Michael P. v. Department of Education

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 09-08-2011
  • Case #: 09-16078
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court; Circuit Judge Fletcher; Circuit Judge Clifton dissenting
  • Full Text Opinion

By relying solely on a “severe discrepancy” model and not allowing for other factors to be considered, Hawaii DOE procedurally violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

This appeal stems from Hawaii’s denial of special education assistance to Courtney G. From the second to the sixth grade, when this suit was brought, Courtney G. was performing either below or well below grade level in various aspects of reading. This was despite extra practice at home, small group reading, intervention at school, and private tutoring. Due to these struggles Courtney’s parents requested that their daughter receive special education assistance from Hawaii Department of Education (“DOE”). DOE functions both as a state education policy maker and as a local education service provider. The assistance sought by Courtney G. is provided for by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and administered by the states. In 2004, IDEA was altered to remove a requirement that there be a severe discrepancy between IQ scores and performance on standardized tests to establish eligibility. The amended act also adds that states may use alternative models to determine eligibility. The Court notes that DOE did not conform its regulations to federal law until November of 2009. Courtney G.’s requests for assistance came after the 2004 amendments to IDEA and before DOE create regulations conforming to them. In making their determination about eligibility DOE relied solely on the severe discrepancy model. According to this model, Courtney G. did not qualify for assistance. DOE did not agree with the multiple experts supporting Courtney G.’s request for special education, and did not use any alternate model to show that Courtney G. had responded well to the extra assistance from her private tutors and her new program at a private school for children with dyslexia. By relying solely on the severe discrepancy model, the Court found that DOE had procedurally violated IDEA. REVERSED and REMANDED.

Advanced Search