Reid v. District of Columbia 401 F.3d 516, 43 IDELR 32

October 28, 2011 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

Gwendolyn REID, as mother and next friend of Mathew Reid, a minor, Appellant

v.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, a Municipal Corporation, Appellee

No. 04-7051.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

Argued February 10, 2005.

Decided March 25, 2005.

1

When a school district deprives a disabled child of free appropriate public education in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a court fashioning “appropriate” relief, as the statute allows, may order compensatory education, i.e., replacement of educational services the child should have received in the first place. This commonsense proposition — conceded by the school district here and supported by the Supreme Court’s decision compelling reimbursement for such services in School Committee of the Town of Burlington, Massachusetts v. Department of Education of Massachusetts, 471 U.S. 359, 105 S.Ct. 1996, 85 L.Ed.2d 385 (1985) — led a hearing officer to award appellant, a sixteen-year-old with severe learning disabilities, 810 hours of compensatory education, one hour for each day in the four-and-a-half years during which the school system denied the student appropriate instruction. Pointing out that neither reasoning nor evidence supported this hour-per-day calculation and insisting that hour-per-hour relief was instead the child’s due, the child and his mother argue that the hearing officer abused his authority. They also challenge the officer’s decision to allow the child’s “individualized education program team” to reduce or discontinue compensatory services “on the decision of the IEP team that Minor no longer needs or is not benefitting from this compensatory education.” Because we agree that the hearing officer’s mechanical calculation merits no deference and that the IEP team delegation violates the statute, we reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the school district. We reject, however, appellants’ equally mechanical hour-per-hour calculation and instead adopt a qualitative standard: compensatory awards should aim to place disabled children in the same position they would have occupied but for the school district’s violations of IDEA. Read the rest of this entry →

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