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D.W.’s Story: Addressing a Young Woman’s Mental Health Needs and Making Up for Lost Time

D.W.’s Story: Addressing a Young Woman’s Mental Health Needs and Making Up for Lost Time

D.W. is a young woman struggling with mental illness whose grandparents have continually fought for her right to an appropriate education. D.W. suffers from bipolar disorder, initially diagnosed during early adolescence. During middle school D.W.’s psychiatric condition progressively worsened, slowly robbing her of the ability to function in traditional classroom settings and resulting in multiple hospitalizations of increasing length and frequency. During high school D.W.’s doctors recommended placement in a therapeutic residential school due to the severity of her condition; however, the DOE was slow to act on this information. The DOE eventually agreed that this was the appropriate setting for D.W. but failed in its responsibility to timely identify a residential school that could meet her needs. D.W. was out of school for nearly a year, with her educational program limited to two hours per day of home instruction.

D.W.’s grandparents sought legal assistance to have her placed in an appropriate residential program immediately. After transitioning to the residential facility, D.W.’s psychiatric condition stabilized, leading to improved classroom performance and learning. PFCR then represented D.W. and her grandparents in a hearing seeking compensatory services to make up for the prior years when she was denied an appropriate education. The family prevailed in the hearing, achieving a rarely awarded remedy─an extension of eligibility for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This resounding victory ensured that two additional years would be added to D.W.’s secondary education and gave D.W. the opportunity to make up for the time and progress she lost as a result of the DOE’s legal violations.

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