A very close family member worked in this area of the law (on the side of the public school system) for a couple years. From the stories she told me and reading the judges ruling here, let me be the first to say---thank god. This judge probably has had enough of the bullshit.
Those of you who have seen me post here on the subject of TPS know I am no champion of TPS, but in this (likely) case, it is probably in the right.
The litigation and administrative complaints center around the couple’s daughter, who suffers from a rare disability called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. It leaves her unable to walk or speak and often causes her to have severe seizures. The Horens pulled their daughter out of TPS in 2006 and disputed how the district worked with them on an individual education plan.
They allege that their daughter was not receiving the care and education to which she's entitled under federal law.
This stems from the IDEA law. This well-intentioned law is used by ambulance-chasing attorneys to bludgeon school districts all over the country into financing free private school tuition for the kids. Here's how the game is played.
1.) Disabled child's parents meet with public school to form an "individualized education plan" for disabled child's education. This plan is on top of whatever the teacher has to do with the normal kids in the class. Some of these plans were 50-60 pages long (that I saw), detailing how lesson plans are altered to fit the level of the child. A number of these disabled children are put into mainstream classrooms with normal kids--all well and good, except the teacher (and aides) must spend time with the disabled kids at the expense of the fully-able ones. After all, she's got to follow that IEP *to *the *letter.
By the way, at these meetings the parents usually bring their attorney to protect their child's "rights." The attorneys for both the school district and the parents usually hammer out the IEP with maybe 25% input from the actual teacher.
2.) Teachers being human, sometimes shit happens and the IEP is not followed *to *the *letter. Perhaps the IEP calls for 30 minutes of individualized session work and the teacher can only do 20 that week. Maybe there's a special school day and shit gets mixed up. Maybe the kid is just being uncooperative. We're not just talking about mildly disabled kids here...some are what would be called in the old days "basket cases." If that is too blunt for you, I apologize, but its the truth. There are some severely disabled kids (and it sounds like the kid in this story is one of them).
3.) Lawyer for parents determines IEP has been violated and files grievance. He presents the paperwork showing that the school has violated the IEP agreement and that the school cannot be trusted.
4.) School fights to defend itself, but parents lawyer uses violation, as minor or unintentional as it may be, to demand the "free and appropriate education" accorded by federal law. Usually, the attorney posits that this can only happen for this child at the most expensive private facility in the area. I've been told that costs for these private facilities can be upwards of $10,000 - $15,000 a month (makes the price per pupil around here seem like a bargain, huh?).
5.) Because ****everyone**** wants a disabled child to have the best shot, and the teacher--in the midst of trying to friggin' teach the other 29 kids in the classroom--did fuck up the ***individualized*** plan, the judges have ruled that the district must pay for the "free and appropriate education" at a private facility.
All this to say--the IDEA law...although well-intentioned...has been an ambulance chaser's dream. They go to these parents with disabled children and show them how they can game it so their kids can go to these super expensive private facilities they could never otherwise afford. What TPS was providing could have been completely adequate, but the IEP is basically a way to ensure failure, because hardly anyone could stick to a lengthy plan in detail all the time.
I feel for the teachers because they are fully aware of how much money they "cost" the school by screwing up an IEP. My family member had teachers quit over this, because the opposing lawyer was hell-bent on making the teacher look (a) incompetent, (b) uncaring, © unwilling to help.
It's a game, and finally this judge had enough.