The US District Court has issued a favorable decision in the case of Bryan M. v. Litchfield School District. The case overturned a hearing officer's decision and found that the school was required to continue to provide special education services to Bryan and reimburse his parents for the Independent Educational Evaluation they had obtained to support his entitlement to continued special education.
On the eligibility issue, the most important portion of the court’s decision is as follows:
“The Parents argue that the Hearing Officer erred in using the standard set forth in Rowley to determine whether Bryan continued to be eligible for special education services…The Parents argue that whether Bryan is performing “at an average level with complete access to the regular curriculum for his grade” is immaterial to the question of whether he remains eligible for special education. The Court agrees.
As the text of 34 C.F.R. § 300.26 shows, the intent of specially-designed instruction is to enable a child with a disability to gain access to the general curriculum and to meet the applicable educational standards. Therefore, a finding that a child is performing at an average level on the regular curriculum for his grade does no more than show that the intent of specially-designed instruction is being accomplished.”
On the independent evaluation issue, the court found that:
“The independent evaluator’s (Ms. Freeman) specification of additional areas of inquiry that should have been explored by the School District before it determined that Bryan no longer needed special education services is a legitimate way to demonstrate that the School District’s evaluations were not appropriate. Furthermore, the Hearing Officer did not find that the tests that the School District’s Speech Language Pathologist administered, which differed from those administered by Ms. Freeman, were adequate or appropriate for Bryan’s reevaluation considering Bryan’s previously found disability. Moreover, the Hearing Officer noted that Ms. Freeman found that Bryan scored significantly below average on subtests measuring auditory perceptual skills. Those findings appear to be relevant to the issue of whether Bryan continues to have a specific learning disability.” Therefore, Ms. Freeman’s evaluation supports a finding that the School District’s evaluation was incomplete and thereby inappropriate. The Court finds that the Hearing Officer’s decision on the reimbursement issue must be reversed.”