Special Education Law Case Summary
New Media Charter School

new media charter school philadelphia

ODR Case: 17929-15-16
Hearing Officer: Charles Jelley Esq. L.L.M.
Date of Decision: November 8, 2016

BACKGROUND

M.B. (Hereinafter, Student) attended New Media Charter School (Hereinafter, Charter School) during the 2015-16 school year as a sixth-grade student. Prior to his tenure at the Charter School, Student was identified as a child with a disability by his school district. Student suffers from Emotional Disturbance and other health impairments. (N.T. November 8, 2016 at 3).

Parent’s claim that the Charter school failed to comply with IDEA. First, Charter School failed to implement Student’s IEP. (N.T. at 3). Second, Charter School failed to provide student with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) as required under IDEA. (Id.).

Since the 2015-16 school year the Charter School has closed and is unrepresented in this matter.

FACTS

Student transferred to the Charter School to attend his sixth-grade year in 2015. Upon his arrival, the Charter School was given notice of student’s IEP through his Notice of Recommended Education Placement (NOREP) and his Student Profile. (N.T. at 3). Student was known to have a history of discipline issues and continuous struggles while in school. (Id.). Despite having notice of these issues, the Charter School did not hold an IEP meeting until November 19, leaving student without specialized education programming for the first months of school. (Id.).

Though an IEP was completed in November 2015, the document and plan itself was broad, vague, and completely inadequate for the unique needs of Student.  The IEP did not include mandated levels of educational performance (PLEP) and determined Student did not need a Positive Behavior Support Plan (PBSP) despite knowledge of his lengthy history of school-based discipline. (Id). The IEP included a math goal, behavior goal and multiple designed strategies for instruction. (Id.). The IEP set up specific time allotted for Student to receive specialized education with an emotional support specialist both in and outside of his regular classes.

Through testimony the Court found and accepted that the Student never met with the special education teacher or received the specially-designed instruction guaranteed to him through his IEP at any point during the school year. (N.T. at 4).  Further, due to a lack of a PBSP, Student continued to be disciplined at the rate prior to his November 2015 IEP. (Id.). A manifestation hearing held in January 2016 determined Student’s misbehaviors were not manifested from the Student’s emotional disorders. (Id.).

As the year went on Student’s behavior and mental health began to diminish. Within a month of the manifestation determination meeting, Student made suicidal statements and was sent to a crisis center three times during the spring semester. (N.T. at 4). When the Student returned to the Charter School he continued to struggle both academically and behaviorally. Eventually, Student’s Parents were told he could not finish out the year. (Id.). Due to his failing grades, Student was forced to repeat the sixth-grade school year. (Id.).

CLAIMS

  1. Charter School failed to implement the Student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
  2. Charter School failed to provide Student with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) as required by the IDEA.
  3. Parent’s seek full compensatory education for the entire 2015-16 school years.

COURT DETERMINATIONS AND REASONING

Hearing Officer Jelley decisions contained a rather lengthy and detailed background of the law applied to this case. He explained in detail the burden of proof needed to prevail in such IDEA cases and his how he determined of the credibility the only witness during the hearing, Student’s Parent.

The Charter School first violated the IDEA when it failed to schedule an IEP meeting to review Student’s transfer IEP. Since there is so much focus on the law behind it, I am assuming Student came from out of state to the Charter School.  In such a situation, the new school district is not required to consider the out-of-state IEP as continuing in effect in the new state. If the new school should choose this approach it must determine whether it will adopt the out of state IEP or conduct its own evaluation. After the evaluation, the district must provide the parents Prior Written Notice. Here, the Charter School failed to schedule an IEP meeting with the Parent’s to review the Student’s transfer IEP. A meeting was not held until November do discuss and develop a current IEP for Student. These actions alone denied Student of a FAPE under the IDEA.

Second, the Court found that IEP developed for Student in November 2015 failed to include necessary data and specific plans and accommodations for Student and therefore violated the IDEA by denying him a FAPE. Under the IDEA, Charter Schools are expected to locate, evaluate and educate children with a disability. Each student’s IEP should include his present levels of achievement and performance, provide annual goals, and explain how progress will be measured. Once the IEP is accepted by the parents, student’s progress must be regularly monitored and reported to the parents. In this case.

In this case the Court found that the Charter School’s IEP failed to meet the regulations set forth in IDEA. (N.T. at 12). Notably, the Charter School failed to include mandated present levels of educational performance (PLEP). Without this reference point included within Student’s IEP there is no way to monitor and determine growth through the school year. Further, despite knowledge of Student’s history of discipline issues, the IEP team found no need to include a Positive Behavior Support Plan (PBSP) within the IEP. The Court found that leaving out a PBSP prohibited Student from succeeding through “sufficient strategies” teaching him how to focus, increase time on task, and transition from class to class or subject to subject. Thus, the poorly developed and implemented IEP was a major contributor to Student’s misbehavior throughout the school year, denying FAPE.

CONCLUSION

            The court ruled in favor of all Parent’s Claims. The Charter School’s failure to review Student’s IEP when he arrived from another district and its insufficiently written and implemented IEP denied Student FAPE throughout the entire 2015-16 school year. To remedy this, Student was awarded 1224 hours of compensatory education, to suffice the entire 2015-16 school year.