Van Duyn v. Baker School District: A “Material” Improvement in Evaluating a School District’s Failure to Implement Individualized Education Programs

King, David G. | January 1, 2009

This Case Note of explores the standards courts use when evaluating a school district’s failure to implement a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). In , the Ninth Circuit held that only “material” failures to implement constitute a deprivation of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Note first begins with a discussion of the right to FAPE under the IDEA and how the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of FAPE in . It then examines the many different standards federal courts have used to evaluate implementation failures, including requiring the failure to involve a “substantial,” “significant,” or “essential” provision of the student’s IEP; examining the reason for the failure; examining whether the student received an educational benefit despite a failure; and requiring the failure to be more than de minimis. Finally, the Note critically examines the decision and concludes that the Ninth Circuit’s approach to implementation failures is the most appropriate approach to date. As compared to the other standards, the new materiality standard better serves the judiciary, school districts, and most importantly, students with disabilities.