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Modesto City Schools Prevails on All Issues

Modesto City Schools Prevails on All Issues
Modesto City Schools Prevails on All Issues in a Case Where Student Challenged Transition Goals, Services, Prior Written Notice Requirements, and the Issuance of His High School Diploma.

In a recent decision issued by the Office of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”), Modesto City Schools was found to have offered appropriate transition goals and services, met prior written notice requirements, and correctly issued the student a high school diploma. 

In this case, parents of a recently graduated high school student requested a due process hearing and asserted that the District denied student a free and appropriate public education (“FAPE”), in part, by failing to:

  • Offer goals that were designed to meet student’s academic and postsecondary needs,
  • Provide student with sufficient specialize academic instruction,
  • Provide prior written notice (“PWN”) of student’s graduation; and
  • Offer student the option to receive a certificate of completion.

Parent argued that the District should rescind the student’s diploma and provide additional special education services, asserting that the student was not prepared for college and could not perform basic academic functions such as multiplication and essay composition.  

The administrative law judge (“ALJ”) found that the evidence overwhelmingly supported the District’s position that the goals and offer of services were appropriate, that PWN requirements were met, and that the student had in fact earned his diploma.  With regards to goals, the District proved that the goals were “substantively appropriate and designed to meet [the] Student’s needs.”  Importantly, the ALJ noted that goals focused on state academic standards and “were designed to help Student…successfully transition to postsecondary education and employment.”  Even student’s expert testified at hearing that the student’s goals “seem appropriate and focused on areas where student demonstrated weakness.”

In examining the appropriateness of the offer of specialized academic instruction, the ALJ relied upon student’s passing grades and achievement of IEP goals.  The ALJ also noted that the offer of FAPE was made, in part, relying upon a recent psychoeducational assessment, as well as teacher and parent input.  The ALJ also relied upon testimony from staff, who testified during due process that student was a “model student” and that he was “diligent, hardworking, responsible, and an all-around great student.” 

In determining whether PWN requirements were met, the ALJ found that while a PWN letter was not sent, the student’s IEP was able to act as prior written notice of student’s graduation.   The ALJ found that the IEP itself contained all six required elements of a prior written notice letter, and for this reason a separate PWN was not required.

Finally, regarding graduation, the ALJ held that the District did not err in issuing a diploma to student.  The ALJ noted that student was in the top third of his graduating class and exceeded graduation requirements.  The ALJ held that the evidence showed “Student’s placement and specialized academic instruction enabled Student to not only make progress but excel in the general education environment.”  Based on these facts, the ALJ held that the District correctly placed the student on a diploma track, and did not err in issuing him a diploma.   

This case also is a reminder that an IEP, with all requisite elements, can serve as prior written notice.

If you have any questions about this blog post, the decision, or PWN or graduation requirements, please feel free to contact any of the attorneys at GPV.  You can also follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram.  GPV attorney Tilman Heyer was proud to assist Modesto City Schools in securing prevailing party status at due process in this matter.  This does not constitute legal advice.  Each case must be analyzed based on the specific facts of that case.  GPV does not guarantee or predict the same or similar results in all cases.  If you have questions about a particular fact pattern, please contact your legal counsel. 

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