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On August 13, 2001, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a U. S. District Court decision and ruled in favor of the child and parents in Amanda J. v. Clark County School District and Nevada Dept. of Education.

Pete says, "Amanda J. v. Clark County School District" is a well-written decision and a fascinating case. This case includes several unusual elements that attorneys can cite for different propositions. Attorneys and lay advocates should read this case carefully."

Unusual Elements

Two two years after moving to California, the family requested a due process hearing against Clark County School District in Nevada and the Nevada Department of Education.

Two months ago, the National Academy of Science issued a draft comprehensive report about autism and the use of Applied Behavioral Analysis or Lovaas therapy for children with autism. The decision references this report and includes the URL of the report is in a footnote.

The decision cites Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT). We have
subscribed to the FEAT newsletter for several years. We have met and heard
Lenny Shafer speak, developed friendships with several FEAT principals, and were delighted to see the recognition of FEAT.

Twistis & Turns

The parents prevailed before a Hearing Officer but were reversed by the Review Officer. When the parents appealed to the U. S. District Court, they lost again. When they appealed to the Ninth Circuit, the three-judge panel reversed the District Court and reinstated the decision by the Hearing Officer.

The parents prevailed on procedural issues. Clark County School District violated the parent's rights. The school psychologist did not inform the parents that their child had characteristics of autism. The school district failed to provide the parents with copies of their child's evaluations.

Credibility of Witnesses

The credibility of the mother v. the school psychologist were at issue - and the mother prevailed.

According to the court, the Hearing Officer did not believe the school psychologist but found that the mother to be a credible witness. The case focused on whom to believe when there is conflicting testimony.

The Court of Appeals identified the school psychologist Mark Kenney and speech pathologist Christy Zuckerman by name.

Were the psychologist and speech pathologist acting as gatekeepers? Were
their actions independent and on their accord? Were they acting at the behest of school administrators within the system?

In most cases, there is a story behind the story.


Links: Amanda J. Case; New Autism Page

"Ninth Circuit Issues Strong Decision in Amanda J. v. Clark County" by Pete Wright.

Decision in Amanda J. v. Clark County Sch. Dist. and Nevada Dept of
Education

NOTE: We added hyperlinks to other decisions cited and to relevant
portions of the IDEA statute in the decision.

News article from Las Vegas Review-Journal (08/14/01):

For information, articles and caselaw about autism, please visit our new
and growing Autism Page.


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