On September 1, 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in a case before it concerning a bright, emotionally troubled student who had attempted to kill himself on at least three occasions. In addition to being diagnosed with ADHD, he had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. While in elementary school, the boy had been suspended many times for disruptive behavior such as throwing rocks and calling teachers and students names. Over the years, the school district had provided him with many services including mental health counseling, one-to-one paraeducator assistance, educational therapy, and instructional accommodations.
His mother repeatedly requested that the school district provide him with an IEP. Without an IEP, his mother worried that he was not guaranteed the special services he had been receiving. The school district repeatedly refused his mother's requests.
The District court had found that although the boy was disabled as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), he was not entitled to an IEP because of his satisfactory educational performance in his general education classes.
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit, considered the boy’s school records, which show that many of the special services the district court viewed as general education services were in fact special education supports tailored to the boy’s unique needs, and these services were not offered to the general education students. For this reason, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision, and concluded that the boy had exhibited his need for special education services under the IDEA.
Martha Millar Law
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