Tanner is a 17-year-old with ADD and significant learning disabilities. According to the appeal, he has been denied several critical elements associated with the provision of an appropriate special education program. Appellants assert that Tanner was forced into a situation, as a result of a drug-related offense, that led to he and his parents agreeing to certain program contingencies that should not have been required. in May 2004, Tanner failed a drug screen test and the LEA asserted that this was a violation of the agreement they had with Tanner and his parents and unless other agreements were reached, expulsion procedures would commence. Appellants assert Tanner was denied a FAPE for over two years by failing to evaluate him in all areas of suspected disability, failed to adopt and implement accommodations, modifications and related services necessary to address his learnign disaiblities, and/or they have failed to adopt and implement accommodations, modifications, and related services necessary to address the underlying causes of his problematic behaviors.
on March 3, 2004, Tanner was caught with a pipe commonly used for drug related activity at school. This incident led to a referral to the Student Assistance Program provided by Jennie Edmundson Hospital. On May 7, 2004, Tanner failed his most recent drug screening. Appellants believed that Tanner's behavior was a manifestation of his disability and a misguided attempt to relieve the symptoms of his disability by "self-medicating" with an illegal substance. On May 11, 2004, the LEA exercised what it believed to be its authority to place Tanner in a 45-day interim alternative setting because of the drug-related issues. There are a number of expectations within the Iowa Rules of Special Education (2000) that must be answered during the manifestation process regarding the IEP and placement, the understanding a student has of the impace and consequences of the behavior of concern and the ability of the student to control the behavior of concern. It is critical that the alternative ssetting addresses directly the heviors that led for the need for such a setting of in such a way as to reduce the chances of such behaviors reoccurring. (Hemphill School District, 1997, 27 IDELR 406.)It would appear that while the positive test for drugs did appear inconsistent with the contract agreed to, it did not establish that he used such drugs while at school or at a school function.
Appellee's seemed to assert that the drug-related behavior was being dealt with through the student assistance program and was not the focus of the functional behavioral assessment. The IDEA requires that behaviors that interfere with a student's learning or the learning of others should be addressed at the time of IEP development.The 8th Circuit Court dealt with issues regarding the relationship of academic and behavioral student needs in a case involving a student with behavioral challenges (CJN,38IDELR 208, 8th Cir., 2003)and confirmed that both academic and behavioral progress must be considered in looking at the appropriateness of any IEP. School personnel asserted that they did not address Tanner's drug-related behavior because the parents failed to advocate for such services. Appellees seemed to insert a complex logic into their assertion that Tanner's drug use should not be considered in the expulsion process. "Other than having drugs at school, there is not evidence the drug use affected his educational program. To then conclude that drug possession resulting in an expulsion constitutes an affect on his educational program is circular logic, at best." At the heart of much of the discrepancy between the parties as to their perceptions of expections of what should be the focus of Tanner's program and other issues such as the least restrictive notions. The question of whether the program is delivered in the least restrictive environment is also a significant concern in Tanner's situation. The applicability of an interim educational setting is questionable in this circumstance. Appellee seem to admit to certain procedural errors in the provision of an appropriate program, but believe that these do not constitute a significant series of errors in providing FAPE for Tanner. The ALJ believes that the missteps taken in planning and delivering his program have led to a loss in meaningful educational benefit.
The ALJ finds that the Appellants have prevailed in each of the elements asserted in their appeal. The ALJ further finds for the Appellants in their action against the IDOE in relation to the state's general supervision responsibility in assuring least restrictive environment provisions through the provisions of a continuum of special education programs and services regardless of where a student resides in the state.