• Initial IEP Based on Severe Discrepancy Model Need Not Use or Disclose Response-to-Intervention Data
  • March 6, 2012
  • Law Firm: Best Best Krieger LLP - Riverside Office
  • A federal court recently ruled that a school district which elected to use a severe discrepancy model to determine whether an 11-year-old student with reading difficulties qualified with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was not required to use earlier-accumulated Response-to-Intervention (RTI) data as a basis for developing the student’s initial IEP.

    In M.M. and E.M. v. Lafayette School District, Case Nos. CV 09-4624 SI, CV 10-04223 SI, 112 LRP 6847 (N.D. Cal. 2012), the student’s enrollment in kindergarten coincided with the school district’s adoption of the RTI model, used as an intervention strategy to assist challenged learners. The parents filed a due process complaint asserting that: (1) the district was legally required to consider the RTI data in developing their child’s IEP; and (2) the parents could not meaningfully participate in the IEP meeting without all of the available RTI data, thus denying their child a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

    In denying both of the parents’ arguments, the court first determined that the district was not required to disclose the student’s RTI data to the parents, because his eligibility was permissibly determined by the severe discrepancy model. The IDEA requires districts to disclose "instructional strategies used and the student-centered data collected" if a district uses the RTI method to determine SLD eligibility. The IDEA does not require the disclosure of RTI data where it was not used in an eligibility determination. Here, although the district implemented RTI strategies before referring the student for IDEA evaluation, the student’s eligibility determination was permissibly based on the severe discrepancy model. The court, therefore, rejected the parents' claim that the district’s "withholding" of RTI data impeded their meaningful participation in the IEP process.

    Under the IDEA, it is optional for a school district to consider RTI data in determining whether a student has a specific learning disability. The court found that the district was not obligated to consider the RTI data in this case because it conducted appropriate evaluations and based its initial IEP on sound evaluation data, therefore, its decision not to consider RTI data did not violate the IDEA.

    In summary, neither the IEP team's failure to rely on RTI data in making its eligibility determination, nor the school district’s failure to disclose the RTI data to the parents, denied the student a FAPE.