Thursday, April 28, 2011

Forest Grove School Dist. v. T.A. (9th Cir. - April 27, 2011)

A student in Oregon is getting Cs and Ds in high school.  His parents get him tested, and while the school says the kid doesn't have any learning disabilities, they say he might have ADHD.  Seems reasonable.

Then things go downhill.  During his junior year of high school, the student starts baking.  Big time.  And I don't mean cookies.  He's getting stoned three or four times a day.  Sometimes so heavily that he can't get out of bed.  Oh, yeah.  He's also doing some coke.

But that's not all.  What's particularly fun when you're stoned and high?  Well, for this kid, it was calling 1-900 sex lines.  Racking up $1200 doing so.  Which his parents ultimately discover, and freak out.  Prompting the kid to run away from home.

At which point the parents realize:  Holy crap.  We've got to turn things around.  So they put the guy into a three-week treatment program, and then pull him out public school and send him to a private boarding school, Mount Bachelor Academy.  At $5,200 a month.  (Not that it matters, burt that school's got a pretty interesting, and troubled, history:  check it out here.)

This is a not-uncommon story.  But here's the rub:  The parents sue the school district for full reimbursement of the boarding school tuition (plus attorney's fees).  Claiming that they had to send him there because of his ADHD disability.

After multiple rounds of litigation, ultimately, the Ninth Circuit affirms the district court's conclusion that the parents aren't entitled to reimbursement because they sent their kid to boarding school because of depression and drug abuse rather than because of the learning disability.

I'm not nearly as hard core as Judges Bea and Rymer, and Judge Graber writes a decent decent.  But I'm with the majority in this one.  My own sense is that the district court was probably right on the merits.  But at the very least, it's a factual matter that could go either way.  So we gotta defer.  Yes, everyone feels sorry for the kid.  Hopefully he's doing better at this point.  But this was not because of the ADHD.  This was because the guy liked marijuana and pornography way too much.  Which is a perhaps a good reason to send a kid to boarding school -- and I hope my children are listening when I say that -- but not good enough to require the public schools to pay for it.