Independent Living Orders for July – August 2013

Through an agreement with the good people at Florida Administrative Law Reports, I’m happy to be able to share with you the Independent Living fair hearing final orders that would not have otherwise made it into the published FALR. The previous batch is analyzed at Independent Living Final Orders for April – June 2013.

In this batch I received 15 orders ranging in dates from July 2 to August 15, 2013. All of the orders involved RTI terminations.

The numbers of orders per county were as follows:

  • Pinellas County = 1
  • Orange County = 1
  • Volusia County = 1
  • Palm Beach County = 5
  • Miami-Dade County = 7

As in the past, Our Kids in Miami-Dade County had the highest number of orders. Our Kids is also the only CBC that intervenes with their own attorney against the youth.

Only three of the youth had representation at their fair hearing, and the lawyers made notable contributions to the proceedings. Wendy Cox in Pinellas County was able to settle her fair hearing and preserve the issue of back-pay of RTI in K.B. Kele Stewart and her students with the Children and Youth Law Clinic in Miami-Dade County were able to make sustained evidence objections in M.B.B. And Wendy Robbins in Miami-Dade County put her client on the stand in M.R.

In contrast, none of the pro se petitioners presented exhibits or testimony. Instead, their statements at the hearing seem to have been universally categorized as argument. Obviously this is a huge problem–argument isn’t evidence. In many orders the hearing officer summed up the youth’s position as “the youth does not dispute the allegations.”

Additionally, no school officials testified in any of the hearings about their school’s academic standards or the youth’s enrollment status. In many final orders, it appears that the sole source of evidence of the school’s academic standards came from the DCF employee who determined eligibility.

Most of the cases involved youth seeking good cause exceptions:

  • due to hospitalization (A.O.)
  • due to seizure disorder (V.J.)
  • due to inability to afford books/fees (D.F.D.J.)
  • due to lack of relevant classes and death of an uncle (J.W. III)
  • due to moving out of county and having to restart school (A.M.)
  • due to housing problems (M.R.)
  • due to caring for sick relatives and to protect her GPA (M.B.B.)
  • due to incarceration (O.H.)
  • due to fear of domestic violence by her child’s father (J.P.)

None of the petitioners requested an administrative waiver or variance under section 120. None of the hearing officers found any “good cause” exceptions to the RTI requirements. And, notably, none of the petitioners argued and none of the hearing officers analyzed the facts under the limited exception created in B.P. – 11F-09383, which reversed an RTI termination for circumstances outside of the petitioner’s control.

All of the cases that went to hearing had unfavorable outcomes, terminating the youths’ RTI. The exceptions were limited to one case that was dismissed as moot because the youth aged out of the program (A.O.), one that was an untimely filed appeal several years late (J.W-H.), and another that was settled prior to hearing (K.B.).

For now, all of the collected Final Orders are archived at  https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_qBug5546qWZ3E3ak5lSmwzSUk&usp=sharing . If you sign in to Google and click “Open in Drive” at the top right, the orders are sortable and searchable. I’m still looking for a better way to make them publicly accessible. 

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