Spring Branch Independent School District v. OW

961 F.3d 781 (2020)

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Spring Branch Independent School District v. OW

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
961 F.3d 781 (2020)

  • Written by Alexander Hager-DeMyer, JD

Facts

OW (plaintiff) was a child in the Spring Branch Independent School District (district) (defendant). OW exhibited severe behavioral issues and attended private school through the fourth grade. OW continued to have behavioral issues but returned to the district for fifth grade. OW’s family met with the district about OW’s issues and provided a letter from OW’s psychiatrist recommending Rehabilitation Act accommodations. Throughout the school year, OW drew violent and disturbing images, used offensive language, and threw objects during classes. OW’s family met frequently with the school’s principal and provided recommendations, but OW’s daily behavior continued to be violent and inappropriate. The district and OW’s family created a behavior intervention plan for OW, but the plan had minimal impact. At the start of the second semester, OW assaulted two school staff members. After these incidents and three months after the behavior plan was created, the district referred OW for a special education evaluation. OW was transferred to a district specialty program and put into a private school tutoring program. OW’s family pulled OW from the district and enrolled him in the private school full-time, but OW was eventually expelled and sent to a residential school. OW’s family filed an administrative complaint against the school district, seeking reimbursement for OW’s private school tuition and other relief. The hearing officer found that the district violated its Child Find obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by failing to timely evaluate OW for special education services. The district appealed to a federal trial court, which affirmed the hearing officer’s decision and found that an expedited evaluation of OW should have occurred. The district appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Brown, J.)

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