The decision in K.S. v. Montgomery County Intermediate Unit No. 23 was issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Jun 29, 2021 and includes general legal conclusions that may apply to all early intervention students going forward.
K.S. is an eligible young student, with a need for early intervention services under the educational category of autism. When K.S. turned 3 years old, the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit became the agency responsible to provide services.
Following an evaluation to determine K.S.’s needs, the IU offered services including special instruction, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, and physical therapy.
The parents wanted the IU to include transportation to preschool, and for the IU to pay tuition to a private preschool in which K.S. had enrolled shortly before the transition to IU programming.
The IU refused, but following additional evaluation and discussion, added behavioral supports to the program.
In addition, the IU later proposed to place K.S. in an autistic support classroom and to pay for tuition and transportation to the autistic support classroom. The parents then filed a due process complaint, framing the issue as a tuition reimbursement claim. They alleged that the IU had not offered a FAPE in the least restrictive environment.
A special education hearing officer and the Court both held that the IDEA tuition reimbursement framework applies to early intervention matters. Further, the Court upheld the hearing officer’s determination that the IU was responsible to provide tuition reimbursement because the autistic support classroom was not the least restrictive environment to meet K.S.’s needs.
What It Means
While the Court limited its determination to the unique circumstances of this case, the opinion includes general legal conclusions that may be applicable to all early intervention students in future cases.
The Court held that all of the IDEA’s FAPE obligations apply to Early Interventions providers. As a result, the potential for parental claims for payment of preschool tuition is significantly increased.
Further, the Court specifically held that transportation may be a required related services for preschool-aged students.
Bottom Line for Schools
Early Intervention providers must be cognizant that reference to location of services in a student’s IEP and NOREP are fully enforceable by the parent, and are also subject to challenge with regard to the provision of FAPE and LRE. Solicitor input when placement issues arise is recommended.
If you have a question, please contact your legal counsel or one of the Special Education attorneys at KingSpry.
School Law Bullets are a publication of KingSpry’s Education Law Practice Group. This article is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.