California Special Education Law

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District Cannot Require Parents to Privately Assess or Medicate Child

September 28, 2010

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A local education agency (LEA*) cannot require parents to privately assess their child nor require them to medicate their child. Regardless of how the LEA might perceive the student’s potential medical condition, their obligation to assess in all areas of suspected disability and provide appropriate special education services cannot be diminished.

In a recent due process hearing (Student v. Ravenswood City School District), the district argued that it was well within its right to refuse to assess the student because the parent had failed to procure medical and vision testing requested by the district.

In the hearing decision, the administrative law judge disagreed:

“This misrepresentation by the District misled Mother into believing that the District had valid, legal reasons for refusing to assess Student, and she did not have grounds to contest the District’s refusal to assess. There is no legal authority to support the District’s contention that Student could not be assessed for special education because the District did not have medical vision and hearing test results for Student.”

The district also contended the student had ADD and Mother should have had him assessed for medication. Although the student had not been medically diagnosed with ADD, the district also claimed “the only reason Student did not make the progress he could have made with the IEPs was because Mother refused to address his attention deficit disorder (ADD), which caused him to lose focus in class, and act out behaviorally.”

The administrative law judge disagreed with the district’s claim:

“The District has argued that Student did not benefit from the programs and services it offered because Student has ADD which interfered with his ability to focus and access the curriculum, and Mother refused to address that issue by having him assessed for medication. These arguments are without merit. Although Student may have attention issues that affect his ability to focus and stay on task in the classroom, the evidence did not establish that he has ADD. Rather, the evidence established that the District’s special education services were inadequate in addressing his learning disability, and Student’s resulting frustration exacerbated his behavior. Further, there is no legal authority for limiting compensatory services because a parent refuses to medicate a child with ADD.”

Twenty USC Sec 1412 (a) specifically prohibits State and local educational agency personnel from requiring a child to obtain a prescription for a substance covered by the Controlled Substances Act (21 USC Sec 801  et seq.) as a condition of attending school or receiving an evaluation.

LEA: This term is often synonymous with "school district" but also can refer to any entity responsible for the child’s education, such as the County Office of Education, County Mental Health Department, California Children’s Services, etc.