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Schaffer v. Weast: Public or Private?

Disagreements began from the beginning.

Attorneys for Montgomery County Public Schools repeatedly assert that Jocelyn and Martin Schaffer attempted to get the school system to "subsidize" a private education for their son.

"This kind of gamesmanship only will be encouraged if the normal burden of proof is reversed in all cases," according to the school system’s brief filed in the United States Supreme Court.

The school system says a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Schaffers’ argument would require every school district to justify every aspect of a challenged IEP through expert testimony or evidence.

"It would also encourage parents — as petitioners were found to have done here — to make only ‘mock efforts’ to cooperate in the IEP process … and instead force adversarial litigation," according to Superintendent Jerry Weast’s brief.

Jocelyn Schaffer and her attorney chafe at the perception the school system has created of her family.

"I really don’t know why they need to paint a negative picture of us," Schaffer said.

"It’s really hurtful that they would resort to this, it really is," she said.

Schaffer has three children who graduated from Montgomery County Public Schools, and enrolled Brian at the Learning Center at Walter Johnson High School when the option was presented to her — well into the legal battle over the proper Individualized Education Plan for her son.

"I think every parent wants to see their child be treated fairly in life and have an opportunity to succeed," she said. "Every parent, of course, wants the best for their child and when you see that the county is charged with the responsibility to provide an appropriate education for a child and you see the county isn’t doing it, you feel this profound unfairness."

Brian Edwards, an MCPS spokesman, said the school system has not accused the Schaffers of bad faith.

"The [Administrative Law Judge] said he thought it was a mock effort to get payment for private school," Edwards said. "We didn’t say that. We don’t have any opinion on that."