A.S. v. New York City Department Of Education
Oral arguments were heard last week at the Second Circuit in the matter of the appeal of A.S. v. New York City Department of Education. The appeal concerned a number of issues including: (1) parental involvement in the placement process and a parent's right to be notified about a proposed school placement; (2) the issue of methodology and who should determine what methodology a child will receive; and (3) the role of deference to the SRO, especially where the SRO has reversed a thorough, well-reasoned decision by an IHO.
In this case, the Department of Education (DOE) provided notice to the parents regarding one school placement and then defended a different school placement at the impartial hearing. The IHO ultimately ruled in favor of the parents after determining that the DOE had not met its burden of proving that the child would have progressed as a result of the program and placement that the DOE had recommended. (It appears that the DOE's placement would have employed a TEACCH methodology, whose effectiveness for this child was not supported by the record.)
Oral arguments for this case were lengthy, at least compared to other cases that were heard that morning. The case of R.E. v. New York City Department of Education, a recent decision from the Second Circuit, played a prominent role in the discussions. The parties argued about issues of transparency in the special education process, a parent's reliance interest with respect to a recommended placement, the extent to which the individual acting as district representative at a child's IEP meeting must be familiar with "alternate resources" (other than public school programs) that can meet a child's needs, the issue of educational methodology and the role of a 1:1 paraprofessional, and the burden of proof in IDEA cases.
It is noteworthy that when asked why the Court should defer to the SRO rather than the IHO, the attorney for the school district did not have an answer.