By Michael Tucker, Attorney at Law
On August 7, 2018, a U.S. District Court in Colorado ruled that a student who quickly recovered lost skills due to a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) denial by a school district removed the need for compensatory education. (Smith v. Cheyenne Mountain School District, (2018) 72 IDELR 173).
Student was initially prevented from enrolling in a local charter school by the defendant school district based on the charter school’s interpretation of a state law regarding student educational choice. After being permitted to re-enroll, Parents claimed that the two-month denial of FAPE required compensatory education to replace any lost educational progress that was missed during the Student’s two-month absence.
Student returned to the educational environment showing a loss of skills. However, test results and teacher testimony during a due process hearing revealed that Student recovered those lost skills in a matter of days.
The Court ruled that the purpose of compensatory education “is to make up for progress the student lost as a result of the district’s IDEA violation.” Based on the Student’s quick return to his previous skill level, the Court denied the request for compensatory education. The Court’s ruling is currently being appealed by Parents.
A common issue faced by local educational agencies (LEAs) while educating students with disabilities is how to address prolonged absences and skills regression. One option to address potential deficiencies is to provide or offer compensatory education.
Taking note of a student’s abilities, either through a formal evaluation or observation, when a student returns from an absence and comparing those skills to the student after a few days may assist the LEA in determining what, if any, additional services should be provided. Based on that information, teachers and staff could focus their efforts to return the student to his/her previous performance standards without the need for formalized compensatory education.