Toolbox Tuesday!! What about grades in an alternative school?

A recent decision from the 2nd Circuit sheds light on how courts will view educational progress for students served in an alternative setting, such as a DAEP.  This is a good topic for Toolbox Tuesday, which is when we highlight the Toolbox—a full day training program regarding disciplinary options in dealing with students with disabilities.

The case involved a student who sailed through school until 10th grade, when some serious emotional issues surfaced.  Long story short: the district and the parents agreed that the boy needed special education services and would do well at STRIVE—Success Through Responsibility Initiative Vision Education. This is an alternative program the Connecticut district offered. From the description of it in the court’s opinion STRIVE sounds a lot like our DAEPs, except that it is designed to serve only students with disabilities. In Toolbox terminology, then, the parties used Tool #2—a change of placement to a more restrictive environment done with parental agreement.

All went well at STRIVE. The boy made good grades, passed the statewide tests and graduated.  But when the parents sought financial support for post-graduation services, they argued that STRIVE was an inadequate program that denied the student FAPE.  In response, the school produced the record of the student’s 3.0 GPA and the reports from his teachers, attesting to his solid progress at STRIVE.  The parents argued that grades at STRIVE were not the same as grades earned at the regular high school.   Here’s what the court said about that:

While STRIVE is an alternative high school, not a regular education environment, STRIVE’s curriculum is aligned with that of the regular education at West Hartford high schools in terms of content.

A teacher supported that by testifying that they used the same instructional materials as the regular high school and the student’s reading level was “right on grade level.”

Good grades in the general, unmodified curriculum produce good evidence of FAPE. That’s so whether it’s the “regular” school or an alternative.  This is the kind of thing we talk about in the Toolbox training. If interested in the Toolbox, give me a buzz!

The case is Mr. P. and Mrs. P. v. West Hartford Board of Education. Decided by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on March 23, 2018.  We found it at 2018 WL 1439719 and 885 F.3d 735.


Tomorrow: Oops!! A mistake on the ARD paperwork.  What could go wrong?