The “unwritten rule” strikes again…

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Today we revisit the “unwritten rule” in special education litigation.  Ruling in favor of Northwest ISD, the 5th Circuit offered this observation about the comparative reasonableness of the parties:

The record confirms that [the parents] rejected several remedial services offered by Northwest, including a dyslexia class, individualized tutoring, and further evaluations.  Additionally, [the parents] stymied Northwest’s efforts to correct deficiencies in P.P.’s initial IEPs by refusing to meet with the ARD Committee while the IEE was pending and refusing to adopt agreed-upon revisions in the proposed May 2017 IEP.

The lawyer for the parents argued that whenever the school district fails to fulfill one of the legal obligations under IDEA, the parent is always and automatically entitled to compensatory education.  Nope.  It doesn’t work that way.   This is not a legal game of “gotcha.”  The court cited a SCOTUS ruling that said “equitable considerations are relevant” in a situation like this.  “Equitable considerations” include a comparative analysis of the reasonableness of the parties as they worked together. IDEA assumes that parents and school staff will collaborate and work cooperatively toward the goal they hold in common: a good education for the student.  It’s this comparative analysis of reasonableness that I call “the unwritten rule.” 

This is a good illustration of how the “unwritten rule” works.  It is almost always a mistake for parents to turn down the district’s offer to do an evaluation or to hold an ARD. 

The case is P.P. v. Northwest ISD, decided by the 5th Circuit on December 14, 2020.  I’m pleased to let you know that Meredith Walker from the Irving office of the Walsh Gallegos firm handled this appeal on behalf of the district. 


Tomorrow: One more point about this case.