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News & Press: Amicus

Parents Prevail in 5th Circuit on Denial of FAPE

Tuesday, September 24, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall

On September 16, 2019, parents prevailed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Spring Branch Indep. Sch. Dist. v. O.W., which affirmed in part the hearing officer’s and district court’s decisions finding that the school district violated its child find duties under IDEA, committed numerous IEP implementation failures, and were responsible for the child’s private school tuition reimbursement, the extent of which the Fifth Circuit remanded to the district court to determine. 


The Fifth Circuit decision confirmed that O.W. was denied FAPE from the school district’s inappropriate discipline techniques and frequent use of time-outs as it found these techniques were inconsistent with O.W.’s IEP and resulted in educational and behavioral regression for O.W.  However, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision that the school district’s use of physical restraints violated O.W.’s IEP, as the Court found that the restraints were used in situations during which the school district felt they were necessary to prevent harm to O.W. or others.  Finally, the Fifth Circuit found that the school district’s modification of O.W.’s IEP without formal documentation produced by the parent and school district, and which resulted in shortening O.W.’s school day in half, was a “substantial and significant deviation from the IEP which indisputably resulted in loss of academic benefits.”  Affirming these FAPE violations, the Fifth Circuit then remanded the case to the district court to determine the appropriate remedies.


Overall, this was a great victory on behalf of COPAA member Sonya Kerr, whom COPAA supported by filing an amicus brief on behalf of the parents setting forth the correct standard of review by the Fifth Circuit and which urged the Court to uphold the district court’s decision. 


Read the Fifth Circuit decision in O.W.


Read COPAA’s Amicus Brief in O.W.

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