Increasingly, when students have difficulties attending school for any number of reasons, we see school districts offering on-line programming as FAPE, or as part of a FAPE. However, proceed with caution when a virtual education is offered to your child because, while it may be convenient for a school district in terms of placement, it is not appropriate to meet the needs of many students.
In a recent case in federal district court, School Dist. Of Pittsburgh v. C.M.C., 116 LRP 34798 (W.D. Pa. 08/12/16), a student with diagnoses of Asperger’s Disorder, ADHD, Anxiety Disorder, Depressive Disorder, a Learning Disability in Math, and Sensory Integration Disorder, had a difficult time returning to her home high school following an altercation with a student that left her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The school district proposed having the student attend its on-line academy for core courses, and return to the school for specials. However, this proposal failed to take into consideration the student’s academic and social needs.
The student was unable to benefit from instruction via lectures to learn new material; if anything, she could only utilize a computer for reinforcement of skills. In addition, the student required structure, consistency and continuous prompting that could not be provided in a virtual environment. The on-line program was also not conducive to meeting needs in the area of social skills and peer interactions. Finally, the student was obsessed with the internet and had difficulty staying on task when using a computer for school work. All of these factors or needs resulted in the court holding that the IEP offered by the school district was not appropriate to meet the student’s needs.
Instead, the parents were entitled to reimbursement for tuition that they paid to a smaller, structured private school in which they placed the student following the district’s offer that included on-line programming.
While an on-line program may address a fear or inability to attend school, it may not meet your child’s needs with regard to academics, social skills, or in other areas, and there are ways to object to such an IEP offering.
If you have any questions, contact Pennsylvania special education lawyers, Jacobson & John, LLP, at 215-340-7500 or firstname.lastname@example.org/testdemo/testdemo. Our lawyers, Hollie John and Steve Jacobson, represent students with special needs and their families in education related matters across eastern and central Pennsylvania. Call today to schedule a free intake.