Facts: The student had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In May of 2011, the district determined that the student qualified for special education services as a student with an emotional disturbance and an other health impairment. The student progressed, mastered IEP goals and objectives, and received A’s and B’s. The following school year, in April of 2012, the district determined that the student no longer exhibited a need for special education services and dismissed the student from special education.
An independent educational evaluation (IEE) was conducted at the father’s request. The IEE concluded that the student had depressive and anxiety disorders, but did not meet criteria for the classification of autism or autism spectrum disorder. The IEE recommended more individualized attention, fewer distractions, more time for transition, more frequent breaks, and access to the school counselor.
The student’s ARD Committee determined that the student was not eligible for special education, but could be served through a Student Support Team and the counseling staff. The parent disagreed and sought a private assessment when the ARD Committee determined that the student did not meet special education eligibility. The parent requested a due process hearing.
Holding: The hearing officer held that the District met its child-find obligations. To be eligible for special education services a student must have a disability enumerated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and, by reason of that disability, need special education and related services. According to the hearing officer, the evidence did not demonstrate the student’s need for special education services. The student’s educational performance had improved, attendance was excellent, and the student was earning straight A’s. Teachers reported that the student was successful socially and academically and demonstrated leadership within groups at school. The student also passed or exceeded expectations on state standardized testing. Although the parents’ private assessment determined that the student had an educational need for special education, the hearing officer found the evaluations and decisions by school personnel to be more credible. In fact, the hearing officer held that the district’s evaluation was entitled to a “presumption of correctness” that the parents failed to overcome. The district correctly determined that the student was not a child in need of special education services.