Judge sides with family in Palo Alto special education case

Jul 16, 2014 by

A federal judge has sided with a Palo Alto family in an interim ruling that orders the Palo Alto Unified School District to provide in-home education for a 12-year-old boy with severe autism.

The parents of the boy, “S.C.” sued the school district in March, alleging that Palo Alto Unified violated U.S. law when it refused to offer in-home education to the student after the family moved to Palo Alto in early 2013. The district instead proposed a “comparable” educational program for the boy, but on a school campus.

Prior to moving to Palo Alto, the child had received in-home education in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. The parents have maintained he should have access to the same kind of program in Palo Alto.

At issue in the ruling is the “stay put” provision of the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which – pending resolution of any dispute between parents and a district over a child’s placement — requires districts to maintain a disabled student’s educational program from the previous district.

The family initially appealed the district’s offer of an in-school program to the California Office of Administrative Hearing, which sided with the school district in a decision issued Dec. 31, 2013.

The family is seeking judicial review of that decision in the current federal lawsuit, in which U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd last month issued the preliminary injunction ordering the district to provide in-home services pending resolution of the family’s dispute with Palo Alto Unified.

The judge accepted the family’s argument that the “stay put” provision means the district must replicate the services the child received in Pajaro Valley, including that the services be provided in his home and not in a school classroom.

He rejected the district’s contention that the district is required only to provide services that are “comparable,” not identical, to the student’s prior Individualized Educational Program.

According to the lawsuit, the student “lacks the ability to communicate verbally and has a history of severe allergic reactions to food” and also has difficulty with fine and visual motor skills and sensory processing behavior.

View the ruling here.

Judge sides with family in Palo Alto special education case | News | Palo Alto Online |.

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