The Toolbox consists of ten “tools” designed to help school administrators serve students with disabilities appropriately, even when confronted with serious behavioral issues. Tool #4 is probably the tool that is used the least. Tool #4 would be used only when you have a student who is “substantially likely” to hurt someone if allowed to remain in the current placement; behavior that is a manifestation of the student’s disability; a parent who will not agree to a change of placement; and no “special circumstances” (drugs, weapons, or a serious bodily injury). That’s a pretty rare combo.
But I recently came across a hearing officer’s decision from Illinois in which a district tried to use Tool #4. It didn’t work. The district sought the hearing to force a change of placement, but the hearing officer denied the request.
The student was definitely dangerous. The hearing officer confirmed that the student had injured both staff and students with biting, kicking, and head butting. This kind of behavior was on the increase. Was the student “substantially likely” to continue to hurt people? Yes.
But the hearing officer held that the district failed to produce evidence to show that its recommended placement would meet the student’s needs. When using Tool #4, districts are seeking to place the student in an “appropriate interim alternative educational setting.” In the Illinois case, the district failed to convince the hearing officer that the proposed setting was “appropriate.”
This is a good reminder of a fundamental rule about the placement of students with disabilities. The placement recommended by the school must always be appropriate, meaning, that it must be capable of implementing the student’s IEP and enabling the student to make progress.
The case is In re: Student with a Disability, decided by the Illinois hearing officer on April 20, 2017. We found it at 70 IDELR 54.
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DAWG BONE: APPROPRIATE. IT ALWAYS HAS TO BE APPROPRIATE.