A California federal court in the Eastern District issued its decision yesterday in Panama-Buena Vista Union School District v. A.V. The school district had challenged a decision by a lower court, the Office of Administrative Hearings. The lower court had held that the school district had violated the Individuals with Disabilities Act, commonly called the "IDEA", by failing to assess A.V. in a timely manner to determine whether he was eligible for special education and related services. Under both the IDEA and relevant California law, local education agencies, including school districts, are required to identify, locate and evaluate children with disabilities up to the age of 21.
A.V.'s parent had enrolled him in the school district over the summer, and both before and after his transfer, A.V. misbehaved in school. The administrative law judge had found that the school district should have assessed him and found him eligible for special education and related services during the time period beginning the first day of school on August 28, 2014 until a month later.
In rejecting the lower court's ruling, the federal district judge pointed out that the Ninth Circuit, which encompasses California and other nearby states, has yet to articulate a bright-line standard as to how much time is reasonable before a school district must assess a student to determine whether the child is eligible for an IEP. The federal judge made several points to support his decision: 1) OAH's finding deprived the school district of the right to implement general education interventions on its own; 2) Forcing a school district to make a decision to assess a student immediately would result in a "rush to judgement" as to whether A.V. needed to be assessed; 3) The school district did not receive A.V.'s school records and had not had time to review them at the time school started in August 2014.
The federal district court concluded that the thirty-day period the the school district had taken to decide whether to assess A.V. until they provided an assessment plan to A.V.'s parent was not unreasonable. Adams ESQ did not report this case nor did the Leigh Law Group.
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