Judge: This makes no sense to me, but it’s the law…

Consider this portion of a decision in federal court:

Although [the school district’s] position comports with common sense and is favored by this judge, it contravenes [the law’s] implementing regulations and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.

Any guesses as to which law the judge refers to?  If you said IDEA—congratulations! 

The context was a bright student on the autism spectrum and the issue was whether the district had adequately evaluated him for special education eligibility.  The court found fault with the belief of some school staff that the student could not possibly be eligible under IDEA due to his strong academic performance.  Key Quotes:

LCSD officials mistakenly assume that children with disabilities who perform well academically do not require special education.

The judge did not say that the boy was eligible, but only that it was a legal error to consider it out of the question just based on strong academic performance. The student was recognized as an honors student, was recommended for Gifted and Talented, and scored high on standardized tests.  However, he had difficulty getting along with others and navigating social situations. 

Like many non-educators, the judge believed it was only “common sense” that a kid like that would not need special education services. But being a good judge, Hizzoner noted that the law does not always comport with common sense or the judge’s personal views. Therefore, the judge ruled that further evaluation was called for.

The case of Lawrence County School District of Lawrence County, Arkansas v. McDaniel, was decided by the federal court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on March 30, 2018.  We found it at 72 IDELR 8.


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