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C.J. v. Marion County School Board

This case demonstrates the error of placing a child according to concepts of primary disabilities.  C.J. is a profoundly deaf young student in Marion County.  For a time he was educated in deaf education classes.  Due to C.J.'s obvious learning difficulties his parents had him independently evaluated, where upon C.J. was diagnosed as being mildly to moderately autistic.

After this evaluation was presented to the district, the moved to place C.J. in an autistic class.   When the parent's requested a meeting to discuss some relatively minor issues, the district transformed the meeting into an IEP meeting.  In what we call "IEP by ambush" the district pushed aside the parents objections and placed C.J. into an autistic classroom.  The parents immediately file a request for due process.

Despite the request for due process and the parent's request for stay put, C.J. was placed in the autistic class, where he was the only deaf child, and the only child would had to communicate through sign language.  At first C.J. was provided only inconsistent interpreter services.  After mediation, the district agreed to provide a deaf education teacher for C.J. within the autistic class.

After hearing the judge determined:

1.  That the district had violated C.J.'s procedural safeguards in failing to provide appropriate notice to his parents of their intentions and purposes for the IEP meeting, wherein they made Autism C.J.'s primary disability and reduced C.J.'s deafness to a secondary disability.

2.  That the district had violated C.J. procedural safeguards in failing to continue C.J. in his deaf education classroom as his "stay put" placement.

3.  That the district's placement of C.J. in the autistic classroom, without only intermittent interpreter services, failed to provide C.J. was a free and appropriate education.  It was found that interpreter services were not sufficient for a deaf child with autism due to his inability to attend to the interpreter.  Furthermore, C.J. requires deaf education instruction, which neither the interpreter nor the autistic teacher were capable of giving him.  For obvious reasons, providing the interpreter only on an intermittent basis was inadequate.

4.  That the district's eventual assignment of a deaf-education teacher to C.J.'s autistic class also failed to provide FAPE.  The evidence showed that an appropriate education for C.J. required placement with his signing peers in a class where he would be taught vital deaf-education skills.  His needs for social and language appropriate peers dictated his placement in a deaf-education class.  His autistic and behavioral needs meant that he would need behavioral supports in his deaf-education class.