Debra J. Saunders

This is not a joke. Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision that required an Oregon public school district to pay a $5,200 monthly tuition (plus fees) for a private boarding school for a high-school senior whose psychologist had diagnosed him with ADHD, depression, math disorder and cannabis abuse.

Also not a joke: The Obama administration had urged the big bench to so rule. Thus the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which mandates that all "children with disabilities" have the right to a "free appropriate public education," is turning into a cash cow for disability lawyers and private schools. According to an amicus brief filed by Obama's solicitor general, Elena Kagan, Oregon's Forest Grove School District had tested the student -- known as T.A. -- in 2001, but determined that he had no learning disabilities; specialists did not test for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), although they suspected he had it. Parents and school officials agreed to take a "wait and see" approach.

As he continued to have trouble in public school, T.A.'s mother e-mailed school officials that summer suggesting "there must be some method of teaching more appropriate for him."

In 2002, T.A. started using marijuana. In March 2003, Kagan wrote, T.A.'s parents sent the boy -- then a junior -- to a psychologist who diagnosed him with "ADHD, depression, math disorder, and cannabis abuse" and recommended that he be admitted to a residential program. The parents pulled T.A. from school, sent him to a three-week wilderness program, and then to the Mount Bachelor Academy, which specializes in students with "learning disabilities, substance abuse, and behavioral problems." The parents requested an independent hearing in April 2003 to get taxpayers to pay their son's tuition, as per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as the school district again determined that T.A.'s disabilities did not merit special education. But in January 2004, a hearing officer found that T.A. had ADHD and Mount Bachelor was appropriate for him.

A district court found against the parents. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court. Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that taxpayers should foot the bill for T.A.'s private boarding school.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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