On March 3, 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals released its opinion in A.G. v. Paradise Valley USD, No. 13-16239, a special education case. The Opinion has important implications for parents who are challenging a school district after the parents have agreed to the IEP or failed to make a specific request for services.
The Ninth Circuit confirmed that school districts, not parents, have the affirmative non-delegable obligation to gather data and evaluate the needs of disabled students. The Ninth Circuit said that a parent’s consent to an IEP does not waive a claim of lack of meaningful access to a public benefit. The school district has specialized expertise which parents do not have; a district cannot absolve itself of the school’s duties to the child by getting the parents’ consent.
A.G.’s parents did not request some of the services that they later argue the district should have provided. Again, this came down to specialized expertise and parents cannot be expected to have the expertise – or legal duty – to determine what accommodations might allow the child to remain in her regular educational environment. This duty rests with the school district.