Hearing dates have been set for the end of July for a Due Process complaint filed against the St. Ansgar School District and The Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA).

The complaint was filed on behalf of Elizabeth Esdohr, a 21-year-old special needs student attending Iowa Lakes Community College from the St. Ansgar district by her guardians Michael Esdohr, Brenda Esdohr, and Sue Shires.

The complaint alleges that the St. Ansgar Schools and the AEA violated the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) when they did not provide a free public education to Elizabeth for the 2018 fall semester.

Part B of the IDEA requires that public agencies, such as public schools, “make available ‘free appropriate public education’ to all children with disabilities…at no cost to the parent or child.”


In order to be eligible, a child must be evaluated by the district. Then, the guardians and the school district work out an IEP — a legal document that spells out a child’s educational goals and the services and support the school will provide.

The complaint states that in February of 2018, the Prairie Lakes AEA informed Elizabeth and her guardians that since she was on track to meet her special education goals by the end of the semester, the public agencies would terminate her IEP.

The Esdohrs and Shires objected, and over the next nine months they and members of the school district and AEA met repeatedly discuss Elizabeth’s IEP, her eligibility and her goals and placement for the 2018-2019 school year, according to the complaint.

At the start of the fall 2018 semester, Elizabeth had no IEP in place when she enrolled in classes at Iowa Lakes — the complaint states that her IEP was not finalized until November of 2018.

The complaint states that since no IEP was in place for Elizabeth when she enrolled, the St. Ansgar School did not provide a free education for Elizabeth for that semester.

The complainants are requesting that the school reimburse Elizabeth for the semester she completed without an IEP, as well as pay for her to attend Iowa Lakes in the fall 2019 semester, as well as all attorney fees.

The St. Ansgar School District declined to comment until the hearings have taken place.

Editors note: a free public education was changed from a free college education in the third paragraph. The IDEA provides a continuation of free public education, not college.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The school district did not provide a FREE special education for Elizabeth in the fall of 2018- it’s NOT a free college education – like General Education Students … this is a mis representation of the facts. All students may attend public school until the age of 21. For Special Education Students their are special ‘4 Plus’ programs available a select community colleges through out the state that allow these students to continue with transitioning into adulthood.
    I would be happy to explain the facts to anyone who has questions

  2. FROM: Esdohr family
    RE: State Complaint

    The Family of Elizabeth Esdohr is thankful that the State Complaint they filed against the St Ansgar School District and Central Rivers AEA has been settled outside of court, and the matter will be dismissed once the terms of the settlement are complete.
    ” We are very glad that in the end, the district did what was right by covering the legal cost and school expenses (that previous St Ansgar special education students were not forced to pay). These were costs that no special education student or family should have to ever incur.”
    “I think that there has been some confusion about our daughters abilities, the 4+ programs and our families intentions and Elizabeth’s educational needs. Special Education students can utilize the 4+ programs if they are a good transitional fit for the student. Elizabeth has developmental delay, and the 4+ program was a good fit, to help her continue in her ability to successfully transition to adulthood, and hopefully, semi-independent living. These programs are paid for through the state special education weighted dollars, provided to the school district from the state. I want to make sure that the community understands that this was not a family wanting a college education for their student, on the districts dime. On that note, its good to remember that high school students who qualify are able to take college classes through their district all the time, and the students and their parents do not have a financial obligation to those college credit classes. The St Ansgar School District currently has an agreement with NIACC to provide these classes. Additionally, our request for a compensatory semester, was to replace the semester that Elizabeth took classes at Iowa Lakes Committee College ( ILCC), but had no special education supports, because the district did not have a complete IEP in place when classes started. Think of it as a special education student who needs a para with them for classes, being forced to take a general education class without the para, or time in a special education or resource room, chances are that student will not benefit from those classes, and that is what happens to Elizabeth. Elizabeth had to take 12 credits to attend ILCC and live on campus, as the IEP that was in place stated, but because the IEP was not complete, she could not receive Special Education support, and she did not benefit from those classes, and we would have liked for her to be able to retake that semester. That was not part of the settlement, and Elizabeth is now done with her education, because she does not have the ability to complete college classes without additional support. ”
    We look forward to putting the last 17 months of IEP conflict behind us, and we look forward to the new St Ansgar administration having the opportunity to do better than the former administration. The School Board has a wonderful opportunity to find a new Special Education Director who can bring the Special Education program back to what it once was, and hopefully even better than that!

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