Sunday, March 05, 2006

Eighth Circuit: IDEA Rights Waivable By Parents

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit released its opinion in Fitzgerald v. Camdenton R-III School District. In this IDEA case, the school district determined that the student's "behavior and academic performance indicated he might have a disability." The school district sought to evaluate the student to see if he was eligible for services under the IDEA, bit the student's parents refused to consent to an evaluation. Instead, they decided to home-school him. The court's opinion states that the parents "have had [the student] evaluated privately and provided special education services to him throughprivate sources." The school district, somewhat remarkably, initiated a due-process hearing to require the parents to submit to the evaluation. The state administrative decisionmaker ruled for the district, and the parents sought review in federal district court. The district court ruled for the school district, but the Eighth Circuit reversed.

In an opinion by Judge Benton, the Eighth Circuit held that the IDEA's protections are waivable by the parents: "Congress intends that a district may not force an evaluation under the circumstances in this case. Where a home-schooled child's parents refuse consent, privately educate the child, and expressly waive all benefits under the IDEA, an evaluation would have no purpose."


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