Retroactive Policy Decisions Cannot Discriminate Against Students with Disabilities

Case: Hornstine v. Township of Moorestown, et al.
Case reference: 39 IDELR 64

The school board of Moorestown, New Jersey, changed its valedictorian policies. The student who brought the suit against the school board had a physical disability sought an injunction to prevent the school board from modifying existing valedictorian policy.

The student's disability limited her abilities to attend school because she suffered extreme fatigue. Due to her condition her IEP said that she would receive at home instruction in the afternoons. The student took many advanced placement classes and had the highest weighted grade point average in school in her senior year. Existing school board policy said the student should be the senior class valedictorian.

Some parents, students and teachers complained that this was unfair suggesting her IEP accommodations gave her unfair advantages. The superintendent of the school system then changed existing policy. The new policy was retroactive. The new policy let the school board name multiple valedictorians and to avoid naming the student who filed the suit for an injunction to prevent the board from changing policies.

The student sued for an emergent relief with the New Jersey Department of Education and for injunctive relief and money damages under the ADA and Section 504. The US District Court of New Jersey granted her temporary restraining order request and denied the district's motion to dismiss the case. The court said the board could not retroactively modify the policy and that in this case the policy had been clearly modified to discriminate against a student with disability.

Inexperienced teacher and inadequate IEP result in denial of FAPE.

Case name: School City of Hammond
Reference: 39 IDELR 112 (SEA IN 2003)

The school district initially provided adequate services to a student with an IEP in place for ADHD and ODD. When the student entered the seventh grade the parents claimed their son's services broke down. The state review officer said that the district failed to complete the student's most recent IEP. The district also failed to implement the previous one that was still in effect. They also denied the extended school year program (ESY). The student's progress regressed. The student was also placed in a special education classroom with an inexperienced first year teacher who did not communicate with other school staff about the student's problems. The teacher did not notify parents of the student's suspensions or declining academic performance.

The Indiana state review officer ordered the district to provide compensatory education to the student, to properly develop and implement and IEP and to reimburse the parents for costs incurred. An inexperienced teacher does not give a school system an excuse for failure to comply with the instructional needs outlined in the student's IEP.