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Free Appropriate Public Education 2018

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THIS CASEBOOK contains a selection of U. S. Court of Appeals decisions that analyze, interpret and apply provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

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The IDEA offers states partial federal funding for special education of children with qualifying disabilities. 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a). In exchange, states receiving IDEA funds commit to providing all of those disabled children within their jurisdiction "a free appropriate public education ('FAPE') in the least restrictive environment possible." Sebastian M. v. King Philip Reg'l Sch. Dist., 685 F.3d 79, 81 (1st Cir. 2012)(citing 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1), (5)). A FAPE must include both "specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability" and "such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services. . . as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education." 20 U.S.C. § 1401(9), (26), (29). "If a school system is unable to furnish a disabled child with a FAPE through a public school placement, it may be obliged to subsidize the child in a private program." D.B. ex rel. Elizabeth B. v. Esposito, 675 F.3d 26, 34 (1st Cir. 2012)(quotation marks and citation omitted).

"The primary vehicle for delivery of a FAPE" is an Individualized Education Program ("IEP"). Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "An IEP must be custom-tailored to suit a particular child," Sebastian M., 685 F.3d at 84(citation omitted), and must be "reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances," Endrew F. ex rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist. RE-1, ___ U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 988, 999 (2017). An IEP need not, however, offer the student "an optimal or an ideal level of educational benefit[.]" Lessard v. Wilton Lyndeborough Coop. Sch. Dist. (Lessard I), 518 F.3d 18, 23-24 (1st Cir. 2008)(citations omitted).

While the IDEA envisions a process in which parents, educators, specialists, and others collaborate to develop the IEP, it also contains dispute resolution mechanisms for parents who are dissatisfied with some element of the IEP. This includes both a formal mediation process, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e), and, separately, an "impartial due process hearing" held before a designated state or local education agency, id. § 1415(f).

Finally, parents may bring a civil action challenging the outcome of the due process hearing in either state or federal court. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(A); 603 Mass. Code Regs. 28.08(6).

Johnson v. Boston Public Schools, (1st Cir. 2018)

 

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