Play nice….

Our special education laws emphasize the importance of parental involvement.  One of the foundational pillars of the law is that the school will solicit and value parental input.  As far as legal protections are concerned, parents of students with disabilities occupy a favored position. They have a seat at the table when IEPs are developed and placements are decided.  That’s not so for other parents. Their children are entitled to a full and comprehensive evaluation of their educational needs. We don’t do that for other students.  They are entitled to more procedural protection than parents of non-disabled students—written notices, consent requirements, and an  elaborate system of dispute resolution involving hearing officers and courts.

With all of that procedural protection in place, it’s disappointing to read a case in which the court finds the parent guilty of abusing the process.  That’s what happened in J.D. v. East Side Union High School District.  One of the issues was the father’s complaint that the IEP Team never formally determined that his son was no longer eligible for special education services. Instead, the district sent a Prior Written Notice informing the parent of this decision.  Thus the parent was informed, but not in the way he thought he should be informed.

There might be merit to a complaint along those lines, particularly if the district made a decision like this outside of an IEP Team (ARD) meeting. So what the district did is unorthodox, but the court noted that there was a reason for it:

The record amply shows that an IEP team determination was not possible here, though, due to the actions of J.D.’s father.

The ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) found the father to be domineering in the meetings, repeatedly interrupting others and preventing them from presenting their reports.  He also repeatedly canceled meetings that were scheduled.   It’s not like the father didn’t have his day in court.  The ALJ conducted a six-day hearing and issued a 42-page decision in favor of the district on all issues.  Now the federal court has affirmed.  The case was decided by the federal court for the Northern District of California on January 26, 2021.  It’s on Special Ed Connection at 78 IDELR 35.


Tomorrow:  “appropriately ambitious”—what does that mean?