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Gulag School Case at US Supreme Court

Written by Alex Koroknay-Palicz Jan 28, 2009

So I’m doing some research on Redding v. Safford (more on that later) and I see the US Supreme Court granted certiorari to another case on the same day as Redding. It looked to be about special education and who gets the bill for it. Somewhat dry stuff from a youth rights perspective, so I was about to move on when I noticed something from the LA Times description:

An Oregon case the justices agreed to take up will decide a dispute over special education.

Federal law says schools must provide a “free appropriate public education” to students with a disability. This can include paying tuition at a private school, but it is unclear whether parents first must try a public program before they can claim reimbursement for the cost of a private school.

Last year, the 9th Circuit said the Forest Grove School District must pay the $5,200 monthly cost of a private program for a child with attention deficit disorder. The court will hear the appeal in April.

The ‘disability’ the student had was ADD. That seemed like an odd disability to require a special private school. I probed deeper.

The facts of the case, Forest Grove School District v. T. A. :

In the case at hand, unidentified Oregon parents decided to withdraw their son from the Forest Grove School District because they felt the student was not receiving adequate education and services.

During his freshman year of high school, the boy was referred for an evaluation to determine whether he had a learning disability that qualified him for services under IDEA. The team of specialists unanimously concluded that student, known in filings as T.A., did not have a learning disability and therefore was ineligible for special education. T.A.’s mother, who attended the meeting, agreed with that determination. No one ever followed up on either the reference to “[p]ossible 504” in the psychologist’s report or the references
to “suspected ADHD” in the School District’s staff meeting notes.

At some point during the next year, T.A. began using marijuana. Eventually, his use became regular, and he exhibited noticeable personality changes. T.A. ran away from home. The police brought him back a few days later. T.A.’s parents took him to a psychologist and, eventually, to a hospital emergency room.

Dr. Fulop, a psychologist hired by T.A.’s parents, met with T.A. a number of times in early 2003. Dr. Fulop held several lengthy sessions immediately after T.A. ran away from home, and he eventually diagnosed T.A. with ADHD, depression, math disorder, and cannabis abuse. Dr. Fulop recommended a residential program.

His parents enrolled him in Mount Bachelor Academy, a residential private school that describes itself as “designed for children who may have academic, behavioral, emotional, or motivational problems.” His parents requested a hearing to require the school district to evaluate T.A. in all areas of suspected disability. A multi-disciplinary team of school officials acknowledged T.A.’s learning difficulties, his diagnosis of ADHD, and his depression, but a majority found that T.A. did not qualify under the IDEA in the areas of learning disability, ADHD, or depression, because those diagnoses did not have a severe effect on T.A.’s educational performance.

Many red flags went up after reading this, so I looked into Mount Bachelor Academy. Sure enough, the Fornits crowd have their eye on the program. It sounds like one of the behavior modification programs we all know and love (i.e. hate).

After some brief searching I have yet to find any information about the case on Fornits, CAFETY, CAICA, or ISAC. So either I’m wrong in assuming Mount Bachelor Academy or the advocate community just hasn’t been alerted yet. Well I’m happy for NYRA to break the news!

I just let CAFETY know, they/we are mobilized on it. I e-mailed Bazelon. I need to spread the word to everyone else as well. The more help the better.

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