Bruno v. Greenwich Bd. Of Educ.

United States District Court

___ F. Supp. 2d. ___, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1885 (D. Conn. 2006)

Jan 6, 2006

Does the failure to provide a copy of the notice of procedural safeguards to an “adult” special education student constitute a per se violation of the special education act, requiring an award of compensatory educational services? No, says the federal district court in Bruno v. Greenwich Bd. of Educ. (“Board”). In a short decision, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the Board against David Bruno, an adult plaintiff who claimed procedural and substantive violations by the Board during his tenure as a special education student in 1999-2000.

The plaintiff, a graduate of Greenwich High School, received special education services pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). Bruno’s key claim in the case was the assertion that the Board’s failure to provide him with a copy of the pamphlet entitled “Procedural Safeguards for Parents of Children in Special Education” was a gross violation of IDEA. The court found no such violation, indicating that Bruno participated in all the Planning and Placement Team (“PPT”) meetings upon reaching the age of majority, and he admitted understanding his rights conferred under IDEA. The Board’s non-compliance with the statute’s notice requirements did not preclude Bruno from a meaningful opportunity to participate in the collaborative Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) process. Since there was no evidence that the Board took advantage of Bruno’s disabilities to deny him an appropriate educational opportunity, the failure to provide a copy of the Procedural Safeguards did not rise to the level of a gross violation of IDEA.

The court also found that the Board did not violate IDEA’s substantive provisions, noting that Bruno graduated with a 2.3 grade point average; that he “showed growth in terms of social interaction;” and that he made adequate progress in his educational studies. While the court concluded that Bruno may have benefited from more services, it noted that school boards need not provide optimal levels of services. Here, Bruno’s IEP met the “basic floor of opportunity,” thereby satisfying the requirements for a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”). See Bd. of Educ. Hendrick Hudson Cent. Sch. Dist. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 206 (1982). The decision contains a nice refresher of IDEA’s requirements, and the federal courts’ interpretation of what constitutes a FAPE.

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