A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit limits the circumstances when a school district must provide special education services to students with health conditions.
The decision is a victory for school districts, which must determine whether to classify students with certain health impairments as disabled, even when their academic performance is on par with their grade level. Parents of children with some physical health conditions are increasingly seeking special education services for their children by claiming the child is eligible under the “other health impairment” category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the main federal special education law, according to NSBA.
The case, Marshall Joint Sch. Dist. No. 2 v. C.D., arose when the family of a student with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a rare genetic disorder, requested special education services. The school district had provided some modifications to the student’s physical education classes, but his individualized education plan team determined C.D. was not eligible for special education because his education performance was on par with his classmates.
The 7th Circuit overturned a lower court’s ruling because the court had relied on medical experts instead of educators and had applied an incorrect legal standard. NSBA, joined by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, argued in their amicus brief that school officials with education expertise are in the best position to make determinations about a child’s specific educational needs.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision as this may help reduce the number of students with other health impairments classified as in need of special education,” said NSBA’s Deputy General Counsel Naomi Gittins. “Schools can help these students learn in many ways that don’t require invoking the IDEA.”
The 7th Circuit includes Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.