Is Education At The “Home School” A Federal Mandate?


Murray vs. Montrose County School District  (Colorado)

51 F.3d 921; 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 7567 (4/20/95)

This case involved a twelve year old boy with multiple disabilities due to C.P: mental and physical problems, as well as speech difficulties.  In 1987-88, Tyler was tested prior to entry into kindergarten classes and the neighborhood school at this time was not accessible, but a school ten miles further away was accessible.  The neighborhood school served mild to moderately impaired pupils, the other served severe to profound populations.  The MDC first determined the child’s needs could be met at the neighborhood school and he spent K-1 in regular first grade there, with substantial services.

In January, 1990, another MDC led to the recommendation that Tyler be sent to the other school, ten miles away – parents were opposed to this, as they wanted Tyler to be with his friends.  It was, however, ultimately recommended, in a close vote, that Tyler attend the distant school due to “lack of accessibility” at the closer school.  The Director of Special Education was the tiebreaker.  It was undisputed that the IEP was appropriate, and that Tyler should spend most of his time outside of the regular classroom.

A due process hearing was requested and this occurred in March 1991 – the holding was that the home school was appropriate.  The district appealed, and the second level holding was that Tyler had not achieved any  meaningful progress at the “home” school, thus reversing Level I and ordering placement at the distant school, per the original district recommendations.

The administrative decision was challenged in district court by the parents, and this was affirmed.  Parents appealed from dismissal of their federal claim.  Tyler was at the home school for the entire relevant time period, and in 11/93, a MDC determined that his needs could be met there.  The question of mootness was discussed, and rejected in part by the appellate court.


Citing Rowley, the Court asks the two standard questions,[1]then moves to LRE – and distinguishing ‘mainstreaming’ from ‘inclusion,’ the latter meaning to this court no alteration of the regular education class to accommodate the child(Citing West Edlaw Reporter 88 Educ L. Rep. 541 article) and adding that Rowley does not give a standard for LRE analysis other than the statute itself.


A.  Discussion of the various LRE tests:

–  Daniel R.R.   874 F.2d 1036 (5th 1989):

1. Can education in regular class be achieved satisfactorily?

a. Steps taken to accommodate?

b. Will pupil benefit from regular education?

c. What is the child’s overall experience in regular education?

d. What is the effect on the classroom of the child’s presence in it?

(874 F.2d at 1048-49) and noting that Greer allows cost considerations (950 F.2d 697)

if education not achievable, then ask:

2. Has the school district mainstreamed to the maximum extent appropriate?

B. The DAN. R.R. test has been adopted by the 3rd, 5th, and 11th federal appellate circuits, – below, the RONCKER test has been adopted, by the 4th, 6th, and 8th circuits (700 F.2d 1058-6th Cir.):

1. Are the “superior” services available at the self contained site transferable to the public school setting?  (700 F.2d at 1063)

2. Consider these factors:

a. Benefits of special vs. regular education classroom.

b. Whether child would be disruptive in regular education.

c. Cost of putting child in regular classroom.

C. Finally, the Ninth Circuit has a hybrid of both, a balancing test, as established by the Holland case:

1. Educational benefits of full time regular education;

2. Non-academic benefits;

3. Effect of child on teacher and children;

4. Costs of mainstreaming child.

(Sacramento v. Rachel H., 14 F.3d 1398, 1404) (1994) (the “Holland” case).


The court then discussed the “modified de novo review standard” for IDEA cases –

1. Independent review of evidence

2. New evidence if necessary

3. “Due weight” to administrative level

4. Decide on preponderance standard (“more likely than not” – 51%).


Here, the appellate court reviewed the district court’s grant of the district’s Motion for Summary Judgment – this case involves a single legal issue: whether LRE mandates a presumption in favor of the “neighborhood” school – and the court held that IT DOES NOT.

In affirming the District Court in favor of the District, the Court said:

1. This interpretation “strains the plain meaning of the statute,”  which is silent on removal from neighborhood schools;

2. Regulations only express a preference which considerations of appropriateness can cancel;

3. The Court expressly disagrees with any of the Oberti court’s language to the contrary;

4. The legislative history of IDEA does not come right out and say anything in favor of “close to home” being a mandate.

And note this language:

A school district accordingly is NOT obligated to fully explore supplemental aids and services before removing a child from a neighborhood school.

Here, there was never any objection concerning the extent to which Tyler was removed from regular education classrooms – only to removal from the “neighborhood” school.  This was thus a narrow, single issue case.[2]

[1]  Has the District followed mandated procedures and is the IEP reasonably calculated to confer an educational benefit?

[2]  See Also: Urban by Urban v. Jefferson County School District R-1, (D. Colo.) 12/3/94 Sparr, District Judge.