A student received special education services from her school district due to her disabilities, which included seizures, ADHD, a speech impairment and impaired concentration. The student was also globally delayed with an IQ of 51. When she initially enrolled in school, she attended a campus outside of the attendance boundaries where she lived because her home campus did not have a life-skills program. Her parents were pleased with the campus and her educational progress. About three years later, the student’s home campus opened a life-skills program and she was transferred there at the beginning of the school year. The district also transferred an aide who had experience working with the student to that campus.

That October, the student’s teacher on the new campus received a medical diagnosis that resulted in absences from school. The school assured the family there would be a certified special education teacher in the class. The teacher ultimately resigned in late November and a retired life-skills teacher was hired on a temporary basis. The parents removed the student from the campus the second week of January, citing the lack of a certified teacher who would be available the next day for class, failure by the district to communicate with the parents, and lack of progress by the student. The student was enrolled in a private school.

The parents filed for a due process hearing at TEA, requesting that the district reimburse them for tuition at the private school. During the three-day due process hearing, the hearing officer heard the testimony of 15 witnesses and admitted nearly 17,000 exhibits as evidence. The hearing officer issued a decision in favor of the school district and specifically found that the private school was not an appropriate placement for the child and that the parents were not entitled to tuition reimbursement. The parents filed an appeal to district court, which granted summary judgment in favor of the school district. The parents appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the district court failed to consider additional evidence that they wished to submit. They also argued that the district failed to provide a free and appropriate public education to their child.

The Fifth Circuit court held that the parents were not entitled to submit additional evidence. In order to be entitled to submit additional evidence before the district court, the proposed evidence must in fact be “additional,” and not simply a reiteration or embellishment of the evidence already considered by the hearing officer. The court noted that, although the parents disagreed with the outcome, this did not mean that they did not receive an adequate hearing.

In order to determine if the child’s IEP was appropriate, the court considered four factors:

  1. is the program individualized on the basis of the student’s assessment and performance,
  2. is the program administered in the least restrictive environment,
  3. are the services provided in a coordinated and collaborative manner, and
  4. does the student demonstrate positive academic and non-academic benefits?

In applying those four factors to the student’s placement and services at the school district, the court concluded that the services were appropriate and that the child had received a free and appropriate public education.