I once heard a first year law student make that observation and it struck me as a brilliant insight. Law school classes in this country are conducted in English. But words don’t mean what they normally mean. Law students are studying a foreign language.
The word “transition” offers a good example. We all know what that word means. But in the IDEA it has a more specific meaning, and the disconnect between dictionary and legal definitions sometimes creates confusion. In a case from Hawaii the student had been attending a private school at public expense, and the plan was for the student to “transition” from the private school to the public school. The parent alleged that the district violated the law by not incorporating a “transition plan” into the IEP. The court noted that the IEP did provide for services to help the student make the move back to public school, but more fundamentally, “IDEA does not require an IEP to address transition services.”
The parent was using the dictionary definition of “transition,” while the court, appropriately, applied the definition in IDEA. IDEA requires transition plans for the transition from secondary school to whatever comes next. It does not require a transition plan for moves from a private to a public school, from an elementary to a middle school, or for any other “transition.”
One other issue in this case is worthy of note. The court noted that the “stay put” rule, as applied in this case, “cost Defendants—and by proxy, U.S. taxpayers--$231,186.80 for school year 2020-21 alone.”
Yikes. It’s E.W. v. DOE State of Hawaii, decided by the federal court for the State of Hawaii on March 29, 2023, and located at 83 IDELR 14.
DAWG BONE: AS WE LEARNED IN THE PRINCESS BRIDE, “I DO NOT THINK THAT WORD MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS.”
Got a question or comment for the Dawg? Let me hear from you at email@example.com.