A 14-day due process hearing?

I’m not sure which is more surprising: that the Mississippi hearing officer conducted 14 days of hearing, or that after all that time the result was overturned by a federal court. 

The school was struggling to serve a 15-year old student with autism and an IQ of 42. The student was aggressive and violent and the district was focusing more on stopping his aggression than on meeting academic needs. In the mediation of the case, the district acknowledged that it was not capable of providing FAPE.

That’s a tough one, but as Loyal Daily Dawg Readers know, tough situations do not allow cutting corners with the law.   In October, 2017, in response to numerous instances of hitting staff and students, the IEP Team reduced the student’s services to one hour per day, four days a week in an administrative office.  Surprised that the parent was unhappy with that?  I didn’t think so. 

The due process hearing officer conducted a 14-day hearing, which earns this case a place on the Dawg’s Sheesh-O-Meter.  After all of that evidence, the hearing officer thought that four hours of education a week was just fine.  However, the federal district court disagreed with that assessment. 

One hour per day, four days a week, in an administrative office…and the court holds that this fails to provide FAPE. Does that surprise anyone?  I didn’t think so. But what is surprising is the court’s rationale. The decision is based on 1) the elimination of any P.E. course; and 2) the lack of progress. There is no discussion in the opinion of the yawning gap in the sheer hours of education the district provided.  I’m guessing that the general population in Mississippi receives somewhere close to 30 hours of instruction per week. This severely disabled student is getting four.  It shouldn’t take 14 days of due process hearing to figure out that this is a denial of FAPE.

It's Reynolds v. George County School District, decided by the federal court for the Southern District of Mississippi.  It’s cited at 81 IDELR 282.

There is an interesting bill in the Texas legislature that would provide some help to districts in cases like this. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com

Tomorrow: have any “habitually violent” students?