(CN) – The first federal judge to order New York City to pay for a disabled student’s private school tuition ruled Friday that a different student with distraction issues does not qualify for reimbursement.
In his 18-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe wrote that J.G., a 17-year-old student diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, did not require placement in the $56,650-a-year Landmark School, a private residential institution in Massachusetts.
Landmark has small classrooms with student-to-teacher ratios of 6-1, in a structured environment where officials schedule students’ work, sleep, eating, cleaning and leisure, the decision states.
By contrast, overcrowding has been a pervasive problem facing New York City schools, and New York City Schools Chancellor Cathie Black reportedly drew intense criticism in January for joking that it be combated through birth control.
J.G.’s psychologist said that he needed small classrooms to counteract his “high level of distractibility,” but a committee on special education said that J.G. was an “above average” student that performed well in public schools.
“J.G. was performing at or above his grade level, was taking the most challenging math and science courses, was performing satisfactorily and in some cases exceptionally well in his classes, and indeed was functioning independently in a number of his classes. J.G.’s scores on standardized tests also placed him in the average range or higher for his age group,” Gardephe wrote.
The Committee on Special Education ruled that J.G. was “non-handicapped,” Gardephe wrote.
On Feb. 1, Gardephe ordered the Department of Education to pay the $84,900-a-year private school tuition of disabled student “D.A.,” who was diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
In an interview with Courthouse News following that decision, D.A.’s attorneys said, “This is the first federal court decision to squarely decide this issue: whether or not parents and child can seek direct funding for a nonapproved private school when the district fails to offer an appropriate education, if the family does not have financial means to front the tuition.”
At the time, city lawyers said that might appeal the decision in favor of D.A.
When reached again for comment, a city spokesperson said its lawyers were “pleased” with the J.G. decision, but she said that the city was unable to elaborate before Presidents Day weekend.