Failure to evaluate: a critical error

We have various ways of making this point—evaluation data is absolutely crucial in special education.  Evaluation data is the rudder that steers the ship.  Evaluation data is to the ARD Committee what evidence is to the jury.  This point was hammered home yet again in a decision from the 9th Circuit.  The court held that the district committed a procedural error that resulted in a denial of FAPE and a failure to provide meaningful parent participation in the IEP process.  The court faulted the district for not evaluating for autism when the student showed symptoms of the condition.  Following 9th Circuit precedent, the court was emphatic:

So that there may be no similar misunderstanding in the future, we will say it once again: the failure to obtain critical and statutorily mandated medical information about an autistic child and about his particular educational needs ‘renders the accomplishment of the IDEA’s goals—and the achievement of FAPE—impossible.’  (Emphasis in the original).

The court cited earlier 9th Circuit cases for the notion that a student “must be assessed by a school district, when the district has notice that the child has displayed symptoms of that disability.”  Key Quote:

…if a school district is on notice that a child may have a particular disorder, it must assess that child for that disorder, regardless of the subjective views of its staff members concerning the likely outcome of such an assessment.  That notice may come in the form of expressed parental concerns about a child’s symptoms….of expressed opinions by informed professionals,….or even by less formal indicators, such as the child’s behavior in or out of the classroom.  A school district cannot disregard a non-frivolous suspicion of which it becomes aware simply because of the subjective views of its staff, nor can it dispel this suspicion through informal observation.

 The case is Timothy O. v. Paso Robles USD, decided by the 9th Circuit on May 23, 2016.  We found it at 67 IDELR 227, and it is now officially cited at 822 F.3d 1105.


File this one under: SPECIAL EDUCATION

Tomorrow: David Sedaris, a teacher of Dutch ancestry, and a Christmas tradition you may not have heard of.