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Case citation: Student v. Cedar Hill ISD, Dkt. No. 255-SE-0614 (Hearing Officer Sandra Garcia Huhn, October 31, 2014).

Summary: The student attended school in the Cedar Hill Independent School District and was eligible for special education services as a student with a learning disability. The student had a history of passing his classes in the general education setting, but received support in math and in organizational skills. A Review of Existing Educational Data (REED) in October of 2013 called for more data to determine eligibility and services. The student’s Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) Committee determined that the full and individual evaluation (FIE) should include an Other Health Impairment (OHI) form completed by the student’s physician, a cognitive evaluation, and an achievement evaluation. The parents agreed and did not raise any other concerns at that time.

The OHI form and report provided by the physician documented a diagnosis of Severe Anxiety. A diagnostician followed up on this information, but found no records of reported anxiety at school. Instead, a consistent concern was the student’s difficulty maintaining attention to tasks. The teacher also reported that the student was average in the area of behavior. The IEP included numerous accommodations addressing difficulties with attention and organizational skills. The district also provided ten minutes per day with a special education case manager and inclusion support to work on organization. Although the student failed one class during one six-week grading period, he passed all classes the next grading period and passed standardized assessments.

The student had some disciplinary issues. After one particular incident, an ARD Committee met to consider anxiety and stress resulting from the incident. The parent also filed a grievance. The parent consented to a counseling evaluation but did not respond to requests by the director of administrative services to discuss the matter and possible solutions. The parent later requested a due process hearing, claiming that the district denied the student a free appropriate public education (FAPE) by failing to timely and fully reevaluate the student in all areas of suspected disability; failing to develop specific goals and objectives; and denying the parents meaningful participation in the development of the student’s IEP.

Ruling: The hearing officer ruled in favor of the district, holding that FAPE had been provided to the student. The record showed that the student was assessed in all areas of suspected disability. Although there was a difference of opinion as to the severity of the student’s condition, the physician’s recommendations identified in the student’s OHI form were implemented by the district. The district considered the student’s progress, evaluation data, and present levels of performance, and increased the student’s services in response to the student’s educational difficulties. The district also completed all requested evaluations as part of the REED.

The student’s goals were measurable. At issue was the student’s goal of passing. According to the hearing officer, 70 percent mastery criteria using the accommodations in the IEP was appropriate. The student demonstrate measurable progress, as evidenced by passing grades and performance on state-mandated assessments in reading and math. The student’s progress supported the conclusion that the program was appropriate. Contrary to the parents’ contention, there was no evidence that the student exhibited characteristics of a student with an emotional disturbance.

The hearing officer also held that the district provided the parents meaningful participation in the development of the student’s IEP. The parent claimed that she did not understand the REED and the FIE. However, both were fully explained in the ARD meetings. The parent signed in agreement and indicated that she had been fully informed of the ARD Committee decisions. The parent also received procedural safeguards. The parent failed to prove that the district denied the student a FAPE.

Comments: A difference of opinion here as to the severity of the student’s condition did not prove a denial of FAPE when the record showed that the District implemented the physician’s recommendations.