CASE NO. 2023030998
CENTRAL UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT v. Student
Counsel for Student: Parent
Counsel for District: Dee Anna Hassanpour and Anisha Asher and Lucy Nadzharyan
Representative for District: Julie Shafer
ALJ: Cararea Lucier
Date of Decision: June 22, 2023
Significant areas of law: Procedural IDEA violation that results in denial of FAPE.
- May District implement Student’s annual IEP without parental consent?
FACTS OF THE CASE:
- Student was 16 years old and qualified for special education and related services under the eligibility categories of traumatic brain injury and visual impairment.
- During pandemic, Parent provided District with a letter from Student’s pediatrician, stating that Student should not attend school in-person as Student was especially vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. At the IEP meeting, District agreed to place Student on Home Hospital Instruction for the 2021-2022 school year.
- District sent Parent a prior written notice letter proposing to provide Student in-person instruction on a comprehensive high school campus after the Thanksgiving break and hoped to obtain Parent’s input via an IEP team meeting, and to discuss annual goals and placement. Parent sent several hostile replies in an insulting tone.
- Parent continued to request Home Hospital Instruction. District staff was concerned about the length of the request because Home Hospital Instruction generally was temporary, averaging two months. Student had been on Home Hospital Instruction for two and a half years, receiving just one hour per day of educational service. District continued trying to schedule an IEP team meeting to discuss Parent’s request throughout the winter break.
- During Student’s 11th grade year, District convened Student’s annual IEP. The procedural and substantive appropriateness of the annual IEP is at issue in this due process matter.
- District MAY NOT implement Student’s annual IEP without parental consent.
- District did not include all required IEP team members at the IEP team meeting as it failed to include a general education teacher at these meetings. The team attempted to excuse the general education teacher from the meetings. As the general education teacher did not provide input about the development of the IEP, in writing, to Parent prior to the IEP team meetings, the general education teacher was not lawfully excused. This failure on part of District was not harmless, rather it impeded Student’s right to a FAPE during the general education portion of her school day as student had significant, pervasive disabilities. Hence, appropriately including her in general education classes required thoughtful planning and input from a general education teacher. District’s failure to include a general education teacher also significantly impeded Parent’s opportunity to participate in the decision-making process about how Student could be accommodated and served in general education.
- District denied Student a FAPE by convening the IEP team meeting without Parent on, because it denied Parent the ability to participate in the IEP team decision about Student’s placement. District had spent many months trying to convene Student’s IEP. As challenging as the circumstances were for District, a school district may not prioritize the schedules of its staff as a reason to convene an IEP team meeting without a parent. (Doug C., supra, 720 F.3d 1038.)
- District did not include accurate, current, present levels of performance in the IEPs. The evidence suggests that District had not conducted a comprehensive assessment of Student after she returned to the district during the 2019-2020 school year. Additionally, Parent allowed District very limited access to Student. This lack of knowledge impeded District from including current and accurate present levels of performance in the IEP at issue. The IEP failed to include current and accurate information about Student’s communication and gross and fine motor functioning, and only limited information about student’s visual impairment needs.
- The annual IEP did not include appropriate annual goals in all areas of need as District could not develop speech goals and annual goals related to fine and gross motor skills for Student because of lack of access to Student.
- District did not predetermine Student’s special education and related services prior to IEP team meetings. However, District’s error in making two offers of placement in the IEP document particularly impacted Student and Parent’s rights because Parent did not attend the IEP team meeting and would have relied on the IEP document to understand the placement offer.
- District failed to offer Student appropriate services in all areas of need to address her speech, language, and communication skills. District could not determine an appropriate amount of speech services for Student because staff had limited knowledge of Student’s communication needs. Although Parent limited District’s ability to access Student for orthopedic impairment services due to a personality conflict, District still had the legal obligation to offer Student appropriate services.
- District failed to include an emergency conditions provision describing the instruction and services Student would receive in the event of an emergency lasting more than 10 school days. The IEP team overlooked this procedural requirement when developing the IEP document which impeded Parent’s ability to participate in the decision-making process
- District failed to comply with the procedural requirements in developing Student’s transition goals and services as the IEP team did not interview Student for the transition planning process, use age-appropriate assessments to develop the Individual Transition Plan, or solicit her input during the IEP team meeting. Student’s voice was absent from the post-secondary transition planning process, violating both the letter and intent of the law. District did not demonstrate that it took any steps to comply with this important aspect of the IDEA.
- District failed to offer Student a FAPE. Hence, it may not implement the IEP without Parent’s consent.