A. Statutory Background
“Congress enacted IDEA in 1970 to ensure that all children with disabilities are provided a free appropriate public education which emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and to assure that the rights of such children and their parents or guardians are protected.” Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v. T.A., 129 S. Ct. 2484, 2491 (2009) (internal marks omitted) (citing Sch. Comm. of Burlington v. Dep’t of Educ. of Mass., 471 U.S. 359, 367 (1985)). To qualify for services under IDEA, a child must show (1) the existence of one or more disability classifications, and (2) a need for special education. 20 U.S.C. § 1401(3)(A).
To establish eligibility under the “specific learning disability” classification, a student must show that she (1) has “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to . . . read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as . . . dyslexia,” 34 C.F.R. § 300.8(c)(10)(i); and (2) she needs special education. 20 U.S.C. § § 1401(3)(A), 1401(30)(A). For many years, federal regulations required students to demonstrate their need for special education under the “specific learning disability” classification by showing a “severe discrepancy” between actual achievement and intellectual ability. See Dixie Snow Huefner, The Final Regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA ‘04), 217 Ed. Law Rep. 1, 8-9 (2007); see also Mark C. Weber, The IDEA Eligibility Mess, 57 Buff. L. Rev. 83, 123-24 (2009).
The federal regulations did not define “severe discrepancy,” but rather, left the matter to the discretion of each state. Perry A. Zirkel, The Legal Meaning of Specific Learning Disability for Special Education Eligibility, 28 (2006). Hawaii defined a “severe discrepancy” as a 1.5 standard deviation between actual achievement and intellectual ability scores. Haw. Code R. § 8-56-26(b) (repealed Nov. 23, 2009). Alternatively, if standardized tests were invalid or did not reveal a statistically significant deviation, Hawaii permitted consideration of additional evidence to determine whether a “severe discrepancy” existed, such as work samples and information provided by the parent. Haw. Code R. § 8-56-26(b) (repealed Nov. 23, 2009).
Judge(s): Harry Pregerson
Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
Related Categories: Constitutional Law , Education
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|Plaintiff Lawyer(s)||Plaintiff Law Firm(s)|
|Defendant Lawyer(s)||Defendant Law Firm(s)|
|Rebecca Copeland||Office of the Hawaii Department of Education|