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Let me tell you about a complicated situation in Maine that nicely illustrates how some of the tools in The Toolbox work. Here’s the sequence of events:
- October 2019 IEP Team Meeting: The Team considered some seriously disruptive behavior by the student. But because the behavior was a manifestation of disability, the student was supposed to be kept in his current placement. However, Tool #2 allows the parties to agree to a change of placement under these circumstances. This is what happened here. Afterwards, the parents argued that they did not understand the process and should have been more directly informed of their right to disagree with the other members of the Team. The court rejected that, holding that the written notice in the Procedural Safeguards document was all that the law required. So the agreed-to change of placement went into effect.
- December 2019: After another incident, the director of special education ordered that the student be served at the school’s central office, rather than in a classroom at the middle school. The parents objected. The school did it anyway. That’s not one of the tools! Even if the school felt that a move to an interim setting was called for it should have had the IEP Team determine what the interim setting would be.
- January 2020 IEP Team Meeting: At parent request, the Team agreed to move the student back to the middle school as of January 30th. However, the principal, special ed director and superintendent all disagreed with this decision and on January 29th filed for an expedited appeal to override the Team’s decision due to safety concerns. This is the proper use of Tool #4 which is designed for cases like this, when top administrators disagree with the decision of the IEP Team due to safety concerns.
- While that appeal was pending the school refused to implement the IEP Team’s placement decision. Instead, the school continued to serve the student at the central office. The court held that this was improper. It was proper for the school to serve the student in an IAES (Interim Alternative Educational Setting) while the appeal was pending, but that setting cannot be determined by an administrator. It must be determined by the IEP Team.
This case shows the limits on the unilateral power that school administrators have. They can seek an expedited hearing to override the IEP Team (ARD) but they cannot dictate placement. That’s a job for the ARD Committee.
If you sign up for one of our firm’s Toolbox Trainings you will learn more about the ten “tools” that are available to help you serve students appropriately, while maintaining safety.
The case is K..C. v. Regional School Unit 73, decided by the federal court in Maine on July 14, 2022. It’s cited in Special Educator at 81 IDELR 93.
DAWG BONE: THE TOOLBOX OFFERS TEN TOOLS.
Got a question or comment for the Dawg? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow: Title IX case from Aggieland.