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.
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