Federal court documents: 117 officials, parents of student with autism reach mediation agreement

By Gary Scott on April 5, 2016 at 1:02pm

Jacksonville School District 117 appears to be moving towards a resolution in a dispute over the education of a student with autism.

Last August, the district filed an amended motion in U.S. District Court in Springfield looking to recover roughly $10,400 in reimbursement for home-schooling the student, who had been pulled out of the district in 2014 by the child’s parents voluntarily, according to court documents.

District 117 argued that the hearing officer, Michael Risen, erred by applying the wrong legal standard in the decision, made last July, and the relief that was then granted.

The school district says Risen didn’t properly rule that the district followed procedural requirements set by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for Individual Education Plans that were created in 2013 and 2014.

The hearing officer ruled that the district used inappropriate disciplinary measures for the student, which he ruled led to escalating behaviors. Unsealed documents from District Judge Sue Myerscough in December said Risen most likely did not err in his judgement.

The most recent court activity last month indicates the parents of the student and the district’s IEP team engaged in constructive dialogue in the most recent IEP meeting on February 29th, and that the team has decided to continue the student’s in-home Applied Behavior Analysis program on an interim basis.

The school district was ordered in December to pay for monthly applied behavior analysis therapy for at least six months, which costs around $13-thousand per month.

According to court filings, the team will assess how to transition the student to a more formal educational setting. Another meeting is scheduled for later this month.

The parties also report that they have reached a mediation agreement and will proceed to private mediation at some point this month.

The two sides have asked the court to stay an evidentiary hearing to avoid further litigation expenses while they attempt to resolve their dispute, a motion granted by the court.

We reached out to District 117 officials this morning, who said because this is still an ongoing case, they have no comment.