Legal Briefs from Matt Cohen
The following are past questions and answers from Matt Cohen on this topic.
Can a school deny a student assistive technology because he/she is not failing?
My 11-year-old son is diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety disorder. I am finally getting the opportunity for a Section 504 plan so that he can have some accommodations for completing tests, assignments, and homework.
My son's particular problem is in reading. It normally takes him one hour to read 10 pages of a fifth grade level book. His performance on the Maryland State Assessment (MSA) lead to him getting a 504. His teacher observed how slow he was reading and he did not finish the test.
I have downloaded Kurzweil 3000 and scanned in his books. (In case you are unfamiliar with Kurzweil 3000 it is a scan and read program that tracks each sentence in a higlighted color and each word in another as it reads.) The students are required to read five grade level books per quarter and he has not been able to reach this goal. However, he was able to achieve this goal easily this quarter due to the Kurzweil 3000. He reads 20 pages in 15 minutes.
The school is saying that provision of that software is not needed unless you cannot read at all. My contention is that my son should be provided whatever it takes to allow him to perform the same work in the same amount of time that is expected of his peers.
I do not want him having less homework and extended assignment/test time. That sets up a bad precedent for my child, expecting less of himself and expecting more from the system. It would be best if he could work independently just like his peers.
What is your legal opinion on this?
Children are entitled to be evaluated for the use of assistive technology, such as the Kurzweil scan/read program, if it is suspected that they may benefit from the technology. If it is determined that the assistive technology is needed for them to benefit from their education, it should be provided as part of the IEP.
The need for assistive technology should be based on the needs of the individual student and certainly should not be based on a rule that the student must be failing. In fact, the 2006 IDEA regulations explicitly stated that the fact that the student is getting passing grades or progressing year to year does not, by itself, mean that the student is receiving a free appropriate education. In other words, total failure is not a permissible prerequisite for receiving particular special education or related services.