Some basics about special ed law from the 4th Circuit…

The short opinion from the 4th Circuit caught my attention because of the way the court laid out in plain language some of the basics of IDEA. Examples:

ON CHILD FIND: But the child find obligation does not require schools to provide an IEP to any student whose parent believes their child is entitled to one.

ON ELIGIBILITY: The IDEA does not cover every student who is struggling in school; rather, its protections are limited to a student who has a qualifying disability and who, for that reason, “needs special education and related services.”

ON EDUCATIONAL NEED: But a student does not “need” such services if the student is already getting what would qualify as a free appropriate public education without them.

ON INDEPENDENT EVALUATIONS: The IDEA does not require school districts to defer to the opinions of private evaluations procured by a parent. To the contrary, the IDEA instructs school districts to rely on diverse tools and information sources in making an eligibility determination.

ON MISSED DEADLINES: This Court has held, however, that a bare procedural violation of the IDEA does not warrant a remedy unless a plaintiff shows the violation resulted in the student being denied a free appropriate public education.

It’s Miller v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools BOE, decided by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on April 6, 2023. It’s published at 64 F.4th 569.


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