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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

7th Circuit clarifies that physician can not prescribe special education

Marshall Joint School District No. 2 v. C.D.: It should go without saying that the CSE, not a child’s physician, is responsible for the development of a child’s special education program. The role of the physician has, however, been a source of endless confusion. The 7th Circuit noted that
a physician’s diagnosis and input on a child’s medical condition is
important and bears on the team’s informed decision on a student’s needs. See 20 U.S.C. § 1414(c)(1)(A)(iii). But a physician cannot simply prescribe special education.

ALJ misapplied governing standard in determining whether student suffering from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome was eligible for special education services.

In Marshall Joint School District No. 2 v. C.D., the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) and the federal district court applied the incorrect standard in determining whether a student suffering from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (“EDS”) was entitled to special education services under the IDEA. The 7th Circuit held that the student suffering from EDS was not entitled to special education services because his medical condition did not adversely affect his educational performance.

The ALJ concluded that the EDS adversely affects the student’s educational performance because it causes him to experience pain and fatigue and that when he does “experience[] pain and/or fatigue at school, it can affect his educational performance.” Marshall Joint Sch. Dist. No. 2 v. C.D., at * 10 (7th Cir. Aug. 2, 2010). This is a misapplication of the governing standard because “it is not whether something, when considered in the abstract, can adversely affect a student’s educational performance, but whether in reality it does” Id., citing to 34 C.F.R. § 300.8(C)(9)(ii) and A.J. v. Bd. of Educ., 679 F. Supp. 2d 299, 310 (E.D.N.Y. 2010). For the student to qualify in this case, his health condition must adversely affect his educational performance and as a result he must need special education. 20 U.S.C. § 1401(3)(A)(ii).

The Court reasoned that while there is evidence that EDS can affect the student’s educational performance, there is no substantial evidence to support the ALJ’s finding that it has an adverse affect. Because the student’s EDS did not adversely affect his educational performance, the panel concluded that both the ALJ and the federal district court had misapplied the standard in determining whether the student’s EDS rendered him eligible for services and reversed the decision.