Put Up or Shut Up, School Says

(CN) – After hundreds of lawsuits against public schools in which parents complained that schools did not prepare suitable individual plans for their kids, a school district has finally sued back. An Indiana school district claims it went more than the extra mile for the child, whose parents “failed to participate in the good faith interactive process” and “presented zero evidence” that they and their private allies had made their own program for the child.

     Mt. Vernon School Corp. sued the parents in Indianapolis Federal Court.
     The public school district claims it went above and beyond the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities in Education (IDEA) Act, even after the defendant M. family had declined its services, after originally participating in the school’s plan and agreeing with it.
     Under the IDEA, school must develop an individually tailored education plan (IEP) for parents who demand one.
     Public schools can be required to pay for the cost of carrying out a child’s IEP, which in the case of severely disabled children can come to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
     Mt. Vernon claims, among other things, that the defendant parents, who requested “private placement,” demanded, and received a due process hearing.
     “At the due process hearing, the defendants presented zero evidence of a program tailored to meet the individual needs of [the child] A.M.,” according to the complaint.
     Mt. Vernon says that the only witness who appeared at the hearing for the private placement service “indicated that:
     “a) she did not feel comfortable speaking about A.M.’s needs;
     “b) that [the private placement service] had not met A.M. or evaluated him;
     “c) that [the private placement service] did not have an IEP developed for A.M. and
     “d) that there was not behavior plan or transition plan developed.
     “This clearly does not meet defendants’ burden of demonstrating the appropriateness of a program individualized for A.M,” the complaint states.
     Nonetheless, the Independent Hearing Officer ruled for the parents, and ordered the private provider to “devise an IEP” for the child, to be implemented by the private provider.
     Mt. Vernon appeals that ruling to the Federal Court. It claims, among other things, that the hearing officer abused her discretion by not allowing the school to even “ask relevant questions of the defendants.”

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