Doug C. v. Hawaii Dep’t of Educ.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Disability Law
  • Date Filed: 06-13-2013
  • Case #: 12-15079
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Thomas
  • Full Text Opinion

A school violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s explicit parental participation requirements when it holds an individualized education program meeting without the participation of the disabled child’s parent.

Doug C. (“Doug”), the father of an eighteen-year-old student with autism, sued the Hawaii Department of Education for failing to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). Unable to attend the meeting to create Spencer's new individualized education plan (“IEP”), Doug asked the Department to reschedule the meeting. The meeting was rescheduled, but Doug was unable to attend, and he asked the Department to reschedule. Faced with the difficulty of asking thirteen additional members of the Department to change their schedules to be open for Doug, the special education coordinator at Maui High School decided it would be easiest to hold the meeting anyway in order to meet the pending IEP deadline and ask for Doug's input at a follow-up meeting. At the follow-up meeting, Doug rejected the new IEP, which changed Spencer's high school without Doug's input, because Doug had not been involved in the process of creating the IEP. Under the IDEA, Doug filed a request for a due process hearing. The administrative hearing officer dismissed the claim, holding that the Department did not deny Spencer a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”). On appeal, the district court upheld the administrative hearing officer's decision, and Doug appealed again. The Ninth Circuit overturned the district court's ruling, finding that the agency was required to include the child's parents in the IEP creation process unless the parent affirmatively refuses to participate. The inherent difficulty in scheduling a meeting does not excuse this requirement. Furthermore, the attendance of the child’s parent at a follow-up meeting is not enough because the IEP is already adopted. The panel further found that the attendance of the child's parent should take priority over the attendance of other Department employees, as well as any deadlines. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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