Special Education

We represent school districts in all areas of special education counseling and dispute resolution, and provide ongoing training and compliance advice to help our clients understand new regulations, best practices, and other legal developments.

Advice and Counsel

We regularly advise on special education policies, procedures, eligibility, accommodations, and discipline, including matters associated with special education evaluations and Individualized Education Programs (IEP), as well as support teams in developing and implementing programming for students.  We are experienced in helping schools address issues associated with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the obligations of school districts to provide “comparable” services for out-of-state students.

Dispute Resolution

When compliance and legal challenges arise, we assist districts and administrators in addressing those matters, including developing dispute resolution objectives and strategies. We additionally assist school district staff and administrators in preparing for and participating constructively in IEP meetings responding to citizen complaints regarding special education services.

When matters cannot be resolved, we defend school districts in administrative special education due process hearings, as well as in any subsequent appeals of those administrative decisions in state or federal court. We have successfully developed and implemented strategies for the defense of educational programming decisions before the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings and review of those decisions in U.S. District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Compliance Training

Much of our special education practice is devoted to proactive compliance training and education. Those charged with facilitating special education must continuously be familiar with new regulations, as well as court and administrative cases interpreting regulatory requirements and “best practices.” Our special education attorneys regularly perform in-house trainings for staff and administrators on a wide range of special education compliance issues.

Representative Cases

Due Process Decisions

In re Northshore School District (finding that school district did not deny student a FAPE when it declined to evaluate student or through its subsequent offer of an IEP).

In re Northshore School District (determining that school district appropriately evaluated student and did not violate the IDEA in exiting student from special education services).

In re Tacoma School District (finding that school district not required to return student to placement team believed was unsafe for student).

In re Issaquah School District (finding that school district appropriately evaluated and served student with alleged dyslexia diagnosis).

In re Everett School District (concluding that school district developed and offered program in student’s least restrictive environment).

In re Tacoma School District (finding that school district did not fail to implement student’s IEP or otherwise deny student a FAPE).

In re Mercer Island School District (determining that school district provided student placement in least restrictive setting notwithstanding claims of medical needs that required more isolated setting).

In re Tacoma School District (concluding that school district completed appropriate evaluation of student and was not required to provide an IEE at district expense).

In re Tacoma School District (determining that school district completed appropriate evaluation of student and not required to provide an IEE at district expense).

In re Edmonds School District (finding that school district did not violate the IDEA and did not deny student free appropriate public education).

Federal District Court

A.T. and C.T. v. Fife School District, 66 IDELR 104 (W.D. Wash. 2015) (upholding administrative order concluding that school district was not required to fund a residential placement for disabled student unilaterally placed by parents).

R.Z.C. v. Northshore School District, 71 IDELR 2 (W.D. Wash. 2017) (upholding administrative order finding the school districts evaluation was appropriate and that decision to exit student from special education services did not violate the IDEA).

Crofts v. Issaquah School District, 72 IDELR 15 (W.D. Wash. 2018) (ruling that individual employees and administrators are not subject to individual liability under the IDEA).

L.F. v. Lake Washington School District, 72 IDELR 152 (W.D. Wash. 2018) (granting motion for summary judgment on claim that the school district violated the procedures of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or unlawfully discriminated against disabled student’s parent).

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

S.J. v. Issaquah School District, 52 IDELR 153 (9th Cir. 2009) (rejecting claim for private school reimbursement based upon minor technical flaws in school district’s IEP).

B.D. and D.D. v. Puyallup School District, 57 IDELR 211 (9th Cir. 2011) (rejecting claim that an IEP team required participation of an “expert” in a low-incidence disability in order to develop appropriate program for student).

R.Z.C. v. Northshore School District, 73 IDELR 139 (9th Cir. 2018) (upholding determination that District appropriately evaluated disabled student and did not violate the IDEA when it exited Student from special education).

Practice Attorneys

Carlos Chavez
Sarah C. Johnson

Sarah C. Johnson

OF COUNSEL
Rachel Simon

Rachel Simon

ASSOCIATE
See all of our attorneys