On July 21, 2014, a U.S. District Court confirmed a previous decision issued by the Office of Administrative Law regarding Millburn School District’s failures with respect to an autistic child, raising concerns about this top-rated school district’s willingness to serve its most vulnerable students.
The Administrative Law decision was issued In December 2012, after an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) heard over 22 days of live testimony from 16 witnesses and evaluated over 80 pieces of evidence. In her decision, the ALJ was very critical of several of Millburn’s special education professionals and its ABA program.
For example, the ALJ describes serious failures on the part of two of the district’s seasoned professionals who did not suspect autism even though they observed that the child had the same severe communication delays and maladaptive behaviors that are hallmarks of autism.
In addition, the ALJ criticized the school district’s ABA classrooms. ABA is an instructional approached proven effective for autistic children. Relying on the opinions of two highly regarded autism experts, the ALJ determined that Millburn’s inadequate administration of its ABA program rendered the instruction ineffective (the child of the parents who sued was not in Millburn’s ABA program at the time the program was observed by experts, but other children with autism were in the program).
Millburn appealed the ALJ’s decision to the U.S. District Court, and on July 21, 2014, the District Court affirmed the ALJ’s decision in all respects. Before siding entirely with the parents, the District Court considered the credibility attributed to the testimony provided by the school district’s professionals and the school district’s own documents in evidence, which did not support their testimony. The District Court’s 21-page decision can be found here. The ALJ’s 87-page decision can be found here.