R.F. v. Cecil Cty. Pub. Schs. (P)

Although a school system violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in some procedural respects as to plaintiff R.F., it did not deny R.F. a free appropriate public education.

A school must follow procedures specified in the IDEA before changing the child’s placement as identified in her Individualized Education Plan. Here, the school system increased her hours in a specialized classroom without giving notice to her parents – a procedural violation.

But the education that R.F. actually received during the 2016–2017 school year reinforces the lower tribunals’ decision that the school system provided her with a free appropriate public education. An Individualized Education Plan set out 13 goals addressing all of R.F.’s special needs, using an intensive communication support classroom to target her issues with focus and stress, while its efforts to include her in a general educational setting aimed to avoid unduly isolating her from her peers at school.

An administrative law judge found that R.F. did make progress toward some of the goals on her IEP during the 2016/2017 school year, though not all of them. The IEP didn’t aim for grade-level advancement through the general curriculum or for standard letter grades because these weren’t considered a reasonable prospect for R.F. But this approach doesn’t indicate a failure to set challenging objectives for R.F. The combination of reasonably ambitious goals that were focused on R.F.’s particular circumstances and that were pursued through the careful and attentive instruction of specialized professionals provided the education that R.F. is entitled to under the statute.


R.F. v. Cecil Cty. Pub. Schs. (P), No. 18-1780, Mar. 25, 2019. 4th Cir. (Duncan) from DMD at Baltimore (Copperthite).

Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published

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