Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the case returned to federal district court in California to determine the appropriate amount of damages. At the end of last year, in somewhat of a surprising decision, that court denied the parents all reimbursement.
In any reimbursement case under IDEA the court has discretion to weigh the equities and determine whether reimbursement is justified. Here the court determined the parents:
• Failed to provide any notice to the school district of their intent to place TA in a private school,
• Failed to examine whether other placements would have been suitable, and
• Enrolled TA in a private treatment center primarily to address his drug abuse and behavioral problems. Especially persuasive to the court was the enrollment application, which failed to mention any education related need for the placement and instead focused on depression and drug abuse.
Finally, the court cited and examined the costs of the placement. It used, for example and not as a part of its decision, a formula which would show how much the district would have to pay if every student with ADHD received a similar setting. This is not a formula required in IDEA but the court stated it demonstrate the potential “potentially devastating real world implications” of decisions like this.
The unilateral placement provisions in IDEA will certainly be a topic of conversation when the law is reauthorized. CEC is closely monitoring this and other cases around the nation to determine how courts are interpreting IDEA’s provisions. TA’s parents have an opportunity to appeal this decision and thus the case may not be over yet. Check out CEC's Policy Insider for continuing updates.
Read more about the Supreme Court’s decision.