Henrico County School Board v. R. T., a tuition reimbursement case on behalf of a child with autism. The judge found that the school system knowingly and repeatedly failed to provide an appropriate educational program for a young child with autism. In awarding reimbursement for a private school that employs intensive one-on-one ABA therapy to educate children with autism, the judge slammed the School Board for inertia: "The Court finds that the School Board’s conduct in this matter reflects the inertia to which Congress was referring when it wrote in the IDEA that 'the implementation of this chapter has been impeded by low expectations, and an insufficient focus on applying replicable research on proven methods of teaching and learning for children with disabilities.'" 20 U. S. C. 1400(c)(4). Henrico County School Board v. R. T. Download the decision in Henrico County School Board v. R. T. (from Wrightslaw)


VA School System Loses Autism Case - A federal judge yesterday found the Henrico County school system knowingly and repeatedly failed to provide a system of instruction suitable to a severely autistic child. In a 79-page opinion laced with criticism of the school system's compliance with education disabilities law, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne sets hearings to determine what Henrico schools should pay for failing to meet federal standards of care regarding this child.


OH Bar Association Battles Parents - The Cleveland Bar Association is threatening to fine the parents of an autistic boy $10,000 for not hiring a lawyer when they brought, and largely won, a court case on their son's behalf four years ago. After a long court battle, Brian and Susan Woods settled their case with the Akron school district in 2002 when the district agreed to send Daniel, now 11, to a private school.


ME Federal Judge Rules That Asperger's Syndrome is a Disability - A York County girl who suffers from Asperger's syndrome is entitled to special education services even though she completes her homework, behaves well in class and scores well on tests, a federal judge ruled.


GA Family Sues School System RE: Closet as “Time out Room” - In February, we introduced you to Boone Garvey, an autistic child who attended Lee County Primary School. His mother said Boone had been locked in a closet at school as a punishment for misbehaving. The school system defended the action, saying the closet was, in fact, a "time out room."


FL State v Christie Supports the Filing of Charges if Teachers See and Fail to Report Abuse Taking Place In Their Midst at School (PDF) - In State v Christie the Florida Court of Appeals (3rd District, Nov. 2, 2005), held that a teacher may be charged with caregiver neglect under the Florida child abuse and neglect statute (excerpt): “The charges in this case stemmed from incidents where Christie, a public school teacher, stood by and did nothing while her teacher’s aide bound certain students to their desks and/or to the blackboard with adhesive tape, in the classroom. The State charged Christie with five counts of child neglect with no bodily harm under sections 827.03 (3)(a) and (c). That statute defines “neglect of a child” as a caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with care or supervision. Section 827.01(1), in turn, defines “caregiver” as “a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.”” The holding stands for the proposition that the traditional status of teachers as "in loco parentis" supports the notion that actionable abuse/neglect charges may be filed (and proven) by a prosecutor when the teacher ignores abusive/neglectful actions of others in his or her midst.

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