Parent revokes consent for special ed. Changes mind. Tries to “put him back in.”

The charter school in California required all students to participate in statewide testing, or the alternative test. However, students in special education could be exempted.  The student (soon to be known as “the plaintiff”) was in special education, and exempted from the standardized tests for several years. Then this happened:

April 1: Parent revoked consent for special education.

April 3: School acknowledges the revocation and reminds parent that student will now be responsible for participating in the testing.

April 5: Parent changes her mind, requests evaluation for special education services.

April 19: School sends parent the plan for initial evaluation.

April 23: Parent consents to special education evaluation.

Meanwhile the date for standardized testing came and went. The student did not take the test.  Since he was now a “general education” student, taking the test was a condition for his continued enrollment in the district. So the district informed the parent that the student was “disenrolled” and could not return to the school for the next year. 

The parent sued.  She thought that she could simply “put him back in” to special education just as easily as she had pulled him out. But it doesn’t work that way.  Key Quote:

Plaintiff’s request for assessment of J.T. for special education on April 5, 2019 did not “un-do” her April 1, 2019 revocation of consent.  It also did not reinstate J.T.’s status as a special education student.  It would be incongruous with these provisions of the IDEA to automatically impute legal knowledge of J.T.’s disability on the School after Plaintiff’s refusal of services but before a second assessment.

How would this have played out in a traditional public school?  It would play the same, but only up to a point.  The parent who revokes consent cannot simply “put him back in.” That part is true regardless of the nature of the school. But traditional public schools cannot “disenroll” a child because the child or parent failed to comply with a school policy.  That’s one of the ways that charter schools are different. 

I have a suspicion that Empire Springs Charter School was not too disappointed to see this parent leave.  The school handled it in a way that complies with the law, but there were other options.  You have to wonder if they would have taken this approach if the parent was highly valued by the school. 

The facts are spelled out in the district court’s decision at 78 IDELR 131.  The 9th Circuit affirmed with a short opinion which is published at 80 IDELR 94.  It’s Thomas v. Empire Springs Charter School.


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