Court Decisions & Federal Guidance Letters

During 2015, court decisions included:

  1. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of the parent on 10/30/15 in Phyllene v. Huntsville City (Al) BOE concerning comprehensive evaluations. The BOE failed to evaluate for a suspected hearing impairment. Because it failed to get the necessary medical information, FAPE was denied to the student. The IEP lacked the necessary elements that should have been provided to the child. This is especially important for preschool children who are often not evaluated in all areas of suspected disability.
  2. The N.J. Appellate Court ruled that no extra state aid for preschool expansion was coming to 15 poor, mostly rural school districts. It held that cuts to New Jersey’s School Funding Reform Act determined how much state aid each school district received. The cuts blocked plans to these cash-strapped schools to provide high quality preschool programs.

During July of 2015, the Department of Education issued policy guidance letters to schools throughout America. These included:

  1. Behavior focused treatment for autistic children should not take precedence over other therapies that may be needed. This is particularly meaningful for the arguments over ABA versus Floortime and sensory integration.
  2. Schools and other public agencies should avoid short-circuiting the parent’s ability to complain directly to the state about a special education dispute. Some schools file due process against parents who file these state complaints.
  3. Students who are learning English and are suspected of having a disability should be evaluated for special education in “the appropriate language based on the student’s needs and language skills.”