Forest Grove School District v. T.A. – News update : Remanded and reversed
On June 22, 2009, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Forest Grove School District v. T.A., a case about tuition reimbursement for a child who was never found eligible and never received special education services from the public school.
In their June 2009 decision, the Supreme Court remanded T.A.’s case back to the District Court with orders to reconsider the case in light of the factors set out in their decision.
On remand, the District Court held that T.A.’s parents were not entitled to reimbursement…
On remand, the District Court held that T.A.’s parents were not entitled to reimbursement because they placed their son in the private school “solely because of his drug abuse and behavioral problems.” To support its ruling, the District Court relied upon the parent’s answer to one question on an 18 page admissions document and ignored all evidence that T.A. suffered from ADHD and depression, and that his parents enrolled their son in the private program because of disability-related problems and non-disability related problems.
The parents appealed to the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. On April 27, 2011, in a split decision, the 9th Circuit upheld the District Court’s ruling. In a strong dissent, Judge Susan Graber faulted the majority on several grounds. Quoting directly from the 9th Circuit’s original decision, she noted that it was undisputed that T.A.’s parents placed him in the private program for reasons related to and unrelated to his disabilities. The District Court’s decision was not supported by the record.
“T.A.’s parents are to be commended, not punished, for seeking to treat all of T.A.’s special needs. They also should be commended, not punished, for responding honestly and accurately to the questions on the application form …”
“Everyone agrees that the School District denied T.A. a free appropriate public education; everyone agrees that T.A.’s placement at Mount Bachelor Academy was proper; and everyone agrees, as the district court found, that many equitable factors support reimbursement … Because the district court’s analysis of that factor is clearly incorrect, no equitable factors support the complete denial of reimbursement. T.A.’s parents are entitled to reimbursement. The majority’s sanctioning of the contrary result under the guise of deferential review is deeply disappointing.”
What next? We don’t know.
If there is more news about this case – if, for example, the 9th Circuit agrees to hear the case en banc – we will post updates on the Forest Grove page.