Student’s Schooling Passes Muster, 9th Circuit Rules

     (CN) – A middle school student in Seattle’s suburbs was not denied a proper public education, the 9th Circuit ruled, citing the Supreme Court’s precedent-setting definition of a free and appropriate public education.

     The parents of a student in the Mercer Island School District sought and won $150,000 tuition reimbursement from the district to enroll their daughter in a private school in Massachusetts. The parents were also given $160,000 in attorney fees.
     They argued, among other things, that the school district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by not specifying the minutes of instruction to be devoted to each of the student’s services in her individualized education programs.
     The school district argued on appeal that the court erred in concluding that Congress sought to supersede the Supreme Court’s 1982 “seminal decision” that defined the scope of a free publication education in Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley.
     The IDEA, first drafted as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was amended in 1983, 1986 and again in 1990 to reflect the name change and other non-essential rewrites.
     In vacating and reversing the lower court’s orders, the Seattle-based circuit noted that in each of the Act’s revisions, never did Congress “alter the definition of a free appropriate public education.”
     “Had Congress sought to change the free appropriate public education ‘educational benefit’ standard – a standard that courts have followed vis-à-vis Rowley since 1982 – it would have expressed a clear intent to do so.”

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