Timothy O. v. Paso Robles Unified School District

822 F.3d 1105 (2016)

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Timothy O. v. Paso Robles Unified School District

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
822 F.3d 1105 (2016)

  • Written by Alexander Hager-DeMyer, JD

Facts

Luke (plaintiff) was a child in the Paso Robles Unified School District (district) (defendant) who began exhibiting symptoms of autism at age two, including language difficulties and social deficiencies. Luke received treatment from a private center contracted by the state until he was three years old. California law made school districts responsible for the education of children with disabilities when such children reached the age of three. When Luke was three, a district resource specialist and a speech therapist conducted an initial special education assessment, which did not include the social-emotional assessment for autistic disorders. A district psychologist also stopped by the evaluation for around 30 minutes but did not talk to Luke or his parents (plaintiffs) or use any formal assessment tools. Based on his brief, informal observation of Luke, the psychologist told the district that a full autism evaluation was not needed. The district diagnosed Luke with a speech impairment, not autism, and formulated an individualized education program (IEP) for that condition. Luke struggled in his first two school years and continued to exhibit autistic-like behavior. Luke’s parents requested a due-process hearing, claiming that the district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by failing to assess Luke for autism. The administrative-law judge found in favor of the district, and a district court affirmed the decision on appeal. Luke’s parents appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Reinhardt, J.)

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