Court Orders Reimbursement of Special Needs Educational Costs
Attorney Hillary Freeman Successfully Demonstrates How School District Violated Federal Laws
In the latest victory for Attorney Hillary Freeman, a U.S. District judge ruled that a school district discriminated against a special needs student by not providing a free appropriate public education under Section 504 and IDEIA.
On multiple occasions, the parents asked the school district to reevaluate their daughter and revise her Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) to include a specific methodology that outside counselors determined would best suit her learning needs. The school district failed to do so, leaving the parents with no choice but to enroll their daughter in private education programs.
The court’s ruling also compels the school district to reimburse the parents more than $450,000 for costs they incurred when the school district did not adequately address her educational needs.
Federal law provides that all special needs students have access to a free appropriate public education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 all provide specific protections for individuals with special needs.
District Court Rules in Favor of Special Needs Family
Attorney Freeman successfully demonstrated to the court how the school district had failed this family. The U.S. District Court in Nevada granted the motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record on Oct. 12, 2021.
Specifically, U.S. District Judge Richard F. Boulware, II found the following:
- The school district violated the IDEA both substantively and procedurally.
- The IEP teams did not properly consider outside evaluations of the child.
- The school district did not provide the parents with any information about district programs that could adequately address their child’s needs.
- The child required a methodology (like Orton-Gillingham) that is research-based, systemic, cumulative, and rigorously implemented. The district had no such program.
- The school district’s failure resulted in the denial of FAPE.
- The school district violated Section 504 and Title II of the ADA because not providing Orton-Gillingham or an equivalent methodology was unreasonable and kept her from meaningful access to public school education.
The judge ruled the following are to be reimbursed:
- Private school tuition
- Summer school tuition
- Transportation and other travel
- Counseling services
- Speech and other therapy
- Teacher counseling and training
- Educational tests and assessments
The sum to be reimbursed equals $456,990.60.
The district court became the jurisdiction for the matter after a March 2017 decision by the State Review Officer (SRO) was appealed. That decision was in favor of the school district, which had appealed a 2016 decision by an Independent Hearing Officer (IHO) who had sided with the parents.
The last ruling by the district court upheld what the IHO had determined: The school district failed to provide adequate Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) for the child and that the parents were entitled to certain reimbursements.
Advocating for a Child’s Rights
Freeman Law Offices, LLC focuses on representing the legal rights of children and adults with special needs. There are federal and state laws that are meant to secure an appropriate education for every child. Unfortunately, educational institutions sometimes fall short of that goal. That’s where we come in.
In this case, the child was born with a build-up of fluid on the brain, a condition called hydrocephalus, which caused multiple learning disabilities. At the age of 5, she was first evaluated by a multidisciplinary team with the Clark County (NV) School District. They determined that she should be withdrawn from district programming and instead attend a self-contained program at an Early Childhood Special Education Center.
Seven years after her initial evaluation, her parents asked school district personnel to reevaluate their daughter. The child had been evaluated by an outside agency, and their findings would be helpful in revising the IEP plan. While the 2014 IEP stated that instruction should be a “multisensory approach to teaching,” the parents found the plan inadequate because it did not specifically outline the methodology and how their child would be taught throughout the day.
They placed their daughter at a private school they believed provided more appropriate, specific care.
Another IEP was developed in 2016. Neither the 2014 nor 2016 IEP identified a specific methodology or program or structured curriculum format that teachers were obligated to utilize in meeting her unique needs.
A leading point of contention is whether the IEP team was required to include the Orton-Gillingham methodology in her plan. The parents believed so while the district argued otherwise.
Orton–Gillingham is a structured literacy approach that breaks reading and spelling down into smaller skills. The method connects letters and sounds and then builds on these skills over time. Instructors use sight, hearing, touch, and movement to help students connect language with letters and words.
The parents offered to pay for teachers to be instructed in the method. The school district declined their offer.
Like so many others throughout the U.S., these parents simply want what is best for their child and what she is entitled to receive. Special education laws require school districts to provide appropriate services for children to reach their individual potential. It is a privilege for us to represent families who demand accountability.
View full decision here.
Compassionate and Aggressive Legal Counsel
Our special needs attorneys care deeply about families. We want to help them navigate confusing and complex laws covering educational needs and adult services. Our firm also has extensive experience with guardianship, higher education, and estate planning.
Find out more by scheduling an initial consultation with us. Submit our online form or call (609) 454-5609.