M.S. v. Fairfax County School Board

553 F.3d 315 (2009)

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M.S. v. Fairfax County School Board

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
553 F.3d 315 (2009)

  • Written by Jody Stuart, JD

Facts

The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (act) required states to provide disabled children with a free, appropriate public education (FAPE), which was primarily provided through an individualized education program (IEP). If an IEP provided by a school district failed to provide a FAPE, the act allowed for parental reimbursement for a private placement if the placement was appropriate. M.S. (plaintiff) was a student with multiple disabilities enrolled in Fairfax County schools. The Fairfax County School Board (Fairfax) (defendant) proposed IEPs for 2002–2005 that failed to provide M.S. with a FAPE. For 2002–2005, M.S.’s parents placed M.S. at the Lindamood-Bell Center (Lindamood), a private learning center with one-on-one instruction rather than group classroom settings. M.S.’s parents requested a due-process hearing, seeking reimbursement from Fairfax for the costs of sending M.S. to Lindamood. The hearing officer ruled that Lindamood was an inappropriate placement. M.S., through his parents, sought review of the hearing officer’s decision in federal district court. The district court looked at M.S.’s progress on standardized tests and found that M.S. had made minimal progress at Lindamood. The court also found that (1) M.S. required one-on-one and group instruction, vocational education, and social education, and (2) the Lindamood placement was highly restrictive by the act’s standards. The district court considered M.S.’s time at Lindamood in its entirety instead of considering the appropriateness of the placement on a year-by-year basis and affirmed the hearing officer’s decision. M.S. appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Williams, C.J.)

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