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Special ed ruling says school district did not violate law

A federal judge has ruled in favor of the Forest Grove School District in all but three areas of concern identified by the parents of a high school-age special education student in a lawsuit they brought more than two years ago.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Acosta ruled on the district’s appeal of a September 2012 final order from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) that it had failed to provide the unnamed student with an appropriate education.

The student’s parents, identified in court documents as “R.O. and C.O.,” had charged the district was in violation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) between 2008 and 2012. The female student had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and other health impairments to gain entry into the district’s special education program.

Acosta’s appeal order, finalized June 9, rejected six points in the ODE order, ruling that the district:

n Did not violate the law when it gave the student additional speech and language therapy without formally notifying the parents;

n Was not at fault for not providing progress reports because it communicated with parents in a variety of ways;

n Did evaluate the student for anxiety;

n Provided adequate education plans for the student that were individual to the pupil’s goals and needs, and had no need to require all the student’s teachers to adopt a particular method to fit the education plan;

n Provided appropriate placement for the student in classes; and

n Explained to parents their right to have their child independently evaluated.

It isn’t clear whether Acosta’s ruling will end the family’s legal entanglement with the district. But Chief of Staff Connie Potter posted on the district’s website last week that Special Education Director Brad Bafaro, “while happy with the ruling, expressed frustration at the time and expense involved” in arriving at the outcome.

“It is very unfortunate that the due process hearing procedures in this state required the district to expend more than $150,000 in the costs of the hearing officer, court reporter and district legal fees to get to this conclusion,” Bafaro said.

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