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Moving A Child Receiving Special Education Services From A Standard Classroom To A Segregated Classroom Can Violate The IDEA

In L.H., et al. v. Hamilton Cty. Dep’t of Educ., Nos. 17-5989, 18-5086, the federal appellate court found a disabled student’s removal from a general classroom to be a violation of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and that his parents were due reimbursement for his placement in a private school.

In the case, a student with Down Syndrome was receiving standard classroom instruction with the assistance of a para-professional and occasional one-on-one instruction. This approach to his education worked efficiently during his kindergarten and first-grade years, but stopped being productive when it came to his second-grade instruction. His school then suggested moving the student to a segregated classroom designed for students with learning disabilities but his parents protested. After another year with no progress in the standard classroom the school unilaterally placed the student in a segregated classroom despite the parents’ wishes. The parents removed the student from the school and placed him in a private school which allowed the student to receive instruction in a general classroom. The parents then sought reimbursement from the school for violating IDEA.

The federal appellate court agreed that the school violated IDEA. The court reasoned that the student was receiving some benefit in the standard classroom setting, even if it was not a noticeably large benefit. Therefore, the standard classroom acted as the least restrictive environment because a marginal benefit was derived.  Additionally, the court stated that the student did not need to master the academic curriculum as the student was progressing towards his IEP goals. Based on all of this, the court found that the standard classroom setting was working for the student and that placing him in a more restrictive classroom violated the IDEA.

This case demonstrates the dangers in making placement decisions without the consent of the entire Individualized Education Program team. The attorneys at McGown & Markling take a collaborative approach to special education disputes. Matt Markling, whose three sons all have unique and special needs, has developed unique insights that prove enormously helpful to our clients. Please contact one of our attorneys to discuss your special education issue.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling, Patrick Vrobel, and John Sulik.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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