He needs special help. He doesn’t need special education…

Today’s Daily Dawg case is about the 17-year old who had just arrived in California from Honduras where he only completed the 6th grade. He had very limited English language skills. The enrollment forms, filled out by his aunt/guardian, did not indicate that the student had any injury, illness or disability. Nor had the student ever received special education services. Educational records from Honduras were not available. The school put him in its Newcomer Program where he struggled at first, but started making progress after his first semester. Numerous teachers testified that this pattern was typical for students in the Newcomer Program.

Later, the student’s guardian sought a due process hearing, claiming that the student should have been receiving special education services. The request for hearing prompted the district to conduct an evaluation of the student. The very thorough and bilingual evaluation concluded that the student was not eligible. The evaluation noted the student’s spotty attendance record and the effect this had on his grades. The ultimate conclusion was that whatever educational deficits the student had were “primarily due to limited English proficiency; a lack of instruction in reading or mathematics…or environmental, cultural, or economic factors.” The ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) agreed with that, as did the court.

This is a classic illustration of what I call a Quadrant Three student. He’s “at risk.” He needs special help, but not special education. His inability to speak English, his need to transition to a new country and a new culture, and his lack of educational opportunity all mark this student as “at risk” and a candidate for special attention. But IDEA (and Section 504) are about serving students with physical or mental impairments. There was no indication of that here.

It's Amaya v. Chaffey Joint Union High School District, decided by the federal court for the Central District of California on April 28, 2022. It’s published by Special Educator at 81 IDELR 14.


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

Tomorrow: Content Mastery in Leander….