CASE NO. 2023030528
SANTA ANA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT v. Student
Counsel for Student: Parent
Counsel for District: Jennifer Fant
Representative for District: Rae Rice and Diane Nicholas
ALJ: Charles Marson
Date of Decision: July 10, 2023
Significant areas of law: When to implement IEP without Parent’s consent?
- Did District deny Student a FAPE by failing to appropriately respond to the family’s request for a visual processing assessment?
FACTS OF THE CASE:
- Student was nine (09) years old and eligible for special education under the categories of emotional disturbance and other health impairment.
- District wants to remove Student from his special day class to an NPS by contending that Student cannot receive a FAPE in his current placement because District cannot adequately control his undesirable behaviors in its special day class.
- Parents agreed to nearly all of the IEP offer, but not to the change of placement by contending that Student is receiving a FAPE in his current special day class and that, while his conduct is sometimes difficult, he is succeeding academically and his behaviors are improving enough to allow him to remain there.
- District’s proposed amended IEP with placement at an NPS, offer Student a FAPE such that District may implement it without Parent’s Consent.
- District afforded Parents full participation in the process that produced the IEP offer.
- District provided an accurate statement of student’s needs based on appropriate assessments conducted by qualified assessors in the areas of academic achievement, health, intellectual development, language/speech communication development, motor development, social-emotional behavior, and adaptive behavior.
- The annual goals were all carefully drafted, and addressed all of Student’s areas of need. They reflected the findings of assessments. All of the annual goals had specific baselines reflecting Student’s present levels of academic and functional performance so that they were measurable. The goals in the offered IEP were needed and measurable. No additional goals were needed.
- The accommodations and modifications directly addressed the specific difficulties Student had in his education. Nothing in the record suggested that any additional accommodation or modification was needed. The accommodations and modifications were adequate, and no more were needed.
- The evidence showed that in creating and offering the disputed IEP, District afforded Parents all the procedural rights to which they were entitled. The offer was procedurally valid.
- Federal and state law require a school district to provide special education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to meet the child’s needs. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(5); 34 C.F.R. § 300.114(a)(2006); Ed. Code, § 56040.1.)
- Student’s current program is not his least restrictive environment because he cannot make satisfactory progress there and is disruptive to others.
- As evident from the consistent and detailed testimony of the District’s witnesses duly supported by extensive documentary evidence, Student is not benefiting academically from his current placement as his behavioral challenges prevented him from achieving academic success in the current program. Further, student’s behaviors greatly disrupt his teachers’ instruction and his peers’ opportunity to learn.
- Only Parents testified in favor of Student’s current placement. No professional appeared at hearing to support their position, and no reliable data supported it either.
- Substantial evidence showed that Student could obtain a FAPE by being placed at the NPS proposed by District as the NPS complies with state academic standards. It is focused on returning students to their districts when possible. The school has a point system that rewards or discourages various behaviors and places students on five levels of behavioral self-regulation. The school starts planning for a student’s return to the campus of origin when the student shows three months of level five behavior. Hence, it is both an appropriate choice and his least restrictive environment.
- District may implement the IEP without parental consent.