That “unwritten rule” again….

Special education is governed by many words.  Words in statutes. Words in regulations. Words in court cases.  But underneath all of that writing is an unwritten rule:   Everyone involved is expected to act reasonably.   When the parent violates that unwritten rule, the court just might overlook some errors made by the school district. Such is the case of Sanchez v. District of Columbia.

The court held that any denial of “meaningful participation” was harmless. This was based on the mother’s failure to cooperate as the school proposed to move the student from one private school to another.  Key Quote:

…DCPS actively worked to involve Sanchez in its decisionmaking process…..Sanchez declined to participate in these efforts, despite DCPS’s concern that [the current private school] was not serving Z.B.’s needs.  In the spring of 2017 DCPS repeatedly tried to meet with Sanchez to discuss a possible transfer. Yet Sanchez offered only an unreasonably small window of availability and rejected many proposed meeting times, including some that fell within her preferred timeframe.

Mom’s case was further undercut by the fact that the father got actively involved and approved of the transfer. The courts are always assessing the comparative reasonableness of the parties. Because of the mother’s unreasonableness, the court overlooked what might otherwise be considered serious procedural errors.

Of course the best practice is to avoid making procedural errors in the first place. But if you do err, the “unwritten rule” might come to your rescue. This one went all the way to the D.C. Circuit Court and was decided on May 14, 2020. We found it at 76 IDELR 175.


Tomorrow: Zooming!