Shapiro v. Paradise Valley Unified School District

Paez, Circuit Judge

The court held that the parents of a deaf student were entitled to tuition reimbursement for an out of state private school. The School District (Paradise Valley) did not provide FAPE and made procedural violations by holding an IEP meeting without the parents or a teacher from the out of district school.  The opinion states, "Procedural flaws do not automatically require a finding of a denial of a FAPE. However, procedural inadequacies that result in the loss of educational opportunity, or seriously infringe the parents' opportunity to participate in the IEP formulation process, clearly result in the denial of a FAPE." 

Dorie Shapiro (Dorie), a deaf seven year-old child, through her parents, sued the Paradise Valley Unified School District No. 69 (PVUSD) alleging that the school district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. sections 1400-1487, denying Dorie a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Dorie attended a private out-of-state school for a three-year grant program. At the conclusion of the grant program, PVUSD created a program for children with hearing impairments living within the school district. PVUSD convened a meeting to draft an individualized education program (IEP) for Dorie, without her parents or a representative from the private school present. After which, Dorie was enrolled at the private school while her parents initiated a due process hearing to determine her future placement. The state hearing officer found that the PVUSD's program provided Dorie with a FAPE. Dorie's parents then commenced this action in the district court. The district court held that the PVUSD violate the IDEA by not including Dorie's parents and a representative from the private school at the IEP meeting. In addition, the district court held that Dorie's parents were entitled to reimbursement for the costs of sending Dorie to the private school during the current school year. PVUSD appealed the district court's decision. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, holding that the PVUSD violated the IDEA by not including a representative from the private school or Dorie's parents at the IEP meeting. In addition, the PVUSD denied Dorie a FAPE because the IDEA violations resulted in a lost educational opportunity.