CCSD Loses Another Lawsuit Over Special Education Program
In the latest in a series of courtroom losses during his special education program, a federal judge ordered the Clark County School District to pay more than $ 450,000 to a prominent couple in Las Vegas for not preparing a proper study plan for their dyslexic daughter.
In a 24-page decision filed last week, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Boulware II ruled that the school district violated the Federal Disability Education Act “on both substance and procedure. By not ensuring that the student receives instruction using a specific teaching method. developed for dyslexic students.
He ordered the school district to reimburse the girl’s family for $ 456,990.60 for tuition and transportation fees to private schools.
The decision came on appeal of a case filed in federal court in 2017 by Sig Rogich, a prominent Republican political consultant, and Las Vegas lawyer Lori Rogich. The student, identified in court records as “OR,” is the daughter of the couple, now 19, who are studying to become a children’s life specialist at the University of Utah.
“We are delighted with the decision,” said Hillary Freeman, a lawyer who represented the Rogich family with co-counsel Catherine Reisman, on Monday. “I think that’s an understatement.”
The school district did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
In its ruling, Boulware said the family presented “compelling professional evidence” that their daughter needed a specific “teaching methodology” known as the Orton-Gillingham approach.
Family concerns ignored
But the school district failed to adequately review the professional evaluations of the Rogiches daughter and significantly address the family’s concerns, he found.
The Rogiches also did not receive any information on what programs the school district might offer that would adequately meet their daughter’s needs, Boulware wrote.
Lori Rogich told the Review-Journal on Monday that she paid tribute to her daughter for having the courage to stand up and fight for her rights.
She said her daughter had graduated from high school – “something the school district thought she wouldn’t do.”
Rogich refused to release the name of his daughter, who graduated from Purnell School, a private school in New Jersey, and accepted at seven colleges across the country.
Rogich said his daughter was thrilled with her victory in court, believing her hard work navigating the court system would benefit other students.
Lawyers for the Rogich family argued that by refusing to provide methodology for Rogich’s daughter in her Individualized Education Program (IEP), the school district was discriminating against her.
Freeman, counsel for the Rogiches, said there is a range of research showing that students with a learning disability require structured literacy interventions. For a school district, it’s not okay to just say they’ll figure it out as they go, she said.
If the Rogich family had accepted this, it could have impacted their daughter’s ability to learn to read in the long run, Freeman said.
“Multiple development delays”
OU has a history of “hydrocephalus at birth”, fluid buildup in the brain and “multiple developmental delays,” according to court documents.
A school district team assessed her in 2007, when she was 5, and recommended that she take a special early childhood education program for the remainder of the school year, according to the documents.
She was removed from the district’s programming in the spring of 2008 and instead attended private schools, including the Adelson Educational Campus in Las Vegas.
The girl’s parents requested a reassessment of their daughter from the school district in 2014 and 2016 to determine her eligibility for special education services.
But in both cases, the school district has failed to provide appropriate public education “as evidenced by the insufficiency” of IEPs the district has produced, the decision says. These plans did not identify “a specific methodology or curriculum or a structured curriculum format that teachers were forced to use to meet the unique needs of OR,” he noted.
John Filler, a special education teacher at UNLV, said problems with complying with the Disability Act and interpreting its requirements are “not uncommon” in school districts across the country.
The federal law is comprehensive and stipulates that every student should receive “appropriate and free public education” regardless of the nature or severity of their disability, he said, noting that he was not commenting on them. details of the Rogich case.
The federal mandate is also promulgated in Nevada law, Filler said, noting that state laws across the country may vary but cannot conflict with federal law.
The problem with many school districts is that the requirement to educate students with disabilities is more stringent and more individualized than for the average student who is not eligible, Filler said.
The general requirement is that any school district should use research-based methods that have a basis in best practice to meet the individual needs of a student, he said.
Typically, a family and a school district should come to an agreement, as evidenced by an IEP, he said.
But there is a lot of room for disagreement, Filler said, noting that there are procedures to resolve these disagreements, so hopefully they don’t have to rise to the level of legal action. formal.
A litany of special cases
The Clark County School District has faced a number of other lawsuits brought by parents of special education students over the years.
An August 2020 class action lawsuit filed in federal court by six families of special education students also alleged that the school district failed to provide adequate education to their children during distance learning amid the pandemic of COVID-19. This case is still pending.
The school district has also settled other lawsuits in recent years that have been filed by parents alleging their special education students were abused by teachers or other school staff.
Last year, the school district paid more than $ 1.8 million to settle two lawsuits involving a teacher accused of abusing special education students.
In 2019, the district also approved a $ 1.2 million settlement to three families who filed a complaint alleging that another special education teacher abused their children during the 2014-2015 school year.
In February, mothers of three students with special needs at Thiriot Elementary School filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging that a teacher used a stallion to punish their children in 2019. The case is still pending. instance.
Other lawsuits include one filed by a parent in June 2020 in Clark County District Court against the school district after her child, who has a developmental disability, disappeared from his college campus for four days in 2018. In a 2018 lawsuit, a mother alleged a district worker broke her autistic son’s wrist.
Online court records show the cases were closed after being “transferred (pre-trial)”. No further information on the cases was immediately available on Monday.