Blackmon v. Springfield R-XII School District

198 F.3d 648 (1999)

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Blackmon v. Springfield R-XII School District

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
198 F.3d 648 (1999)

Facts

Grace Blackmon (plaintiff) was a child with substantial developmental disabilities. When Blackmon was 15 months old, Blackmon’s parents enrolled her in a government-run treatment center called First Steps, which generally employed traditional, widely accepted therapies to treat disabilities. In the First Steps program, Blackmon made noticeable improvement in her gross motor skills but made little improvement in her fine motor skills. Dissatisfied, Blackmon’s parents removed Blackmon from First Steps and began a regimen of intensive, 12-hour-per-day home therapy promoted by an organization called the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (Institutes). The Institutes’ methods were controversial and criticized in medical journals. When Blackmon turned three, becoming eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), her parents began the process with the local school district (district) (defendant) of furnishing Blackmon with an individualized education program (IEP). After evaluating Blackmon, the district held a meeting with Blackmon’s parents and recommended an IEP that would place Blackmon in a classroom with other children and that would provide her with traditional therapeutic services. Blackmon’s parents, frustrated that the district did not recommend an IEP that would implement the Institutes’ therapies and reimburse Blackmon’s parents for their cost, left the meeting. The district sent Blackmon’s parents notice that it maintained its initial recommendation. Blackmon’s parents requested a hearing to reconsider the district’s recommendation. The hearing panel unanimously affirmed the district’s recommendation, and Blackmon’s parents sought judicial review in district court. The district court held that the district’s proposed IEP would not provide Blackmon with the free appropriate public education the IDEA entitled her to and reversed the hearing panel’s decision. The district court opined that the district’s proposed IEP was inappropriate because it would administer traditional therapies despite Blackmon’s history of having had more success under the Institutes’ program relative to the First Steps program. The district appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Tunheim, J.)

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