Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Federal Disabilities Education Act Does Not Require Plan Tailored To Student's Religious Needs

In M.L. ex rel Leiman v. Starr, (D MD, Aug. 3, 2015), a Maryland federal district court held that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) does not require a public school system to take account of a student's religious and cultural needs in designing an individualized education program (IEP) for him. Under 20 USC 1412, federal assistance is available to states that make free appropriate public education available to all children with disabilities.  However, IDEA
does not require a local educational agency to pay for the cost of education ... of a child with a disability at a private school ... if that agency made a free appropriate public education available to the child and the parents elected to place the child in such private school....
In this case, the court rejected the claim by an Orthodox rabbi and his wife that a public school system did not make a free appropriate public education available to their Down syndrome son when his IEP was not geared to his religious and cultural identity as an Orthodox Jew.  According to the court, a student's program is to be individualized considering the student's cognitive and developmental capabilities and needs.  It does not need to be "specifically tailored to the religious and cultural enclave in which the student lives."