Uploaded: Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 9:54 am
Judge sides with family in Palo Alto special education case
Preliminary injunction requires schools to provide in-home services to boy with autism
A federal judge has sided with a Palo Alto family in an interim ruling that orders the Palo Alto Unified School District to provide in-home education for a 12-year-old boy with severe autism.
The parents of the boy, "S.C." sued the school district in March, alleging that Palo Alto Unified violated U.S. law when it refused to offer in-home education to the student after the family moved to Palo Alto in early 2013.
Prior to moving to Palo Alto, the child had received in-home education in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District and the parents have maintained he should have access to the same kind of program in Palo Alto.
The district instead proposed a "comparable" educational program for the boy, but on a school campus.
At issue in the ruling is the "stay put" provision of the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which pending resolution of any dispute between parents and a district over a child's placement -- requires districts to maintain a disabled student's educational program from the previous district.
The family initially appealed the district's offer of an in-school program to the California Office of Administrative Hearing, which sided with the school district in a decision issued Dec. 31, 2013.
The family is seeking judicial review of that decision in the current federal lawsuit, in which U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd last month issued the preliminary injunction ordering the district to provide in-home services pending resolution of the family's dispute with Palo Alto Unified.
The judge accepted the family's argument that the "stay put" provision means the district must replicate the services the child received in Pajaro Valley, including that the services be provided in his home and not in a school classroom.
He rejected the district's contention that the district is required only to provide services that are "comparable," not identical, to the student's prior Individualized Educational Program.
According to the lawsuit, the student "lacks the ability to communicate verbally and has a history of severe allergic reactions to food" and also has difficulty with fine and visual motor skills and sensory processing behavior.
View the ruling here.
Posted by Anonymous22,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2014 at 2:58 pm
Anonymous22 is a registered user.
You said, "For folks who wonder why PAUSD challenges some families' demands instead of just giving all families what they ask for because they know what is best for their child, it is because, as you said, sometimes families ask for more than their child needs. "
Please don't mischaracterizing what I said to make sweeping generalities.
My comment was limited to what happens in a court case, nothing whatsoever to do with the negotiation between the school district and parents beforehand, where this should have been worked out -- erring on the side of working with the family short of putting them through waging a court battle. For all you know, the family has to ask for more hours now because one of the spouses has to work more to pay for the lawyers to force the district to continue the education the child needs and had in the previous district.
Secondly, the district isn't in court arguing over how many hours the child needs at home. That's not even the argument. The district is arguing that the family should send a nonverbal child with autism and life-threatening allergies to a school site that has pretty common and straightforward-to-deal-with allergy/asthma-inducing conditions, in a district where the administration (with an enormous construction budget at its disposal and a promise to bring the schools sites to new condition, no less) is disinterested in taking inexpensive, California-Department-of-Education-recommended steps to optimize environmental health and air quality. No matter what you SAY about how you will care for this nonverbal child with life-threatening allergies, what you are DOING speaks much louder and says the district talks a big game but doesn't bother to walk the walk when it comes to even the easy allergy measures.
You wrote "Assuming that the whole school cannot be allergy-safe"
-- But that's just the problem here, the whole school CAN be made allergy safe, with fairly noncontroversial practices that benefit all children, if only the district administration would bother. But to anyone who has a seriously allergic child, there's just a fairly high level of ignorance and disinterest when it comes to allergy at the top in this district. It's a lack of will, not that it would be so hard to make allergy-safe schools. Again, not exactly trustworthy behavior when you are asking the family to put their child's life in your hands.
You wrote: "the more cost-effective solution for a family who chooses isolation, as in this case, would be to dedicate a classroom to the child which is sanitized daily where access is limited to the student, his/her parents and staff. "
--First of all, where would such a classroom come from for one child? Do you appreciate how expensive space is in this area? Overhead to maintain the space? I'm aware of other allergy situations where the child simply lost out on their equal education because the family didn't fight, because the school claimed there was no other place for the child to go even for an hour.
Secondly, you have just argued vociferously against the home placement because you think isolation isn't in the child's best interest, yet you would put the child in a sanitized strange truly isolated environment rather than being in a safe, familiar place (home), a place that is already, without additional expense, safe for the child? (And if staff are going to be dedicated to that room, why does it matter costwise if they are there or at the child's home?)
Thirdly, in regards to making a truly allergy-friendly environment without the usual unmitigated asthma triggers in our schools, you would have to upgrade the room itself with the same inexpensive, common sense measures the district could be taking everywhere and if district administrators finally "get it" for one room, why not for the whole school? Why not start today creating a trustworthy environment and trustworthy practices so that the family might consider the district's proposal in the future if that is truly in the child's best interests?
Fourth, isolating the child to a classroom as you said without fixing the allergenic environment overall in the school would mean creating almost clean-room practices, avoiding having teachers and staff or air move between the classroom and other rooms. If staff spends time in an allergenic classroom and moves into that room, they would essentially blow the whole setup. You cannot argue that maintaining that safely would be less expensive or "least restrictive" compared to the child's safe home environment.
Lastly, it's ludicrous for us to be even talking about the district engaging in such meticulous practices, when it's clear they are essentially ignorant/disinterested when it comes to all the easy, low-hanging fruit to make our school sites healthy in regards to asthma and allergy. If they don't want to clean up the schools for the basics, claiming they can and know how to meet such a high standard is just not trustworthy.
If the school district had behaved in a trustworthy manner, I suspect we would not be wasting money on lawyers over the dispute now. Or putting this family through was is almost certainly hell to try to educate their child safely.
Posted by Anonymous22,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2014 at 1:20 am
Anonymous22 is a registered user.
I asked you to please stop mischaracterizing what I have been saying. Please speak dor yourself, read what I wrote before responding. You are so mangling what I said for your own purposes it's hard to know how to respond. Protections is right, you sound like you are from the district, please clarify. I'd like to engage but ask you to please read what I wrote. For exampke, I only used the number $50,000 because that's thenumber you used. But you keep arguing that somehow all the kids with allergies are going to be asking for 40 hour a week ABAs which us ludicrous and has nothing to do with this family. There is no slippery slope here, only the district screwing this one family with a disabled child.
So, how does one go from $50 k to $200k, costs? Let's assume 40 hrs per week at, what? $50/ hour? That's $2000. $8,000 per month, times 9 months. $72,000. Subtract the cost of what the special ed is for the lower number of hours or the at school special care the district offered. What's the cost differential? $35,000, maybe? Times the 5 remaining years the child is in school, that's $150,000 extra, really less than the district will probably ultimately pay iegal fees to $500/hr lawyers.
If the child's family bought a house when they moved here, for a $1.5 to $4 M typical price range, their per annum taxes are between $22,500 and $60,000, a large chunk of which supports the schools. I'm sure if you gave them or anyone they know in similar straits the choice, they'd pull their money out and pay for the ed their kid needs.
If we think we don't have the money to meet our obligation to special ed students, we have no business spending $40 million on a gym when we just built a gym for the other school for $12 million. Then if we've looked at our expenses carefully, if we still don't have the money, we go to the parent community and ask, would you rather we spend our money harrassing parents of severely disabled students, or just erring on the side of doing the right thing for the students and minimizing our legal fees (and maybe we need to raise funds... Maybe)?
As per allergy, our district admonistrators treat that just like they do everything else, like civil rights laws. They don't want anyone to tell them what to do. But since there are no laws protecting kids from environmental hazards in schools, they do nothing, not even adopt the most basic steps like removing old mildewy smelling carpets.
If your child was immunosuppressed, and needed surgery, would you trust a hospital where you saw doctors regularly wipe their noses and sneeze into their hands, and not wash up before surgery? Even if the place looked nice, even if they swore up and down that the child would be in a special room where they WOULD follow good hygiene, the claim just wouldnt be trustworthy if they didnt ever just comply with good practices as a matter of course.
You havent answered any of my questions and have now gotten back to claiming your dog doesnt bite... Excuse me, trying to claim the child doesnt even have allergies. You sound just like Linda Lenoir, the district nurse, who seems to think the only way to prove it is to give an anaphylactic child the food in front of her and watch the child die before she'll believe it. I know at least one family who decided to leave the district because their child almost died from an allergic reaction from poor classroom practices. They also couldn't get the school to change an old, moldy carpet in the child's classroom causing asthma. The district has never implemented an environmental or air quality management plan, despite parents asking, and despite the recommendation to do so by the CA dept of education and every other health organization you could imagine. They are simply not trustworthy when it comes to allergy.
if you know anything about allergy and spend time in our middle schools, it's as obvious as doctors wiping their noses in front of you and not washing their hands. The easy guidelines to fix things, often at little or no extra cost (think doctors washing hands in the analogy, it's about mindset more than cost) such as the EPAs Tools for Schools, the district has been uninterested in implementing. For the third time, they should first create a trustworthy environment for all the kids, they may find the family more willing to believe them. But actions speak louder than words here.
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