District Court Affirms Child has been Denied Free and Appropriate Public Education
Christopher (name changed) is a high school student with autism and speech and language impairments who has repeatedly been denied his free and appropriate public education by the School District of Philadelphia.
Christopher is a gifted artist, and he often uses art and drawing to communicate. The district denied Christopher speech and language therapy, an iPad with a word bank, and extended services during school breaks. He was also denied access to a one-on-one aide, and told that without an aide, he could not attend art classes.
We represented Christopher in two due process hearings and secured significant compensatory education services, financial reimbursement, and an improved school placement. The district, however, decided to appeal. On November 20, in a significant victory for our client, District Judge Schiller affirmed the original due process decisions, which ordered that all new services continue throughout Christopher’s high school tenure. The district court decision also highlighted that students who are denied an appropriate education should have access to immediate injunctive remedies, not just backward-looking compensation.
In addition, the decision means that hearing officers can order improved Individualized Education Plans and training for school staff. The Court also found that the School District of Philadelphia’s distributed practice approach for providing speech therapy has to be done in a way that provides a child enough actual help from a speech therapist.