Divorced Dad Can’t Demand School Changes

An Administrative Law Judge in New Jersey has turned back a divorced father’s attempt to demand changes to the Individual Education Plan for his son, on the grounds that the divorce decree gave to the mother the right to make “major educational decisions.” The case is cited as Denville Township Bd. of Educ., 42 IDELR 282 (SEA NJ 2004). I read about it in The Special Educator published on April 1, 2005, Vol. 20, No. 17, but I can’t find any reference to this publication on the web.

The court had granted joint custody and had given the father full access to the child’s s education records and the right to communicate with the child’s teachers. But it granted the mother the right to make major decisions about the child, including doctors, medical treatement, and schooling.

The child is an 11-year-old with a learning disability. The father had demanded an independent evaluation and objected to the Individual Education Plan (IEP) the school and the mother had set up together.

The Administrative Law Judge rules that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives full rights to either parent unless a legally binding document specifically revokes those rights for one of them. In this case, the judge said, the divorce decree acted as that legally binding document that had revoked the father’s right to make educational decisions about the student.

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