Latest News

Natick First Circuit Success

FIRST CIRCUIT RULES IN FAVOR OF NATICK PUBLIC SCHOOLS’ ACCESS PROGRAM

On May 22, 2019, the First Circuit Court of Appeals, upheld the determination of the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (“BSEA”) and the District Court that the Natick Public Schools’ (“District” or “Natick”) ACCESS program, a substantially separate program, for students with cognitive and communication deficits, was the least restrictive program that could provide a free and appropriate public education (“FAPE”) to the student, C.D.  The ACCESS program offers a significantly modified curriculum, two to three grades below grade level.  Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, a firm that represents over one hundred school districts across Massachusetts, represented Natick in the litigation.

The Parents argued that pursuant to the 2017 Supreme Court decision, Endrew F. ex rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist. RE-1, in determining whether a student was offered FAPE, the BSEA or a court must separately consider whether the IEP is “ambitious,” or contains “challenging goals” from whether the IEP was individually designed and reasonably calculated to offer a meaningful educational benefit.  The First Circuit disagreed, stating that “Endrew F. used terms like ‘demanding,’ ‘challenging,’ and ‘ambitious’ to define ‘progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances,’ not to announce a separate dimension of the FAPE requirement.”  Given the student’s diagnosed intellectual disability and serious language deficits, she could be expected to make meaningful progress in the ACCESS program, not in the general education classroom that the Parents desired.

The Parents also argued that the IEPs violated the requirement to place C.D. in the least restrictive environment and asked the First Circuit to adopt a multi-step test that the Second, Third, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits have adopted.  The First Circuit, joined the Seventh Circuit, and refused as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provided an adequate framework.  The First Circuit explained that the test from the other circuits took away the respect and deference owed to school officials and the BSEA.

Finally, the Parents argued that Natick erred in not conducting a formal transition assessment when the student turned fourteen.  The First Circuit disagreed, explaining “there is no restriction on the means of gathering information about a student’s interests or abilities that may be relevant to the development of postsecondary transition goals.”  The transition planning was based on extensive educational and psychological evaluations.  Additionally, the IEP outlined educational goals and services that would have helped the student make progress towards her goal of graduating and provided for vocational services.

 

Latest News

The Passing of a Giant of a Lawyer, Michael C. Lehane

  Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP is deeply saddened to announce that one of the founding partners of the firm, Michael C. Lehane, passed away on January 11, 2021. Mr. Lehane was a giant of a lawyer, an incredible mentor and friend to all who worked with him. He was highly respected by his colleagues, whether it be his fellow partners, judges, clients or friends.  Renowned for his quick wit and intelligence, grace under pressure, sense of humor and Read More

Legal Updates

Unpacking the Federal Stimulus Package’s Direct Payments, Enhanced Unemployment Payments, and FFCRA Leave Extension

There has been a great deal of discussion in the news lately about the latest Congressional stimulus package, which was ultimately signed by President Trump on Sunday, December 27, 2020, following his initial pushback. The stimulus package, officially known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (the “Stimulus”), is a behemoth piece of legislation that consists of nearly 5,600 pages, covering a broad array of appropriation matters.

Quincy, MA

Crown Colony Plaza
300 Crown Colony Drive, Suite 410
P.O. Box 9126
Quincy, MA 02169-9126

Boston, MA

75-101 Federal Street
Boston, MA 02110

Tel: (617) 479-5000
Tel: (888) 841-4850
Fax: (617) 479-6469

Springfield, MA

One Monarch Place, Suite 1310R
Springfield, MA 01144

© 2021 Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP. All Rights Reserved. Website by Interactive Palette