LH v. Hamilton County Department of Education

900 F.3d 779 (2018)

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LH v. Hamilton County Department of Education

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
900 F.3d 779 (2018)

  • Written by Alexander Hager-DeMyer, JD

Facts

LH (plaintiff) was a disabled student attending a school operated by the Hamilton County Department of Education (department) (defendant). LH was diagnosed with Down syndrome, and the department formed a team of teachers, staff, and LH’s parents to create an individualized education program (IEP) for LH in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). LH was placed in a regular education classroom at Normal Park Elementary School (Normal Park) with special education support services, and his educational goals followed the standard curriculum of his nondisabled peers. LH made academic progress but eventually fell behind on his goals and began acting up in class. LH’s teachers reduced LH’s workload, and LH’s behavior improved, but LH continued to fall short of his IEP goals. Despite parental objections, the department chose to place LH in another school’s Comprehensive Development Classroom (CDC), an isolated class of solely special education students with an alternate curriculum. The CDC curriculum had low academic expectations, was not tied to any regular education standards or peer reviewed, provided no homework or report cards, and often placed teachers in uncertified roles outside their subject areas. LH’s parents pulled LH from school and enrolled him in a Montessori school with a dedicated classroom aide, a self-paced, standardized curriculum, and individualized lesson plans for students. LH’s parents filed an IDEA complaint to seek tuition reimbursement for the Montessori school. An administrative-law judge ruled in favor of the department, finding that Normal Park was not an appropriate placement and approving the CDC placement. LH’s parents appealed in district court. The court reversed the decision, finding that the CDC placement was more restrictive than necessary, but the court denied tuition reimbursement, ruling that the Montessori school placement did not satisfy the IDEA. Both parties appealed to the Sixth Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Batchelder, J.)

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