Edwards, Stevens & Tucker LLP Successfully Defends LEA in Due Process Hearing on Multiple Issues, Including Parent’s Request for One-to-One Aide Support.

After a lengthy 14-day due process hearing in August 2023, the Office of Administrative Hearings issued a decision in Student v. Aspire Inskeep Academy Charter, et al. (OAH No. 2023020691) holding, among other things, that the student was not denied FAPE by not providing all day, full-time aide at school.

The student, who was 12 years old and in 7th grade at the time of hearing, was eligible for special education under the autism eligibility category, with a history of difficulties with communication, behavior, and socialization, and needs in the areas of social communication, behavior, English language development, reading, writing, and math. The student attended general education classes and received a general education curriculum, with supports and accommodations.

The hearing officer determined that the student had made reasonable progress academically without a one-to-one aide as demonstrated by his grades, teacher comments, progress on IEP goals, standardized test results and as described through credible testimony of his teachers and service providers. In fact, all the school personnel who testified believed that one-to-one aide support was both unnecessary and potentially detrimental to the student. Furthermore, the student did not demonstrate behaviors that were dangerous to himself or others. While the student did have issues with feeling unattended and difficulty staying focused, the hearing officer determined that the combination of services he received allowed him to access his education and make progress. The hearing officer was unpersuaded by the student’s expert clinical psychologist who testified that the student needed a full-time daily aide to “close the gap” regarding the student’s grade level versus his neurotypical peers given that is not the applicable standard for providing a free appropriate public education under IDEA.

Similarly, the parent asserted that because the LEA did not adopt her request for an all-day one-to-one aide that the LEA pre-determined the IEP outcome. However, the evidence showed that the IEP team considered the parent’s request but ultimately did not agree that a one-to-one aide was necessary for the student. Indicative of the IEP team’s “open mind” were the thoughtful reasons documented why a one-to-one aide was not believed to be appropriate rather than a categorical dismissal of the request.

Occasionally, parents request that LEAs provide one-to-one aides when their child is experiencing various difficulties at school such as staying on task, social interactions with peers, aggressive behavior, for safety/medical reasons, or falling behind their peers academically. IEP teams must thoughtfully consider a parent’s request for a one-to-one aide, base decisions on data regarding the child’s individual needs, consider all available supports to meet those needs, and provide parents with legally compliant prior written notice of the LEA’s decision.

For further assistance, please contact Heather Edwards at edwards@estattorneys.com.