A parent requested a due process hearing before a special education hearing officer, alleging that a school district failed to identify the child’s disabilities pursuant to the IDEA and incorrectly denied the student’s request for special education services.

The student had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, depression, suicidal ideation and ADHD. The student’s father requested that the student be evaluated for special education services. At the time, the student was exhibiting significant behavioral problems at school, including excessive tardiness and absences, poor grades and failure to complete assignments on time. An evaluation was conducted and the student qualified for special education services for emotional disturbance and other health impairment. An ARD meeting was held and an IEP was developed. The student behaved appropriately while receiving services and received A’s and B’s for the school year. The student mastered two of the annual IEP goals early and was close to mastering the third goal. The ARD committee concluded that the student no longer required special education services. The student went on to successfully complete a year without special education services, made A’s in class, received “commended performance” on all sections of the TAKS, and exhibited appropriate behavioral and social skills. However, the father disagreed with the decision to discontinue special education services and ultimately filed a complaint with the district regarding the dismissal of services.

The hearing examiner concluded that the district complied with its obligations regarding the student. Under the IDEA, a school district must identify, locate and evaluate any child that it suspects has a disability and needs special education services. This obligation is not triggered when the district learns that a disability exists, but rather when the district has reason to suspect that special education services might be needed to address that disability. When that suspicion arises, the school district has a duty to evaluate the student within a reasonable time to determine if the student is in need of special education.

In this case, the student did have a disability and did qualify for services when the initial evaluation was conducted. However, based on the student’s demonstrated success without services, the ARD committee correctly decided that the student was not eligible for special education services because there was no longer a demonstrated educational need. In other words, the student did not require special education services in order to progress in the general education setting. Therefore, even if the disability continued to exist, the district could discontinue services.