District Has Discretion in Special Education Program So Long As Students’ Individual Needs are Met

Author: Michael Tucker, Attorney at Law

Summary:

On July 19, 2017, a California Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found for the Rialto Unified School District (District) in that the program offered by the District provided FAPE despite failing to identify a specify dyslexia methodology or program.  (Rialto Unified School District, 2017, 70 IDELR 267.)  The ALJ found that the student’s dyslexia diagnosis and needs were being satisfied through services identified to address other identified goals.

Facts:

Student was a 17-year old diagnosed with dyslexia, SLD, ADHD and a mood disorder.  Based on this information, the District placed Student in a special day class with two periods spent in general education classes.  No goal was specifically designed to address Student’s dyslexia.  Instead, the District implemented goals for reading comprehension and written expression, which according to the District, were “designed to work on Student’s deficits caused by the dyslexia.”

Despite this, the Student’s parents filed for due process based on the District’s failure to include a specific program or methodology specifically addressing Student’s dyslexia.

Discussion:

The ALJ ruled consistent with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which held that “it is not necessary for a school district to specify a methodology for each student with an IEP if specificity is not necessary to enable the student to receive an appropriate education.”

The ALJ found that the Student made sufficient academic progress on the goals implemented by the District.  Moreover, the ALJ found that as long as the student’s individualized needs are met, the specific program or methodology offered is secondary to the Student’s progress.

Therefore, Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) should remain focused on programs, services, and methodologies that offer the greatest opportunity for student progress based on the student’s needs.  LEAs should offer evidence of a student’s progress to a parent if the parent is concerned about the LEA’s specific program.  Showing such progress may help the LEA avoid a due process filing in the event of a dispute regarding a specific program.

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