Let’s talk about transition plans….

I’ve always thought that every student’s transition plan should include a goal of developing self-advocacy skills.  This came to mind as I read a court case from Pennsylvania about a student taking classes at a university while still enrolled in the local high school.  We don’t see a lot of court cases about transition plans, so let’s see what we can learn from this one.    

What Happened?  The student had enough credits to graduate, but the IEP Team decided to hold off on that for one more year. During that year the student would participate in two non-academic college transition programs provided by the high school, while taking two college level classes at West Chester University.  The student passed both of those classes, but with grades of D and D-.  The school reported that the student made progress in the transition programs which targeted study skills and planning.  But the parent, citing those poor grades in the college classes, alleged a denial of FAPE.

What Did the Court Do?  The court ruled for the school.  The parents argued that the WCU grades indicated that the student had regressed. The court rejected this, noting that “there is no evidence suggesting that the grades [the student] received at WCU, a four-year university, are somehow comparable to the grades [the student] received in high school.” The court also noted that the student did not give consent for the staff at the high school’s transition program to communicate with the WCU professors.

What Can We Learn?   Notice that the WCU classes were not part of the student’s IEP, so the low grades were not the school’s business.  They were being taught by WCU instructors as part of the regular college level program.  The school district was only responsible for the non-academic programs designed to assist the student with transition to post-secondary life and the school was able to produce evidence of the student’s progress in those programs. 

It hurt the student’s cause that she did not give her consent for communication between the high school and the college. But that raises an issue: did the student’s transition plan include self-advocacy as a goal?  Did the transition plan help the student understand the importance of communication between the high school and the college?   These parents were not represented by a lawyer and I do not know if those questions were asked. Any good lawyer would have probed that issue.

This one is Moynihan v. West Chester Area School District, decided by the federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on March 18, 2022.  It’s published by Special Ed Connection at 80 IDELR 216.


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

Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!