Another Child Find Case. What triggers the school’s duty?

As we have noted here before, if a parent makes a written request for an evaluation for special education services, the “Child Find” duty has been triggered.  But what if the written request specifically asked for a 504 evaluation?  Well…..that’s different.

This came up in Ashley G. v. Copperas Cove ISD, decided by the federal court for the Western District of Texas on May 7, 2021.  The court summed it up this way:

“Expressions of concern over academic performance and requests for assistance alone do not trigger the IDEA’s child find duty.”  The parent’s letter specifically asked for a 504 evaluation. “Such a direct request was clearly not an implied request for an IDEA evaluation.”

The court’s analysis might have been different had there been other indicators that the student was in need of special services. But the teachers reported that the student was doing pretty well and his behaviors were typical for an 8th grader. So the parent request for a 504 evaluation was just that, and no more.

Later, the parent did request an IDEA evaluation and the district agreed to do one. But there were delays, which the parents blamed on the school. The court did not see it that way, noting the parents’ delay in signing consent for the evaluation they had requested The parents also alleged that the school failed to determine the student’s eligibility in timely fashion, but the court noted that eligibility could not be determined until the ARDC considered the FIIE, and the parents had blocked the ARDC from meeting, believing it was not necessary. 

Courts are always going to take into account the reasonableness of the parties.  Not signing a consent form and not showing up for an ARDC meeting will usually be viewed as unreasonable.   We found this one on Special Educator at 78 IDELR 251. I’m pleased to let you know that Walsh Gallegos attorneys handled this one, specifically Bridget Robinson and Jennifer Childress.


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