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Oberti – LRE

Oberti v. Clementon Board of Education, 995 F.2d 1204 (3d Cir. 1993)

This case, decided in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, is applicable only in those districts governed by the Third Circuit, such as New Jersey. New York belongs to the Second Circuit and is therefore unaffected by the decision and findings in Oberti.

Background

Rafael Oberti was an 8-year-old child with Down syndrome in Clementon School District in southern New Jersey. Rafael began having behavior problems in his public school class, so the district removed him from his regular education class.

Rafael’s parents objected, but the parents and the district reached an agreement. Rafael would be put in a segregated specialized class in another school district, Winslow, while Clementon agreed to do the following:
– Look into mainstreaming options at Winslow; and
– Consider a future regular classroom program for him at Clementon.

After a period of time, Rafael’s parents found that the district failed to meet its obligation: Rafael continued to have no contact with nondisabled children at Winslow, and the district made no efforts to mainstream Rafael. As a result, they brought the issue to Court.

U.S. Court of Appeals

The U.S. Court of Appeals applied a two-part test in Oberti:

1) Can the child be educated satisfactorily with supplementary aids/services in a regular classroom?
2) Has the district included the child in school programs with nondisabled children to the maximum extent possible?

Decision

The U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the previous decision of the District Court, finding that the District failed to comply with the IDEA. The district failed to provide a curriculum plan, a behavior management plan, provisions for supplementary aids and services, or adequate special education support for the teacher, among other things.

The provisions in the IDEA clearly emphasize that children with disabilities must be integrated to the maximum extent possible. The requirement that children be educated in the least restrictive environment makes the provision of supplementary services so vital, as those services often can, and will, keep children in mainstream classes, while still addressing their unique, individual needs.

The U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the District to individually design a program for Rafael that was appropriate under, and in accordance with, the IDEA.