Special education “child find requirement” reaches the Supreme Court

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This is a photograph of an angled view of the front of Supreme Court building which includes two bushes.

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C.

Starvenia Addison* reads at a fourth grade level and finished below the first percentile on standardized tests during her ninth grade year.

The next fall, she failed all her classes, continuously turning in work that was “gibberish and incomprehensible.”

When her mother eventually requested an educational assessment for Addison, it was determined she was eligible for special education services.

The Supreme Court will now be asked whether the school can be held liable under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for failing to identify Addison as a student in need of special education services. On April 18, the Supreme Court requested input from the Justice Department in the case, according to an article in Disability Scoop.

The IDEA requires states to enact policies so all students needing special education services are “identified, located, and evaluated,” in what is known as the “child find requirement,” according to an opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

The Compton Unified School District, from Compton, California, argued it did not violate the IDEA because it did not refuse to provide Addison special education services, but choose instead to ignore her learning disabilities. Therefore, it is arguing that complaints under the IDEA regarding the “child find” requirement are limited to intentional acts, not negligence claims.

However, when she was in 10th grade, the district had her assessed by a third-party mental health counselor. The counselor recommended Addison be assessed for learning disabilities, but the district instead promoted her to the 11th grade.

Courts have ruled against the school district at the administrative, district and, in March 2010, at the appellate level.

* this is name of the student in court papers