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Albright v. Mountain Home School District
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
926 F.3d 942 (2019)
Child Doe (plaintiff) was the daughter of Jacquie Albright (plaintiff) and was a student in the Mountain Home School District (district) (defendant). Doe was diagnosed with autism and significant intellectual deficits, and the district convened a team to create an individualized education program (IEP) for her with Albright. Susanne Belk was a board-certified behavior analyst and consultant brought in by the district as part of Doe’s IEP team. Albright was heavily involved in the creation of Doe’s IEP by emailing and calling regularly and choosing to attend every meeting but one. Doe’s IEP included educational accommodations and services and a behavioral-intervention plan (BIP) to address any problematic behaviors. The IEP included many peer-reviewed services and educational methods, as well as sensory-integration techniques. The IEP team reconvened and reassessed the program as needed. Originally, Doe’s IEP was created for autism needs specifically, but upon diagnosis of intellectual deficits, the IEP and BIP were adjusted. Doe evidenced some behavioral issues, but with the updated BIP, Belk observed Doe showing improvement. Despite being in the fourth grade, district testing showed that Doe was not ready to advance past first-grade subject matter. However, the test scores showed improvement over the course of Doe’s most recent year. Albright and the rest of the IEP team disagreed strongly on several aspects of Doe’s IEP, including the best services to offer and the academic capabilities of Doe herself. As a result, Albright filed multiple due-process complaints against the district over the course of several years, all of which were resolved through settlement agreements. Albright filed another due-process complaint in Doe’s fourth-grade year, arguing that the district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and denied Doe a free appropriate public education. Albright claimed that she was denied meaningful participation in creating Doe’s IEP, that the IEP used non-peer-reviewed, pseudoscientific methods of treatment like sensory-integration techniques, and that the IEP was not creating academic progress for Doe. The hearing officer rendered a decision in favor of the district, and Albright appealed to federal district court. The district court affirmed the decision, and Albright appealed to the Eighth Circuit.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Wollman, J.)
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