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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Drug use and disability

The SDNY affirmed an SRO decision denying reimbursement for a private placement in a case in which the parents argued that the child’s drug use and his emotional disturbance were inextricably intertwined.
plaintiffs argue that P.K.'s disability and substance abuse were 'intertwined.' This argument could plausibly be advanced in most, if not all cases in which a student has both a disability and a substance-abuse problem. To accept it would be to hold that school districts must provide (or pay for) substance-abuse treatment for students who happen to be disabled. Nothing in the text of the IDEA suggests that Congress intended this result, which would add a significant financial burden to already heavily burdened public-school systems. Plaintiffs have not cited any case holding that the IDEA requires a school district to pay for private substance-abuse treatment, and we are not aware of any. Courts that have addressed the issue have reached the opposite conclusion, as do we.
P.K. v. Bedford Cent. School Dist., --- F. Supp. 2d ----(S.D.N.Y. Aug. 1, 2008).

Note, however, that there is an inconsistency in the treatment of similar issues by the federal courts. For example, a Texas federal court ordered reimbursement for a variety of services stating that the child's "doctors recognized that extensive counseling was critical to treat the psychological and behavioral problems underlying her academic difficulties." Richardson Independent School Dist. v. Michael Z., — F. Supp. 2d — (N.D. Tex. Apr. 22, 2008).
Although, this is not a drug abuse case, the analysis is analogous. Unlike the SDNY, the Texas court found that the child's

academic difficulties were inextricably intertwined with her emotional and behavioral problems. The Court does not provide an exhaustive recital of the arguments and evidence previously presented, but rather distills the key facts. [The child] suffered from numerous debilitating conditions, including bipolar disorder, separation anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. Defiant and aggressive, [The child] lashed out at teachers, skipped class, and was generally unreceptive to instruction. Repeated outbursts also limited her ability to focus, to absorb lessons, and to complete assignments in a timely manner. As a result, [The child] struggled academically in the approximately twelve schools she attended.

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