Grandview school officials took steps this week to teach a hearing-impaired student who reached his senior year without the skills needed to graduate.
The move came after the state threatened to cut off federal funding unless the district began paying for the private education of Jos Garcia, an 18-year-old born with severe hearing loss who had attended Grandview schools since preschool.
Nearly a year ago, an administrative law judge ordered the district to provide private education to Garcia. But the district appealed the order and said it was unable to agree on a contract with specialists to teach him.
That prompted the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to threaten to withhold the district's federal Individual Disability Education Act money.
This week, the district signed a six-year contract with two private specialists who will design and implement an education plan to help Garcia get caught up, said Superintendent Kevin Chase.
"We have complied with OSPI's order," he said during a telephone interview this week.
Attorney Art Grant, who is representing Garcia, said he feared the district would avoid the law judge's order until a final ruling was made.
"This got their attention and put a fire under their wheels," Grant said of OSPI's order.
Over the six years, it will cost the district about $1.4 million to educate Garcia unless the district's appeal is successful, Chase said.
"But in the meantime, we'll be providing the services," Chase said.
The case began last year when Garcia's mother, Maria Sanchez, filed a complaint with OSPI after learning that her son was performing well below his grade level and wouldn't graduate.
In his Oct. 8, 2010, ruling, administrative law Judge Matthew Wacker found that Garcia was put into special education classes rather than provided with equipment and instruction to address his hearing problem as required by the federal Individual Disabilities Education Act.
Arguing that Wacker erroneously threw out certain testimony, the district is appealing his ruling in Yakima County Superior Court.
The district also argues the judge was legally restricted to looking only at Garcia's two most recent school years, when instead he based his decision on the boy's entire educational history.
In his ruling, Wacker said the fact that school staff gave false testimony entitled him to review Garcia's entire education.
Some staff members signed documents stating they had attended meetings involving Garcia's education, when in fact they hadn't.
Garcia's mother also has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the school district for not acting on the law judge's order within a required 60-day window.
The federal court said it would hold off any action until a decision was rendered in Superior Court.
The case has been costly for Grandview. From January 2010 to this year, the district paid more than $266,000 in attorney fees, according to records.
Although Garcia was born with severe hearing loss, he was not diagnosed with any learning disability.
He entered the district in preschool and regularly brought home A's and B's throughout the years.