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STUDENT v. LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

CASE NO. 2022030687 & 2022040604

STUDENT v. LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

Counsel for Student: Allison Hertog

Counsel for School District: Lauri Arrowsmith

Representative for School: Genetha Hicks-Cleveland and Juan Tojoya

ALJ: Tara Doss

Date of Decision: August 27, 2022

ISSUES:

  • Did school deny student a FAPE by failing to offer required technology and internet access for distance learning?
  • Did school deny student a FAPE by failing to invite parents to IEP meetings and failing to adequately explain parent’s rights and IEP offer at each IEP meeting?
  • Did school deny student a FAPE by failing to implement during student’s distance learning his operative IEP, specifically specialized academic instruction, behavior services and supports, and counseling ?
  • Did school deny student a FAPE by failing to offer appropriate academic services and instruction as well as appropriate behavior services and supports for in-person learning during a school year?
  • Did school deny student a FAPE by failing to identify student as eligible for special education under the category of specific learning disability?
  • Did school deny student a FAPE by failing to adequately explain parent’s rights and IEP offer at each IEP team meeting and its intent to offer placement at an NPS?
  • Did school deny student a FAPE by failing to implement his operative IEP, specifically specialized academic instruction, behavior services and supports, and counseling in a specific school year?
  • Did school offer Student a FAPE in the least restrictive environment such that it may implement the IEP without Parent’s consent?

FACTS OF THE CASE:

  • School shifted to distance learning due to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Student had trouble attending classes throughout the distance learning as parent was doing full time job and student was overly active with a short attention span, gave up easily, and had poor concentration.
  • Parent was invited for IEP only one business day before the IEP meeting and meeting was conducted in absence of parent without any such permission from their side.
  • Being unable to attend the IEP meeting, parent was neither aware of IEP goals nor could give their input in this regard.
  • Student struggled with his performance after returning to in-person learning as well.

CONCLUSION:-

  • School DID NOT deny student a FAPE by failing to offer required technology and internet access for distance learning.

Rationale:-

– School provided iPads, textbooks, paper worksheets, and other school supplies to all of its students, including Student.

– School staff communicated with parents, delivered distance learning instruction, and post class assignments and even dropped iPad and worksheets at Parent’s workplace when parents informed about having technical issues.

– Due to continued technical issues, school provided a Chromebook laptop, a hotspot to connect to the internet, and paper materials to Student so that he could participate in distance learning.

  • School DENIED student a FAPE by failing to invite parents to IEP meetings and failing to adequately explain IEP offer to parents at each IEP meeting.

Rationale:-

– School staff called to invite Parent to an IEP team meeting one business day before the date of IEP meeting which was not enough period as school knew that parent worked full-time and would need time to arrange time off from work.

– Parent indicated intent to attend the meeting but did not give school permission to hold the IEP team meeting without parental participation.

– The meeting was conducted without parent’s participation. Hence, neither parent had knowledge of IEP offered nor could ask questions or propose amendments in this regard.

– Developing an IEP without parental participation and then presenting the IEP document to Parent for ratification does not constitute meaningful participation.

  • School DENIED student a FAPE by failing to implement during student’s distance learning his operative IEP, specifically specialized academic instruction, behavior services and supports, and counseling.

Rationale:-

– School neither offered nor attempted to provide behavior services through the distance learning model. Student did not have the support of a BII or BID during synchronous or asynchronous instruction.  Further no IEP meeting was conducted to discuss these.

– Student’s social-emotional levels of performance in latest IEP indicated he had a high frustration level, was overly active with a short attention span, gave up easily, and had poor concentration. Hence, he was eligible to receive special education due to attention challenges.

– Student’s attendance remained inconsistent throughout distance learning as he needed adult support throughout the process.

– Parent was often working during school hours and was not trained on how to effectively implement the strategies in Student’s behavior intervention plan. Further, school, not parent, was liable to implement his IEP.

  • School DID NOT deny student a FAPE by failing to offer appropriate academic services and instruction. However, it DENIED student FAPE by failing to provide appropriate behavior services and supports for in-person learning during a school year?

Rationale:-

– School did not have updated academic performance information in latest IEP meeting because Student did not consistently attend the virtual classroom sessions or turn in assigned work during distance learning. Hence, previous goals were repeated after adding one new goal.

– Student’s special education teacher was qualified and experienced in his field and his class consisted of students having various special education eligibilities, including other health impairment like Student.

– Student did not present any evidence that proved school offered inappropriate academic instruction and services.

– School failed to offer BII and BID services during in-person learning which impacted student’s ability to access the curriculum. Further, school did not convene and IEP meeting within due time.

  • School DID NOT deny student a FAPE by failing to identify student as eligible for special education under the category of specific learning disability.

Rationale:-

– School psychologist, was qualified and experienced and conducted a comprehensive assessment of Student to determine whether he met eligibility criteria for specific learning disability and other health impairment.

– assessment reports concluded that Student’s attention deficits and impulsive behaviors adversely affected his educational performance, and he met the eligibility criteria for other health impairment, due to characteristics associated with ADHD.

– IDEA does not require school districts to identify students as eligible for special education under multiple categories or based on each of their disabling conditions rather once a child with a disability is eligible for special education under any category, special education is to be offered to meet his/her unique needs and related services to assist him/her in benefiting from special education. School took all the right measures.

  • School DID NOT deny student a FAPE by failing to adequately explain parent’s rights and IEP offer at each IEP team meeting and its intent to offer placement at an NPS.

Rationale:-

– School gave Parent a notice of its “Parent’s Guide to Special Education Services including Procedural Rights and Safeguards”.  

– in each IEP meeting, team discussed Student’s academic, social emotional, and behavioral needs as well as appropriateness of Student’s placement and the services Student required to access the curriculum.

– Parent asked questions, made requests, and expressed disagreement when appropriate and IEP team amended student’s IEP goals according to his performance and feedback of parents.

– As Student’s BII and BID could not successfully redirect his behaviors which had become increasingly dangerous for Student and for others, IEP team members duly explained why an NPS would be better for him.

  • School DENIED student a FAPE by failing to implement his operative IEP, specifically specialized academic instruction, behavior services and supports, and counseling in a specific school year?

Rationale:-

– Student was shifted to an NPS in his neighborhood. However, as school year progressed, Student’s elopement, aggressive, and noncompliant behaviors escalated as he did not receive academic instruction during these times.

– after failing at different behavioral intervention strategies, school placed the student in a different NPS where student no longer received specialized academic instruction within the special day class setting pursuant to the IEP meeting.

– Student required specialized academic instruction to access the general education curriculum and receive educational benefit. However, school neither provided any BII or BID nor counseling services to Student during a certain period.

  • School NEITHER offered appropriate academic and behavior services and supports IEP NOR offered Student a FAPE in the least restrictive environment such that it may implement the IEP without Parent’s consent?

Rationale:-

– There was no evidence that NPS recommended by school could offer Student appropriate academic instruction or could appropriately address Student’s behavioral needs.

– There was no direct relationship between Student’s IEP behavior and goals and the behavior services offered by school.

– Preponderance of the evidence did not show Student inflicted serious bodily injury upon another person at school, so as to justify removing Student to an interim alternative placement without conducting a manifestation determination.

– Changing Student’s placement was setting Student up to fall even further behind academically. Additionally, independent study isolated Student and removed Student’s opportunity to interact with peers.

– School did not did not provide Parent with prior written notice in a reasonable time before proposing to change Student’s placement from one NPS to another.

REMEDIES/ORDER:-

Student is entitled to a remedy for the denials of FAPE. Hence, is awarded following:-

  • School must convene an IEP team meeting with all required IEP team members to offer Student placement in a special day class on a public-school campus as close to Student’s residence as possible.
  • School must consider offering transportation if the NPS is not Student’s area of residence.
  • Student must have a full-time BII and a BID who is a board-certified behavior analyst assigned on the first day of school.
  • Within 30 calendar days of the date of Order, school must begin reintegrating Student into school consistent with his expert’s reintegration plan.
  • School must fund 20 hours of compensatory BID services to be used within the first six weeks of Student attending school.
  • Within 15 days calendar days of Student being fully reintegrated onto a public-school campus, school must present Parent with an assessment plan to conduct a functional behavior assessment and a comprehensive psychoeducational assessment.
  • Within 45 calendar days of the date of Order, school must contract with a nonpublic agency to fund 450 hours of one-to-one academic instruction and 23 hours of counseling services.

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