Evans v. Rhinebeck: Roadmap
factors make a special education program appropriate? Inappropriate?
The decision in Evans
v. Rhinebeck provides a roadmap to FAPE.
the Law Library are several
decisions that are adverse to parents. Examples are the Second Circuit's
decision in Walczak
v. Florida Free
Union and the Eleventh Circuit's decision in Weiss
v. Hillsborough. We wrote lengthy discussions of both cases
in The Special Ed Advocate.
Several people wrote to ask "Why?"
from Adverse Decisions
Adverse decisions teach valuable lessons.
the Second Circuit concluded that the public school was providing
the child with an appropriate program. After analyzing the child's
academic progress, the court concluded that the child benefited
from the public school program. If the public school provides an
appropriate program, parents are not entitled to be reimbursed for
a private program.
v. Rhinebeck, the
child's parent asked the court to order reimbursement for her son's
education at the Kildonan
School. (Kildonan specializes in educating children with
severe language learning disabilities like dyslexia.)
judge concluded that the public school program was NOT appropriate.
What factors led him to conclude that the Rhinebeck program was
not appropriate for Frank?
Makes a Program Appropriate?
determine if a school district has provided an appropriate education
(FAPE), hearing officers and judges must analyze two issues:
Procedural requirements - Did the district comply
with the procedural requirements and provisions in developing the
Substantive requirements - Is the district's IEP "reasonably
calculated to confer educational benefit?"
you read the decision in Walczak,
you learned that parents are not entitled to the best
education for their children. Parents are not entitled to
an education that "maximizes" their children's potential.
children are entitled to an education that is "sufficient
to confer some educational benefit upon the handicapped child .
. . (including) specialized instruction and related services which
are individually designed to provide educational benefit to the
handicapped child." (Rowley,
458 U.S. at 200-01.)
NOTE FROM WRIGHTSLAW: Rowley was the first special education
case heard by the U. S. Supreme Court. The Rowley
decision is available in Wrightslaw:
Special Education Law.
v. Rhinebeck, the judge found that the District violated
several important procedural requirements of IDEA.
The district did not convene a due process hearing within 45 days
of the parent's request.
The district did not have an IEP ready to implement at the beginning
of the school year.
The district did not include accurate information about Frank's
present levels of functioning, nor did they include objective strategies
to evaluate progress in his IEP.
The district did not prepare a written report about how they determined
that Frank had a learning disability.
Issues: Educational Benefit
his decision, the judge cited testimony by several "experts
on dyslexia" about whether Frank received educational benefit
from the public school program.
to each one, the program currently proposed by the district to educate
Frank is not reasonably calculated to provide him with educational
benefit, and in fact may harm him."
judge also cited testimony by the Rhinebeck's special education
teacher. Although the special education teacher provided "intensive
one-on-one instruction eight times a week," and modified Frank's
homework and class work, his performance declined.
The judge noted that "Frank failed every major academic subject
of his seventh grade year."
Benefit and Test Scores
In his decision, Judge Parker included Frank's scores on educational
These test scores provided objective evidence that Frank did not
make progress in the public school program - that he did not receive
is how Judge Parker analyzed Frank's situation:
testimony and documentary evidence tell a compelling story of a
very intelligent, but emotionally vulnerable, child who is at great
risk of dropping out of school, despite a demonstrated capacity
to succeed academically, socially and emotionally in an appropriate
expert testimony establishes that, the nature of Frank's dyslexia
in conjunction with his emotional problems, is such that he needs
an intensive program of individualized, integrated, multi-sensory,
sequential training with students of similar needs. The IEP proposed
for Frank is not such a program, and therefore cannot meet his needs."
the compelling decision in Evans