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Monday, August 1, 2011

EDNY affirms reimbursement award and addresses mootness and justiciability

NYC v. V.S. (E.D.N.Y. 7-29-2011): Parents disagreed with the NYC DOE recommendations, placed their autistic child at the Rebecca School and sought reimbursement. The IHO ruled in favor of the parents; the SRO dismissed the DOE appeal on mootness grounds as the DOE had paid the full year of tuition as pendency. The DOE appealed to federal court. The EDNY held that the case was not moot, given that the child’s continued pendency placement would turn on the court’s ruling. Next, the DOE sought remand to the SRO; the Court declined to remand reasoning that while remand is permissible under some circumstances, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits, particularly since the IHO had issued a well reasoned decision. The court than deferred to the judgment of the IHO finding that her conclusions were well supported by the record. In particular, the court affirmed the IHO’s conclusions regarding methodology (while the Rebecca School administrator testified “in some detail as to why TEACCH would be unable to teach V.S. the basic skills he needs to learn, the DOE has cited no evidence that TEACCH would be an effective method for educating V.S.”) and the size and mixed-use nature of the school building (“the general education school in which the self-contained 6:1:1 class would be housed would create a sensory overload for [V.S.] which would interfere with not only his learning but the learning of his classmates as well”).