The student regressed…. but received FAPE. How can that be?
“There’s no question [the student] had regressed rather than progressed by the end of third grade. This doesn’t mean, however, that she wasn’t afforded a free and appropriate public education.” That’s how the federal court in Arkansas summarized the situation. To understand this decision you have to take into account the COVID shutdown in March, 2020. The court noted that the pivot to remote instruction “didn’t come easily for [the student].” The court noted that all parents were given a choice as to how instruction would be provided. These parents chose hard-copy work packets, which the district provided. The court also took note of the district’s efforts under difficult circumstances:
The District was flexible; [the student’s] teachers were willing to make changes if things weren’t working. Her teachers testified that they regularly contacted [the student’s] parents in telephone calls, text messages, and emails, but seldom received any response. Ms. Blauser (the District dyslexia coordinator and special education supervisor) even went so far as to visit the home one evening after the District hadn’t heard from the parents in about two weeks.
The record doesn’t show a District that was ignoring a student’s needs….The District put forth a significant effort to enable [the student] to make appropriate progress in light of her circumstances.”
Based on that analysis, the court reversed a hearing officer’s decision and concluded that the district did provide FAPE to the student. Therefore, the parents were not entitled to reimbursement for private school tuition or any other relief. The court cited teacher testimony and test scores showing progress.
Does this case tell us that as long as we are trying hard, the courts will grade our work well? No. But some evidence of progress, along with lots of evidence of a consistent and focused effort goes a long way toward explaining why a student suffered educationally due to the COVID shutdown.
It’s Beebe School District v. Does J.H. and R.H., decided by the federal court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on March 30, 2022. It’s published in The Special Educator at 80 IDELR 289.
DAWG BONE: EFFORT AND FLEXIBILITY COUNT.
Got a question or comment for the Dawg? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow: progress reports…