Federal judge orders Dist. 117 to pay for former student’s services

By Gary Scott on January 25, 2016 at 1:00pm

We have an update to a story we first told you about last summer regarding a court order forcing District 117 to provide services to an autistic former student.

Last August, it was reported 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.

District 117 argued that the hearing officer, Michael Risen, erred by applying the wrong legal standard in the July 20th decision, and the relief that was then granted.

In focus in the complaint are Individual Educational Plans that were created in 2013 and 2014, as is required for special education students. The school district says Risen didn’t properly rule that the district followed procedural requirements set by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Since the parents voluntarily placed the student in home schooling, District 117 argued it’s the burden of the parents to prove it was necessary. The appeal argues the district followed federal guidelines by providing the student with a “full continuum of alternative services” in the development of the 2014 IEP.

The hearing officer ruled that the district used inappropriate disciplinary measures for the student, which he ruled led to escalating behaviors. In addition, Risen ruled that the IEP team denied recommendations of the student’s medical providers for home hospital instruction last year.

The school district filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in September asking the court to stay the July 20th order. Judge Sue Myerscough denied the motion on December 2nd.

The opinion had been sealed for several weeks.

Myerscough’s order notes the student had “innumerable behavioral problems in the 2013-2014 school year,” and that “all parties struggled to find an effective means of providing her with a free appropriate public education.” She ruled that “more likely than not, Dr. Risen did not err in his ruling”.

The school district is also ordered to pay for monthly applied behavior analysis therapy for at least six months, which costs around $13-thousand per month, according to court records.

A settlement conference was scheduled for January 12th, but court records indicate it did not yield an agreement between the two sides.