Ninth Circuit holds school district violated the IDEA by unilaterally changing a student's IEP

December 12, 2017

 

In M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the school district violated the procedural requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the "IDEA," when it failed to make an accurate offer of services in a student's IEP and then unilaterally revised the student's IEP without notifying the student's mother.

 

In this case, the mother of a child rendered blind and developmentally delayed by Norris Disease, a genetic disorder, had filed a complaint before the Office of Administrative Hearings, "OAH," against the school district alleging that the school district had committed procedural and substantive violations of the IDEA and related California law. The child's mother was unaware of the change to her child's IEP until sometime during the OAH hearing. The administrative law judge who heard the case ruled in the school district's favor. The federal district court affirmed the lower court's decision.  

 

The Ninth Circuit found that "an IEP, like a contract, may not be changed unilaterally. It embodies a binding commitment and provides notice to both parties as to what services will be provided to the student during the period covered by the IEP. If the District discovered that the IEP did not reflect its understanding of the parties' agreement, it was required to notify [the child's mother] and seek her consent for any amendment." Or the District could reopen the IEP process and propose a different IEP. 

 

Because the District failed to do either of these two things, the District was bound to the IEP as it was written. 

 

In addition to the procedural violation described above, the Ninth Circuit also held that the student's IEP violated California law by failing to identify in the IEP the types of assistive technology it offered the student. And the District's failure to respond to the mother's complaint violated the IDEA. The case was remanded to determine whether the IEP conferred the student with meaningful benefit and accommodated his disabilities. 

 

 

Education Attorney--A special education law firm

Martha Millar

916-724-5211

educationattorney.info

 

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