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Briefing From “Special Education Law” Nikki Murdick Barbara Gartin Terry Crabtree Oliver BROWN et al., Appellants, V. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA, Shawnee County, Kansas, et al. United States Supreme Court347 U.S. 438, 98 L.Ed. 873, 74 S.Ct. 686 Argued December 8—li, 1952 Reargued December 7—9, 1953 Decided May 17, 1954 Facts: This case was a consolidated appeal of tour separate groups of plaintiffs in Kansas, South Carolina. Virginia, and Delaware. The Court summarized why the four cases were treated together, "In each of the cases, minors of the Negro race, through their legal representatives, seek the aid of the Courts in obtaining admission to the public schools of their community on a non-segregated basis.” The plaintiffs alleged that such segregation denied them their right of equal protection of the laws under the fourteenth Amendment. The Courts below each relied on the holding in Plessy V. Ferguson. 163 U.S. 537, 41 I..Ed. 256, 16 S.Ct. 1138 for the proposition that „equality of treatment is accorded when the races are provided substantially equal facilities, even though those facilities be separate.” The plaintiffs argued that segregated public schools could not be made „equal, thus depriving them of their equal protection rights. Issue: The Court summarized the major issue as follows: "Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other 'tangible' factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?“ Holding: „The Court rejected the „separate but equal‟ doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson. In doing so, the Court held that in the field of public education. „separate but equal‟ has no place. Rationale: The Court‟s holding was based on the history of the post—Civil War amendments affecting slavery and racial segregation. The Court also looked to modern theories of psychology, accepting the idea that segregation, especially among school-age children, fostered lifelong feelings of inferiority. Further, the Court used its holding in Sweat V. Painter 339 U.S. 629. 94 LEd. 1117. 70 S.Ct. 8-48 to support the no-tion that qualities that are incapable of objective measurement, such as the ability to engage in discussions and exchange views with other students, made the “separate but equal doctrine inadequate for assuring equal educational opportunities for children. Effects: The effects of the Brown decision are far-reaching in the areas of Constitutional law, education, civil rights, and race relations, The specific holding only addressed the constitutionality of the segregated education systems of four school districts, but the decision effectively began the slow process of desegregating schools across the nation. While the Court specifically overruled Plessy v. Ferguson in only the public education context, the Brown decision was an important catalyst in the Court‟s later decisions affecting all facets of American society. Discussion Questions 1. Prior to Brown v. Board of Education, segregation was the way things are done.” As a result of the Court‟s ruling, what changes occurred in your state in a. elementary and secondary public school? b. vocational education? c. higher education? d. teacher-training programs? e. the provision of education to persons with disabilities? 2. How did the decision in Brown v. Board of Education support each of the following: a. the deinstitutionalization movement? b. the advocacy movement? c. civil rights activism? d. governmental involvement in education? Public Law 105—17: Title and Findings 105th Congress An Act to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to reauthorize and make improvements to that Act, and for other purposes Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States America in Congress assembled Section 1. This Act may be cited as the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments Short Title of 1997”. Title I—Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Sec. 101. Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Parts A through D of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.) are amended to read as follows: Part A—General Provisions Sec. 601. Short Title; Table of Contents; Findings; Purposes (a) SHORT TITLE—This Act may be cited as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (h) TABLE OF CONTENTS—The table of contents for this Act is as follows: (c) FINDINGS—The Congress finds the following: (1) Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. (2) Before the date of the enactment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (Public Law 94- 142)— (A) the special educational needs of children with disabilities were not being fully met; (B) more than one—half of the children with disabilities in the United States did not receive appropriate educational services that would enable such children to have full equality of opportunity; (C) 1,000000 of the children with disabilities in the United States were ex-cluded entirely from the public school system and did not go through the educational process with their peers; (D) there were many children with disabilities throughout the United States participating in regular school programs whose disabilities pre-vented such children from having a successful educational experience because their disabilities were undetected; and (E) because of the lack of adec1uate services within the public school system, families were often forced to find services outside the public school system, often at great distance from their residence and at their own expense. (3) Since the enactment and implementation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, this Act has been successful in ensuring children with disabilities and the families of such children access to a free appropriate public education and in improving educational results for children with disabilities. (4) However, the implementation of this Act has been impeded by low ex-pectations, and an insufficient focus on applying replicable research on proven methods of teaching and learning for children with disabilities. (5) Over 20 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by— (6) (A) having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access in the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible; (B) strengthening the role of parents and ensuring that families of such children have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at school and at home; (C) coordinating this Act with other local, educational service agency, State, and Federal school improvement efforts in order to ensure that such children benefit from such efforts and that special education can become a service for such children rather than a place where they are sent; (I)) providing appropriate special education and related services and aids and supports in the regular classroom to such children, whenever appropriate; (F) supporting high-quality, intensive professional development for all personnel who work with such children in order to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to enable them— (i) to meet developmental goals and, to) the maximum extent pos-sible, those challenging expectations that have been esta-blished for all children; and (ii) to be prepared to lead productive, independent, adult lives, to the maximum extent possible; (F) providing incentives for whole-school approaches and pre-referral intervention to reduce the need to label children as disabled in order to address their learning needs; and (G) focusing resources on teaching and learning while reducing paper- work and requirements that do not assist in improving educational results. (6) While States, local educational agencies, and educational service agencies are responsible for providing an education for all children with disabilities, it is in the national interest that the Federal Government have a role in assisting State and local efforts to educate children with disabilities in order to improve results for such children and to ensure equal protection of the law. (7) (A) The Federal Government must be responsive to the growing needs of an increasingly more diverse society. A more equitable allocation of resources is essential for the Federal Government to meet its responsibility to provide an equal educational opportunity for all individuals. (B) America‟s racial profile is rapidly changing. Between 1980 and 1990, the rate of increase in the population for white Americans was 6 percent, while the rate of increase for racial and ethnic minorities was much higher: 53 percent for Hispanics, 13.2 percent for African Americans, and 107.8 percent for Asians. (C) By the year 2000, this Nation will have 276,000,000 people, nearly one of every three of whom will he either African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, or American Indian. (D) Taken together as a group, minority children are comprising an ever larger percentage of public school students. Large-city school popu-lations are overwhelmingly minority, for example: for fall 1993, the figure for Miami was 84 percent; Chicago. 89 percent; Philadelphia, 78 percent; Baltimore, 84 percent; Houston, 88 percent: and Los Angeles, 88 percent. (E)Recruitment efforts within special education must focus on bringing larger numbers of minorities into the profession in order to) provide appropriate practitioner knowledge, role models, and sufficient manpower to address the clearly changing demography of special education. (F) The limited English proficient population is the fastest growing in our Nation, and the growth is occurring in many parts of our Nation. In the Nation‟s 2 largest school districts, limited English proficient stu-dents make up almost half of all students initially entering school at the kindergarten level. Studies have documented apparent discrepancies in the levels of referral and placement of limited English profi-cient children in special education. The Department of Education has found that services provided to) limited English proficient students often do not respond primarily to the pupil‟s academic needs. These trends pose special challenges for special education in the referral, assessment, and services for our Nation‟s students from non-English language backgrounds. (8) (A) Greater efforts are needed to prevent the intensification of problems connected with mislabeling and high drop- out rates among minority children with disabilities. (B)More minority children continue to be served in special education than would be expected from the percentage of minority students in the general school population. (C) Poor African-American children are 2.3 times more likely to) he iden-tified by their teacher as having mental retardation than their white counterpart. (D) Although African-Americans represent 16 percent of elementary and secondary enrollments, they constitute 21 percent of total enrollments in special education. (E) The drop-out rate is 68 percent higher for minorities than for whites, (F) More than 50 percent of minority students in large cities drop out of school. (9) (A) The opportunity for full participation in awards for grants and contracts; board of organizations receiving funds under the Act; and peer review panels; and training of professionals in the area of special education by minority individuals, organizations, and historically black colleges and universities is essential if we are to obtain greater success in the education of minority children with disabilities. (B) In 1993, of the 915,000 college and university professors. 4.9 percent were African-American and 2.4 percent were Hispanic. Of the 2,940,000 teachers, pre—kindergarten through high school, 6.8 percent were African-American and 4.1 percent were 1 Hispanic. (C) Students from minority groups comprised more than 50 percent of K—12 public school enrollment in seven States yet minority enrollment in teacher training programs is less than 15 percent in all but six States. (D) As the number of African—American and Hispanic students in special education increases, the number of minority teachers a ml related service personnel produced in our colleges and universities continues to decrease. (E) Ten years ago, 12 percent of the United States teaching force in public elementary and secondary schools were members of a minority group. Minorities comprised 21 percent of the national population at that time and were clearly underrepresented then among employed teachers. Today, the elementary and secondary teaching force is 13 percent minority, while one-third of the students in public schools are minority children. (G) While African-American students constitute 28 percent of total enroll-ment in special education, only 11.2 percent of individuals enrolled in pre-service training programs for special education are African-American (H) In 1986—87, of the degrees conferred in education at the BA.. MA., and Ph.D. levels. only 6. 8, and 8 percent, respectively, were awarded to African-American or Hispanic students. (10) Minorities and underserved persons are socially disadvantaged because of the lack of opportunities in training and educational programs, undergirded by the practices in the private sector that impeded their full participation in the mainstream of society. (d) PURPOSES—The purposes of this title are— (1) (A) to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living; (B) to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected; and (C) to assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities; (2) to assist States in the implementation of a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency system of early intervention ser-vices for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families; (3) to ensure that educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with disabilities by supporting systemic-change activities; coordinated research and personnel preparation; (2000-dinated technical assistance, dissemination, and support; and technology development and media services; and (4) to assess, and ensure the effectiveness of, efforts to educate children with disabilities. Discussion Questions 1. The 1997 Amendments to IDEA list 10 findings leading to the enactment of the legislation. Which finding do you believe is the most important, and why? 2. How did the 1997 Amendments to IDEA ensure that each of its four purposes would be met? Briefing Ridgewood Board of Education v. N.E. 172 F.3d 238 (3rd Cir. 1999) Facts ME. is a 17-year-old high school student whose learning disabilities qualify him as a child with disabilities” under the IDEA, 20 U.S.C. ~} 140() et seq. ME. experienced learning difficulties in both the first and second grades, attended summer school on his teachers recommendation without any appreciable success, and was transferred at his parents‟ request ) another school in the district where his difficulties continued, During the third grade, ME. was evaluated by an independent learning disabilities teacher consultant and determined to be learning disabled with intelligence at the 95th percentile and reading skills at the 2I~(I percentile. The school district agreed with the general assessment but refused to classify ME. as learning disabled because it concluded that he was not “perceptually impaired” within the meaning of New Jersey law (pages 158-160). In the sixth grade M.E. was reevaluated by the Child Study Team who main-tained that ME. showed no signs of perceptual deficits, again refused to classify him as perceptually impaired, and determined that he was not eligible for special education. ME‟s academic difficulties continued throughout the remainder of elementary school. In the seventh grade after an evaluation by an independent child study team, the school district agreed to classify M.E. as perceptually impaired and developed an Individualized Education Program (IEP). At the end of the eighth grade, the school district decided that ME, should no longer be placed in regular classes. For the 1996—97 school year, it proposed an IEP that provided for resource center instruction in all academic classes two daily periods of supplementary instruction, and speech language therapy once a week. ME. „s parents disagreed with the IEP stating it provided fewer services than the proven inadequate IEP of the previous year. In 1996, ME‟s parents requested a due process hearing before the New jersey Department of Education contending the school district‟s proposed IEP for 1996— 97 failed to provide a “free appropriate public education” within the meaning of IDEA and requesting that ME. be placed in private school at the school district‟s expense. The school district refused. The parents placed ME. at a private school that specialized in educating students with learning disabilities. The school district also refused the parental request to pay for the private school‟s summer program. M.E. attended the summer school program at his parents‟ expense and made steady and considerable progress. The Administrative Law judge (AU) held that the district‟s 1996-97 IEP failed to provide ME. with a free appropriate public education. The AU then ordered the school district to pay ME. „s tuition at the private school and reimburse the parents for the tuition costs of attending the private school‟s summer program in 1996. In 1997, the school district filed a complaint in federal court under 20 U.S.C. ~ 1415(i)(2)(1998), and ME. brought a counterclaim seeking compensatory education. and the non-tuition costs of attending the private school. He also filed a third-party complaint against various school district administrators and child study team mem-bers alleging violations of IDEA, The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, New jersey state law, and the U.S. Constitution. He requested compensatory and punitive damages under Section 1983. In 1998, the District Court reversed the ALJ‟s decision that the school district had not provided ME. a free appropriate education and reversed the decision that the school district pay M.E‟s tuition at the private school. The District Court also granted the school district summary judgment on M.E. „s third-party complaint seeking com-pensatory and punitive damages because M.E. had not been denied an education. The District Court‟s decision was appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. M.E. remained at the private school at the school district‟s expense pursuant to an agreement between his parents and the school. After oral argument the Circuit Court ordered the school district to comply with the District Court‟s order, enjoining the implementation of its earlier order, and to pay ME.„s tuition, and residential and transportation costs at the private school. Issue: Provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education Holding: The District Court held that an IEP need only provide „more than a trivial educational benefit” in order to he appropriate, equating this minimal amount of benefit with a “meaningful educational benefit.” The standard set forth in the applicable case law requires “significant learning” and meaningful benefit. The provision of more than a trivial educational benefit” did not meet these standards. The Circuit Court also found that the District Court failed to give adequate consideration to ME‟s intellectual potential in its conclusion that the school district‟s IEP was appropriate. The District Court did not analyze the type and amount of learning of which ME. was capable. The judgment of the District Court was vacated and remanded. Issue: Placement at Landmark, a Private School Holding: The District Court‟s holding that the school district was not required to pay ME.„,s tuition at the private school for the 1996—97 school year because his IEP had provided him with a free appropriate public education was remanded for reconsideration. Issue: Compensatory Education Holding: The District Court erred when it dismissed ME. „s claim for compensatory education for the years 1988—1996 on a finding that his 1996—97 IEP was appropriate. Issue: Costs and Fees at the Administrative Hearing Holding: The decision to vacate the District Court‟s reversal required that the denial of fees and costs be vacated and remanded. Issue: Third-Party Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Holding:The order of the District Court granting summary judgment was affirmed. In order to prevail on a Section 1985 suit brought against defendants in their official capacity, the plaintiff must establish that the deprivation of his rights was the result of an official policy or custom. The District Court held that M.E. provided no evidence that third-party defendants acted in such a manner. Indeed, the evidence presented indicated that the school district had failed to fulfill its responsibilities, not ignore them. Issue: IDEA Claims Holding: The grant of summary judgment on ME‟s IDEA claims was vacated, since it appeared that the District Court examined only the 1996-97 school year. Issue: Section 504 Claims Holding: The District Court‟s grant of summary judgment on ME‟s 504 claims was vacated and remanded since there was a genuine issue of fact concerning the school district‟s failure to satisfy its 504 responsibility Issue: Section 1983 and 1985 Conspiracy Claim Holding: The Circuit Court agreed with the District Court‟s grant of summary judgment on ME‟s 1985 claim because it found no evidence that suggested the alleged violation of ME‟s rights was motivated by racial or “otherwise class- based” animus. Issue: Qualified Immunity Holding: „The Circuit Court vacated and remanded the District Court‟s holding so that it could be reconsidered in light of WB. v. Matula (1995). Issue: State Law Claims Holding: The District Court dismissed M.E. „s state law claims alleging violations of the New jersey law against discrimination and the New Jersey constitutions guarantee of a thorough and efficient education because the third-party defendants had qualified immunity. Question For each of the identified issues, explain how the Circuit Court may have decided its holding. Base your answer on relevant sections of IDEA and case law.
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