Forest Grove Update – Parents Denied Reimbursement Under IDEA Statute in Groundbreaking FAPE Case

In the context of free appropriate public education (FAPE) litigation under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the words "Forest Grove" mean many things, especially to lawyers.

This is because the case bearing that caption has landed in several courts and there are multiple published opinions which bear the name “Forest Grove.” 

For example, there was an initial case before an administrative law judge who ruled the subject student disabled; there was a district rout case that denied reimbursement to the parents because they had placed the child in a private school prior to seeking relief under the IDEA statute; there was the Ninth Circuit decision reversing the trial court’s order. And, of course, there was the precedent-setting case from the U.S. Supreme Court that affirmed the ruling from the Ninth Circuit. See Forest Grove School District v. T.A., 129 S.Ct. 2484 (2009).

Now comes the latest variation on the theme.  When the case came back down from the Supreme Court, the district court again denied reimbursement to the parents, concluding that they had placed their son in private facilities “not because of any disability recognized by the IDEA but because of his drug abuse and behavioral problems.”  The parents appealed from that ruling, but the Ninth Circuit affirmed, after reviewing the trial court’s “equitable” powers under an abuse of discretion standard.  “We hold,” said the Ninth Circuit, “that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the district court’s factual determination that T.A.’s parents enrolled him at [the private facility] solely because of his drug abuse and behavioral problems.” See Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v. T.A. (9th Cir. Apr. 27, 2011)(a copy of this ruling is attached for your convenience).

Thus, Forest Grove was a losing battle for the parents of T.A.  Despite their pursuit of administrative hearings, multiple proceedings in the trial court, two trips to the Ninth Circuit and a hearing in the U.S. Supreme Court, they were unable to secure reimbursement under the IDEA statute.

These are difficult, emotional cases. They require experienced and sensitive advocacy.  If you have an issue in this area, feel free to give Slote & Links a call.

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