Federal Judge Saris Affirms that Dracut Denied FAPE to Asperger’s Student – Precedent Setting Case in Massachusetts

The long-awaited decision on the appeal of the Dracut case has just come down.  The following is from an email I received this morning from Massachusetts Advocates for Children:

Judge Patti Saris, US District Court, MA, has just decided the LEA’s appeal of two transition decisions in favor of a special education student with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Both administrative decisions, along with the federal Judge’s Memorandum and Order, appear on the Massachusetts Disability Law Center’s website, http://www.dlc-ma.org

The Judge affirmed the Hearing Officer’s finding that Dracut Public Schools (“Dracut”) had denied the student FAPE.  It had not performed timely assessments, as IDEA requires, inevitably leading to a failure to provide appropriate, measurable goals related to the student’s needs.  Of particular interest was the Judge’s observation that the student’s pragmatic language deficits were key to his postsecondary academic, social and vocational success and her characterization of Dracut’s failure to address those deficits as “egregious.”

The Judge did not affirm several of the Hearing Officer’s proposed remedies, however.  The HO had extended the student’s special education eligibility, for example, while simultaneously directing that he receive his diploma.  The Hearing Officer also ordered the LEA to hire and compensate two of the testifying experts to collaborate on creating and implementing a Transition Service Plan.  The Judge ruled that this exceeded the HO’s equitable authority and further remanded the matter for additional consideration of the necessary compensatory services.

Please visit my web site for more information about the Law Office of James M. Baron: http://www.lawbaron.com.

2 responses

  1. I would love to know more about this case. Especially the level of functioning of the child and his social skill set. I’ve had some very good success with aspergers students the past few years. It often comes down to teaching social skill in a black and white sort of way. Now I have run into problems with administrators and even parents in supporting the need for therapy with higher functioning asperger kids. Looking at straight language testing the kids usually look pretty good even on the test of problem solving. However, it is their manner of performance that needs to be judged and documented. These kids usually pass MCAS with pretty decent scores so no reason to look any further in the schools eyes.
    Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

    1. If you would like to get more information about this Dracut case, you can find the BSEA hearing officer’s original opinion here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/bsea/decisions/08-5330.doc. To find today’s ruling from the US District Court, go to this URL: http://www.dlc-ma.org/Dracut/Memorandum%20and%20Order.pdf.

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