Special Education Law 101 - Part III Revisited

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For the last few weeks, I have been running a repeat series I wrote a few years ago on the basics of special education law, with a few updates as appropriate. This is part three.

Today, I'm going to discuss related services.

Special Ed Law 101- Part III

The IDEA definition of FAPE, as explained in Part I of this series, includes both special education and related services. This post involves a discussion of issues pertaining to related services.

Related Services

The IDEA defines related services as follows:
(A) IN GENERAL- The term ‘related services’ means transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services (including speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, social work services, school nurse services designed to enable a child with a disability to receive a free and appropriate public education as described in the individualized education program of the child, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services, except that such medical services shall be for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only) as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education…
(B) EXCEPTION—The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device.
IDEA, Section 602(26). See, 34 C.F.R. Section 300.34.

So a related service is transportation or other developmental, corrective or other supportive services that are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. If the related service is required for the student to benefit from special education, FAPE requires that the school district provide the related service.

The issue of related services has resulted in two decisions by the United States Supreme Court. The first decision was Irving Independent Sch. Dist. v. Tatro 468 U.S. 883, 104 S.Ct. 3371, 555 IDELR 511 (1984). The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals holding that a procedure known as clean intermittent catheterization was a related service because the student could not attend school without it and, therefore, without the procedure she could not benefit from special education. Tatro, supra. The Supreme Court also affirmed the holding of the Court of Appeals that clean intermittent catheterization is not exempted by the medical services provision because the procedure did not have to be performed by a doctor, it could be done by a layperson with an hour of training. Tatro, supra.

The second decision was Cedar Rapids Community Sch. Dist. v. Garret F. 526 U.S. 66, 119 S.Ct. 992, 29 IDELR 966 (1999). In this case, the Supreme Court held that urinary bladder catheterization and suctioning of tracheotomy plus various monitoring was a related service. Garret F., supra. Applying the “bright line” test of the Tatro decision, the Court held that because the related services did not have to be performed by a physician, the medical services exclusion did not apply and the schools were required to provide the services for the student. Garret F., supra. The Court specifically and emphatically rejected the argument raised by the schools that the cost of providing the services was a defense. Garret F., supra.