CCSD loses one other lawsuit over particular schooling program
In a series of courtroom losses for its special education program, a federal judge ordered the Clark County School District to pay a prominent Las Vegas couple more than $ 450,000 for failing to create an adequate curriculum for their dyslexic daughter.
In a 24-page verdict filed last week, District Court Justice Richard Boulware II ruled that the school district had “both materially and procedurally” violated federal law on the education of persons with disabilities by failing ensuring the student receives instruction with a specific teaching method designed for students with dyslexia.
He ordered the school district to reimburse the girl’s family $ 456,990.60 for private schooling and transportation.
The verdict came on an appeal against a case filed in federal court in 2017 by Sig Rogich, a prominent Republican political advisor, and Las Vegas attorney Lori Rogich. The student, identified as “OR” in court records, is the couple’s 19-year-old daughter who is training to be a childcare specialist at the University of Utah.
“We are thrilled with the decision,” said Hillary Freeman, an attorney who, along with co-attorney Catherine Reisman, represented the Rogich family. “I think that’s an understatement.”
The school district did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
In his ruling, Boulware said the family had produced “compelling professional evidence” that their daughter needed a particular “teaching methodology” known as the Orton-Gillingham Approach.
Family worries ignored
But the school district had failed to adequately review the Rogiches’ daughter’s professional assessments and failed to properly consider the family’s concerns, he noted.
The Rogiches also received no information about programs the school district might offer to adequately meet their daughter’s needs, Boulware wrote.
Lori Rogich told the Review Journal on Monday that she encouraged her daughter to stand up and fight for her rights.
She said her daughter graduated from high school – “something the school district believed she wouldn’t”.
Rogich declined to divulge the name of her daughter, who graduated from Purnell School, a private school in New Jersey and entered seven colleges across the country.
Rogich said her daughter was excited about her victory in court and felt that her hard work navigating the judicial system will benefit other students.
The Rogich family lawyers argued that the school district discriminated against them by refusing to provide methodology to Rogich’s daughter in her Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Freeman, the Rogiches’ attorney, said there is a body of research showing that students with a learning disability need structured literacy interventions. It is unacceptable for a school district to simply say they will find out while they move on, she said.
If the Rogich family went along, it would have long-term impacted their daughter’s ability to learn to read, Freeman said.
“Multiple Development Delays”
OR has a history of “hydrocephalus at birth”, an accumulation of fluid in the brain and “multiple developmental delays,” according to court documents.
A team from the school district evaluated her in 2007 when she was five and recommended that she attend early childhood special education for the remainder of the school year, according to the records.
She was withdrawn from the district program in early 2008 and instead attended private schools, including the Adelson Educational Campus in Las Vegas.
The girl’s parents petitioned the school district to reassess their daughter in 2014 and 2016 to determine her eligibility for special education.
But in both cases the school district failed to provide adequate public education, “which is evidenced by the inadequacy” of the district’s IEPs, the decision said. These plans “did not identify a specific methodology or program or structured curriculum format that teachers would need to use to meet OR’s unique needs,” they say.
John Filler, professor of special education at UNLV, said problems related to complying with the Disability Act and interpreting its requirements were “not uncommon” in school districts across the country.
Federal law is comprehensive and states that every student regardless of the type or severity of their disability must receive “free adequate public education,” he said, noting that he did not comment on the specifics of the Rogich case.
The federal mandate is also promulgated in Nevada law, Filler said, noting that state laws may vary across the country but may not conflict with federal law.
The problem that is cropping up with many school districts is that the requirements for educating students with disabilities are stricter and more individual than the average student who is not eligible, Filler said.
The general requirement is that each school district must use research-based methodology based on best practice to meet a student’s individual needs, he said.
In general, a family and school district are expected to come to an agreement, as illustrated in an IEP, he said.
But there is a lot of room for disagreement, Filler said, noting that there are procedures in place to resolve this disagreement so hopefully it doesn’t have to rise to the level of formal legal action.
A litany of special cases
The Clark County School District has faced a number of other lawsuits over the years filed by special education parents.
An August 2020 class action lawsuit filed by six families of special school children in federal court also alleged that the school district failed to provide adequate education to their children during distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The case is still pending.
The school district has also resolved other lawsuits filed by parents in recent years about the abuse of their special school students by teachers or other school staff.
Last year the school district paid more than $ 1.8 million to settle two lawsuits alleging a teacher of abuse of special needs students.
In 2019, the district also approved a $ 1.2 million settlement to three families who filed a lawsuit alleging another special education teacher abused their children in the 2014-15 school year.
In February, mothers of three students with special needs at Thiriot Elementary School filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging a teacher used a yardstick to punish their children in 2019. The case is still pending.
Other lawsuits include one filed by a parent in Clark County District Court against the school district in June 2020 after their child, who has an intellectual disability, disappeared from their middle school campus for four days in 2018. In a 2018 lawsuit, a mother alleged a district worker broke her autistic son’s wrist.
The online court records indicate that cases were closed after “surrender (before trial)”. Further information on the cases was initially not available on Monday.
Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.