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Decision Number
In re Anna C.
Julia and Robert C.
A-H-S-T Community School District
Full Text

Appellants' daughter has organic brain syndrome with secondary aspects of concentration and attention problems. They filed a late request for open enrollment because they believe that the Appellee cannot or will not adequately address Anna's health needs. (There is no dispute that if Anna is not reminded regularly to use the bathroom, she wets herself.)

The basis for the appeal is Iowa Code section 282.18(5), which allows a parent or guardian to file for open enrollment after the March 1 deadline if the parent/guardian shows that the child has a "serious health condition that the resident district cannot adequately address." This is a case of first impression, so it was necessary for the State Board to come up with a set of guidelines for parents and districts to use when confronted with such open enrollment applications.

The guidelines are as follows:1. The serious health condition of the child is one that has been diagnosed by an appropriate healthcare provider, and the diagnosis has been provided to the district of residence.2. The serious health condition is neither short-term nor temporary.3. The district has been provided with the specifics of the child's health needs caused by the serious health condition and knows or should know what specific steps its staff must take to meet the child's needs.4. School officials, upon notification of the serious health condition and the steps to be taken to meet the child's needs, must have failed to implement such steps or, despite the district's efforts, its implementation of the steps was unsuccessful.5. A reasonable person could not have known before March 1 that the district could not or would not adequately address the child's health needs.6. It can be reasonably anticipated that a change in the child's school district will improve the situation.

Each case is to be decided on its own merits, keeping in mind that 282.18(5) is the one subsection of the Iowa Code in which the Legislature has specifically admonished districts and the State Board to act "in the best interest of the affected child." Where there is doubt, the benefit of that doubt is to be accorded to the child.

The State Board in this case gave the benefit of the doubt (the record was less than clear on a few points) to the child and reversed the local board's denial of the open enrollment application.