Court 2

Burlington School Committee et. al., vs. Massachusettes Department of Education

  • Facts: Early Education

    After being diagnosed with a learning disability in first grade, Michael Panico received services under the Education for All Handicapped, including special education services and transportation.
    Michael did not benefit from the tutoring efforts provided during third grade and both the school and Michael's parents began to worry about his lack of progression with IEP goals and his transition to grade 4.
  • Facts: Battle Begins

    While it was agreed upon by both the school and Michael’s parents that he had average intelligence, the school/town felt that they could no longer meet his educational needs due to his learning disability. They drafted an IEP for the following school year, advising Michael to attend a different town's special education program that would provide a more appropriate education (Pine Glen School).
  • Facts: IEP Rejected :(

    Michael's father disagrees with the proposed IEP and placement and under procedural safeguard 1415(b)(2), the rejection can be analyzed by the State.
  • Facts: Review Time?

    The first review was canceled in hopes that the school and Michael's parents would come to agreement using mediation. Mediation is scheduled for August 17th.
  • Facts: Mediation

    Mediation proves to be unsuccessful! Shortly after Michael's parents are provided with a specific diagnosis for Michael's learning disability by specialists at Mass. General Hospital. They claim that "Michael's emotional difficulties are in part due to a severe learning disability characterized by perceptual difficulties." They also mention that the diagnosis requires him to be placed in a highly qualified environment and recommend the Carroll School.
  • Facts: School Begins

    Michael begins school at the Carroll School, despite the public school's opposition. Parents pay for expenses.
  • Facts: Hearings Begin

    The Board of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) hold several hearings.
  • BSEA Decision

    The BSEA decides that the Carroll School is a better fit versus Pine Glen School (school reccomended by town). Orders town to pay for Michael's tuition and transportation at the Carroll School. In return, the town insists that the case be reviewed at the judicial level by the District Court.
  • Facts: District Court Review Granted

    The District Court grants review and sets future trial. Meanwhile, the town refuses to follow along with orders to reimburse tuition to the Panicos and is backed by the District Court.
  • Facts: Threatening Tactics

    Town agrees to pay the Panicos tuition and transportation costs after the state threatened to withhold all Special Education funds.
  • Trial/Decision

    After a four day trial, the District Court determined that the proposed placed and IEP for the 1979-80 school years was appropriate for Michael and the previous decision made by the BSEA was over turned.
  • Continuation of Case/Decision

    Parents argue that they should at least be reimbursed for the school years that took place during the extensive judicial review process and the time enrolled after the initial BSEA decision that supported placement at the Carroll School.
    The court with held the ruling, that due to the town's lack of approval for Michael's placement at the Carroll School and the threatening measures use by the state, the Panicos were not entitled to reimbursement.
  • Second Appeal/Decision

    The case was reviewed a second time by the Court of Appeals and determined that the initial review by the Distict Court did not evaluate the IEP or the findings by the BSEA to the full extent.
    In the end the Court of Appeals did demand the town to pay for the tuition during the time that the BSEA decision held weight.
  • Key Questions?

    The questions at hand in this case boiled down to, does the safeguards in place to protect parents inlcude "reimbursement for private school tuition and related expenses, and whether it bars such reimbursement to parents who reject proposed IEP and place a child in a private school without the consent of local school authorities." (Wrightslaw).
  • Final Decision

    • The Court decides that parents are deserving of reimbursement for private school tuition if the public school fails to provide an appropriate education. This also inlcuded retroactive reimbusement for the money spend on tuition during the legislative process
    • Placement can not be made by a child's parent's without the approval of a state/local authority.
  • Town Challenges/Safeguards

    The Court of Appeals decided to review the case again to determine whether reimbursement of tuition and other expensees were owed to parents who disagree with reccomended IEPs under procederal safeguard in place.
    These safeguards include, "the right to examine all relevant records with respect to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child, and to change the identification, evaluation, or placement of the child."