E.M. v. Pajaro Valley USD

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Disability Law
  • Date Filed: 07-15-2014
  • Case #: 12-15743
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Callahan for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and Lipez
  • Full Text Opinion

A school district is given deference to determine whether a child may be classified as a "child with a disability" because of the ambiguous intent of Congress in 20 U.S.C. § 1401(3)(A)(i); and, the agency's interpretation will take effect unless it is inconsistent or plainly erroneous to the regulation.

As a child struggling in school, E.M. was tested by for a learning disability for the 2004-2005 school year. After being tested, the Pajaro Valley Unified School District (“PVUSD”) determined that despite E.M.'s central auditory processing disorder, he was unable to qualify for special educational services because it was not severe enough. During this time, E.M.'s parents filed a complaint alleging that that PVUSD denied “free and appropriate public education,” therefore violating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (“IDEA”). The district court ruled in favor of PVUSD, explaining that they did not act unreasonably. E.M.’s parents appealed, where the Ninth Circuit reversed in part and remanded the case. On remand, the district court again ruled in favor of PVUSD because E.M.'s central auditory processing disorder cannot be classified as an “other health impairment” in order to qualify E.M. for special education. On appeal a second time, the Ninth Circuit held that while E.M. did have a learning disability, PVUSD did not act unreasonably in denying E.M. from special educational services under 20 U.S.C. § 1403. In the PVUSD, children may be classified as either having a “severe learning disability” or an “other health impairment.” Several tests were administered to E.M. in order to determine the difference between his intellectual ability and achievement. E.M’s test results showed that his disability was not severe enough to merit special educational service as a “specific learning disability” and that deference is given to the school district to determine an “other health impairment.” As a result, an auditory processing disorder may qualify as an “other health impairment,” but E.M.’s parents failed to prove that PVUSD acted unreasonably in failing to test E.M. into that category. AFFIRMED.

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