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Federal court orders school district to establish a $265,160 trust to fund compensatory education for RCGZ client

In the June 12, 2017 decision L.M. & M.M. o/b/o G.M. v. Willingboro Township School District, attorney Amy Carolla vindicated in federal court a family’s right to a compensatory education fund of $265,160 because Willingboro School District deprived a young girl with multiple disabilities of three years of appropriate programming.  In a May 2016 opinion, Administrative Law Judge Joseph Martone found that G.M., who was five years old when Willingboro offered its first IEP, had multiple physical disabilities, a genetic deletion, feeding issues, severe speech and developmental delays, sensory integration dysfunction, and other challenges and the school district failed to gather and report information about the student’s performance or progress in any IEPs proposed for kindergarten through second grade. Consequently, Willingboro could not provide for appropriate accommodations, modifications to the curriculum, goals, or progress monitoring, all of which are the heart of an appropriate individual education plan. To rectify the district’s failure to provide an appropriate program, the Administrative Law Judge ordered compensatory education equal to the time period from January 7, 2013, through June 30, 2015.

District of New Jersey Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez denied the school district’s appeal, ruling that the weight of the evidence supported the administrative decision.  Judge Rodriguez also rejected the school district’s attempt to interject new evidence regarding subsequent events that had no bearing on the determination below. Most importantly, Judge Rodriguez quantified the order for compensatory education, directing the school district to place $265,160 in trust for G.M.’s reasonable educational, rehabilitative, therapeutic, or recreational services delivered by a provider of her family’s choice. That remedy represents an hour-for-hour replacement for every hour of education she received under an inappropriate IEP that was not calculated to provide her with educational benefit, following the guidance of M.C. v. Cent. Reg’l Sch. Dist., 81 F.3d 389, 391-92, 396-97 (3rd Cir. 1996), at the rate of $80 per hour.