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STUDENT v. SAN DIEGUITO UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT

CASE NO. 2022020209

STUDENT v. SAN DIEGUITO UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT

Counsel for Student: Matthew Storey, Jennifer Holzman and Marymichelle Lotano

Counsel for School District: Sarah Sutherland and Whitney Antrim

Representative for School: Tiffany Hazelwood

ALJ: Christine Arden

Date of Decision: August 04, 2022

ISSUES:

  • Did school deny FAPE to student by predetermining placement at an NPS?

FACTS OF THE CASE:

  • Student had anxiety since the age of three, received services for her communication delays and was diagnosed with ADHD and epilepsy.
  • Student’s triennial assessment showed that she needed a calm and small atmosphere to learn. Hence, an appropriate NPS was recommended by IEP team and parents consented to it.
  • After some time her case manager was changed even though all the other members of IEP team remained same.
  • After showing progress on her IEP goals, parents consented for her placement in a larger NPS. In all the IEP meetings none of the team members suggested that student needed a placement in an NPS having a therapeutic setting.
  • Her case manager told the IEP meeting that he has decided that student needs placement in an NPS having a therapeutic setting and she should be supported by a school psychologist, rather than a school counselor. Even though he was the least familiar person with student’s history as compared to all other IEP team members.
  • Her case manager asked parents to give consent to an NPS where students were regularly rowdy and loud, hence, the said NPS was not suitable for her. All the members of IEP as well as parents disagreed with this proposal.

CONCLUSION:-

  • School DENIED FAPE to student by predetermining placement at an NPS and by impeding parent’s participation in IEP formulation process.

Rationale:-

– A school district’s predetermination of an IEP seriously infringes on parental participation in the IEP process, which constitutes a procedural denial of a FAPE.

– Predetermination occurs when an educational agency has made its determination prior to the IEP meeting, including when it presents one placement option at the meeting and is unwilling to consider other alternatives.  

– Student’s case manager neither discussed the case with her private therapist, or any other member of IEP team about her behavioral and social emotional needs nor responded to parent’s concerns. Rather he made all the decisions on his own and completely disregarded opinions of other members of IEP as well as parents who were more aware of the student’s history.

– The NPS suggested by her case manager was not appropriate for her as it admitted students with severe behavioral problems. Hence, the atmosphere was loud, rowdy and negative which would have resulted in triggering her anxiety. Further, she did not need as restricted environment as offered by the said NPS.

– Her case manager was required to have an open discussion with the other IEP team members regarding the appropriate nonpublic school placement to meet Student’s needs. His refusal to do so evinced a predetermined, unchangeable offer.

REMEDIES/ORDER:-

  • – In this case Parent’s unilateral placement of Student at the NPS was appropriate and reasonable.
  • – Parents must provide proof to school that they have incurred expenses on tuition fee and transportation of student to NPS of their choice and school shall reimburse the said expenses.
  • – School shall not be required to reimburse mandatory registration fees or interest charges paid by parents at NPS of their choice.

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