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Student v. West Orange Cove CISD, Dkt. No. 011-SE-0914 (Hearing Officer Sharon Ramage February 4, 2015).

Facts: This case involved the eligibility and services provided to a student with a history of aggression against students and staff.  A prior due process hearing resulted in an agreement by the district to fund a number of independent educational evaluations and convene an Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) Committee meeting to decide on the proper special education eligibility classification and to develop an appropriate program for the student.  Following the IEE, the evaluator recommended that the student’s eligibility should be changed from autism to emotional disturbance and other health impaired due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  The parent disagreed and requested another due process hearing.  

Holding:  The hearing officer determined that the IEE and the determinations resulting from the IEE were not reliable.  The manner in which the district conducted the student’s evaluation impacted not only the procedural sufficiency of the student’s program, but also the substantive elements of the IEP.  The hearing officer questioned whether the program was individualized on the basis of the student’s assessment and whether the services were provided in a coordinated and collaborative manner by key stakeholders. The manner in which the evaluation was conducted called into question the credibility of the report as well as the evaluator. Under the totality of the circumstances, the procedural and credibility deficiencies undermined the evaluation and the evaluator’s testimony to such an extent that neither was credible.  

Procedural errors such as lack of informed consent, improperly administering an assessment, failure to include relevant information in the evaluation, combined with the lack of credibility of the report impeded the student’s access to a FAPE and seriously infringed the parent’s right to meaningful participation in the development of the student’s educational program.  The hearing officer ordered the district to provide a new evaluation at district expense.       

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