IEP Goals Must Be Clear and Measurable

Janeen Steel of Vanaman German LLP recently represented a student in a due process matter filed against the student by the Fruitvale School District. Known as Fruitvale School District v. Student CASE NO. 2022080234 (2022). Fruitvale sought to implement an IEP to which the family of the student objected. After a four day hearing, the ALJ hearing the case determined that 6 of the District’s 11 goals were not measurable and that the IEP was not clearly written and denied Fruitvale’s requested relief.

The ALJ recognized that the procedures set forth in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) provide a roadmap as to elements to be included in an IEP and that a decision was required as to whether Fruitvale met the “rigorous procedural requirements of IDEA . . . ” Union Sch. Dist. v. Smith, 15 F.3d 1519, 1524 (9th Cir. 1994).  As the law provides, “…parental participation doesn’t end when the parent signs the IEP. Parents must be able to use the IEP to monitor and enforce the services that their child is to receive. When a parent is unaware of the services offered to the student—and, therefore, can’t monitor how these services are provided—a FAPE has been denied, whether or not the parent had ample opportunity to participate in the formulation of the IEP….it’s impossible for them to assess the substantive reasonableness of those services.” M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High Sch. Dist., 858 F.3d 1189, 1198, 1200 (9th Cir. 2017)

The ALJ held that the goals of an IEP must be clear and unambiguous and that in this case, they were not. Regarding the reading goal the District listing that the student would be provided with an undefined amount of “opportunities” to show progress resulted in “…Student’s providers guessing as to how many opportunities to give Student and what is needed to make progress on this goal”. Id.  Other goals found even more out of compliance are discussed in the decision.

Fruitvale also failed to demonstrate to the ALJ that it had offered an educational program and supports that could be understood from the face of the IEP document. In does so, the ALJ discussed what is commonly known as “SAI” and held that “Specialized academic instruction is an instruction delivery model that can encompass numerous school subject areas and areas of need. It was not until the time of hearing that it was revealed that the daily specialized academic instruction in Student’s special day class would include some reading and writing. However, there was no way for the individual implementing the specialized academic instruction or Parent to have understood what was encompassed in the specialized academic instruction offer as written. This is further confused because the IEP document sets forth reading being addressed in the general education setting through the reading rotation program only and not in Student’s special day class. Thus, Fruitvale’s failed to prove that its specialized academic instruction offer to Student was clear.” Id.

The ALJ also found that the IEP failed to describe the full range and type of services student would receive. In failing to do so, it failed to provide an IEP that was procedurally complaint with the applicable law.

Hopefully, local educational agencies will begin to become more careful before threatening parents with due process when the parents refused to be bullied into agreeing with an IEP that they do not understand and that does not provide an appropriate program for their child.

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