Appeals court says Hamilton Co. Schools violated rights of student with Down syndrome

This is a picture provided to us by Luka Hyde's family from the courthouse steps in Cincinnati.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that Hamilton County Schools violated the rights of a student with Down syndrome.

Luka Hyde's parents sued Hamilton County's Department of Education (HCDE) after they say officials tried to move Luka out of his home zoned school to a segregated classroom.

In 2016, a federal judge ruled that the HCDE failed to follow federal guidelines when deciding where to educate Luka.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that schools place students with disabilities in the "least restrictive environment" (LRE) generally meaning disabled children should be in the same classes as other children as often as possible.

Now, the appeals court has ruled that the Hamilton County Schools' segregated placement of Luka violated the IDEA, and also that the family will be reimbursed for his private school tuition.

The ruling goes on to read: "All in all, none of HCDE’s arguments is persuasive. The district court was correct in finding that the proposed Red Bank CDC [Comprehensive Development Classroom] IEP did not provide the LRE, and therefore failed L.H."

Luka Hyde's mother, Deborah Duncan, says this ruling is a huge win for students requiring special education.

School Board attorney Scott Bennett issued the following statement Monday night:

"While the Court found that the teachers recommended an unnecessarily restrictive placement, it does not appear that the Court believed that they discriminated against the child on the basis of his disability; in fact, that word is not in the opinion. To the Board and the educators of Hamilton County, that is a vitally important point. Teachers oftentimes have hard decisions to make, and they need to follow their professional judgment without the fear of being labeled discriminatory.

On the placement issue, the Court deferred heavily to Judge Collier’s findings. While we respectfully believe that both courts misunderstood the teachers’ concerns about how best to educate this child, HCDE will of course work to carry out this decision for the good of this child and all children in Hamilton County. We would note that the Board of Education and Dr. Johnson’s administration have already taken steps to make the special education program more inclusive."

You can read the full ruling below: (Reading this article on our mobile app? Tap here to open an external browser window to read the ruling.)

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