To IEP or not to IEP that’s the $100,000 question!
MICHAEL BARBER of the Bradenton Herald reports that:
The Manatee County school district has spent more than $100,000 in legal fees battling an attempt to get an 11-year-old boy with attention deficit disorder a special education plan, according to documents The Herald reviewed.”
Since the AD/HD boy has performed well academically and on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, the school doesn’t believe it’s responsible to provide a special education Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
School officials argue that accommodating this student could set a costly precedent for the district and state by allowing thousands of other ADHD students to apply for special education plans.
Final arguments in the federal case were heard in Tampa on Thursday. U.S. District Judge James Whittemore is expected to render a decision in the next couple of weeks.
While I agree that this could precipitate a flood of AD/HD requests for accommodation, what’s more important here, students’ educations and well beings or money?
Every student has a right to an IEP.
It simply defines what goals and objectives will be used over the student’s academic year to achieve success. If some accommodations like computer software, lengthened test time, etc. need to be implemented, then do it. It is mandated and paid for by the federal government under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). It does require extra effort and perhaps even extra staff to write and implement the IEP.
“On Thursday, Superintendent Roger Dearing told The Herald the district had spent an estimated $50,000 on the case.
…Although exact legal fees the school district paid to the various firms were not available Friday, district records indicate the total figure spent on the case exceeded $100,000.
When asked whether he thought the $100,000-plus legal tab was worth it, Dearing was emphatic.
“Would you spend $100,000 to save $10 million?” Dearing asked.
Dearing said that there are more than 2,000 students in Manatee County schools who are ADHD and that special education plans can cost $5,000 or more. If all of those ADHD students applied for special education plans, the cost could be as much as $10 million per year.”
In order to save money, the school system is arguing that AD/HD is not covered by the IDEA.
School board members Larry Simmons and Harry Kinnan both said they did not like having to spend district money on costly court cases, but in this instance they thought it was the right thing to do.
“I think it’s an important enough case that we have to spend what it takes,” Simmons said. “It’s not about this particular young man or his mother. It’s about a potentially serious financial impact to the school district.”
“I think it’s regrettable the money can’t be marked for other things, but we’ve decided as a school district that it’s important to stop a precedent from being established,” Kinnan said.
“You have to weigh the implications for the school system if you don’t fight this case.”
Who is right? and who is wrong? seem to be moot questions. The question is, what is the best education for this child and what would a special education IEP provide that? If that answer is yes, then do the right thing. We’ll see what the courts say.