Copperas Cove prevails in special education case.

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“Parents actively participated in every ARD Committee meeting and indicated agreement at the end of each one.”  That was one of the findings made by the federal court to explain its ruling in favor of Copperas Cove ISD in a case where parents alleged a failure to serve a student with dyslexia.  As far as the quality of the services provided, the court enumerated the four-part FAPE test that we use in the 5th Circuit.

Was the IEP individualized?  Yes, the court noted specific correlation between the PLAAFPs (Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance) and the IEP goals. 

Were the services provided in the LRE?  Yes. This was not an issue.

Were the services provided in a coordinated and collaborative manner?  Yes. This is where the court cited the parents’ participation in and agreement with ARD Committee decisions.

Did the student make progress?  Yes. The district produced evidence of progress in reading, writing and math. 

The parents also complained about the fact that there was an eight-month delay from the time they first requested testing for dyslexia until an IEP addressing dyslexia was put into action.  But the court called this delay “reasonable.”  For one thing, the parents never objected to the pace.  Secondly, the district “was not idly standing by.”  When the parents asked for dyslexia testing, the district offered screening instead, as per standard practice. The parents agreed to this. This was in January.  The screening was done in February, and reviewed by the ARDC in April.  The testing was done in May, and then the summer happened.  The ARDC reconvened in September and put services in place. 

As far as doing screening when testing is requested, the court noted that “deference must be given to the District with respect to the means and method of providing the FAPE.”  Moreover, the classroom teacher had served the student for three months and reported seeing no signs of dyslexia. So the decision to go with screening, instead of testing, was reasonable. 

Notice: the court did not say that screening was the way to go because that’s what the Dyslexia Handbook calls for. It did not say that this decision was right because “we always do it this way.”  The court applied the test of “reasonableness,” in light of the purposes of the law: deferring to decisions of educators, but only if they are designed to provide FAPE, monitor for progress, and respect parental rights.

The case is Amanda P. v. Copperas Cove ISD, decided by the federal court for the Western District of Texas on April 14, 2020.  We found it at 120 LRP 12872. I’m pleased to let you know that our law firm handled this case, with excellent advocacy from Jamie Turner and Kelly Janes in the due process hearing, with Bridget Robinson and Jennifer Childress working on the appeal to federal court.

Tomorrow: Can superintendents blow the whistle?