Parents of students who were aging out of special educational services are breathing a sigh of relief this week as the Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state’s attempt to stop the decision from going into effect.
Essentially, the ruling by the appeals court means that 22-year-olds will be able to receive educational services this school year.
The state argued that even though schools provide adult education programs to nondisabled individuals 21 years and older, that the programs don’t constitute “public education.”
But the lower court found that children with disabilities remain eligible to receive a free appropriate public education until they reach the age of 22.
The state, including the State Board of Education, argued: “that because GED, AHSCD and NEDP constitute ‘very minimal secondary school completion programs,’ adult education in Connecticut does not provide the equivalent of a secondary school public education to general education students.”
A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court did not agree and sided with the plaintiff in the case.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General William Tong said they are “reviewing the decision and evaluating next steps.”
In June, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Haight Jr. ruled that the Connecticut State Board of Education’s decision to limit services to special education students after their 21st birthdays violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The ruling found that because Connecticut provides public education to non-disabled individuals over the age of 21 in the form of adult education and GED programs, it must offer something similar for special education students.
The state appealed the decision in July and asked for it not to go into effect in the meantime.
It’s estimated that about 600 to 800 students will now be able to obtain services.
The lower court decided that students whose special education was ended because they turned 21 years old are also entitled to compensatory education.
The appeals court found “that the Board’s systemic denial of a free appropriate public education to individuals with disabilities between the ages of 21 and 22, which has resulted in complete exclusion of such individuals from educational placement, constitutes a gross violation of the IDEA.” Because of the “gross violation,” the state needs to offer compensatory services to individuals who may not have received them.