BL vs. Owen J. Roberts School District

This is a redacted version of the original decision. Select details have been removed from the
decision to preserve anonymity of the student. The redactions do not affect the substance of
the document.

PENNSYLVANIA
SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER

DECISION

Child’s Name: B.L.

Date of Birth: [redacted]

Date of Hearing: August 27, 2014

CLOSED HEARING

ODR File No. 15205-1415AS

Parties to the Hearing:

Parent[s]

Owen J. Roberts School District 901 Ridge Road
Pottstown, PA 19465-8423

Representative:

Pro Se

Sharon W. Montanye, Esquire
Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams LLP 331 E. Butler Avenue
New Britain, PA 18901

Date Record Closed: September 4, 2014

Date of Decision: September 15, 2014

Hearing Officer: Cathy A. Skidmore, M.Ed., J.D.

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The student (Student)1 is an early teenaged student residing in the Owen J. Roberts School District (District) who is eligible for special education pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)2 on the basis of an autism spectrum disorder. Student’s Parents filed a due process complaint against the District asserting that it denied Student a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA.

The case proceeded to a due process hearing which convened in a single session, at which the parties presented evidence in support of their respective positions.3 The Parents sought to establish that the District violated its FAPE obligation to Student in two respects: in making changes to Student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) in June 2014 without agreement of the Parents, and in refusing to place Student in a residential program for the 2014-15 school year despite an agreement of the IEP team to do so in early 2014. The District maintained that the non-residential special education program offered for the fall of 2014 was appropriate for Student, and that the IEP was properly revised.

For the reasons set forth below, I decline to order a residential placement at this time, but will direct an independent educational evaluation of Student, at public expense, to assist the parties in making a new placement decision pursuant to the IDEA.

1 In the interest of confidentiality and privacy, Student’s name and gender, and other potentially identifiable information, are not used in the body of this decision.
2 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482.
3 The record consists of the transcript and the exhibits admitted into evidence at the conclusion of the hearing. Notes of Testimony (N.T.) 222-26. Student’s father was present at the hearing and participated throughout the process; where it appears that he was speaking or acting for both parents, the plural Parents is used in this decision. It should also be noted that, following receipt of the transcript, the Parents sent a list of errata in the transcript to counsel for the District and the hearing officer. The attachment containing the errata was made part of the record as the last page of the Parents’ closing; in addition, the September 4, 2014 email message and the attachment containing the errata have been marked as a two-page Hearing Officer Exhibit (HO-) 6 and is hereby admitted. This hearing officer further observes that some exhibits submitted by the parties were duplicative; this decision may cite to one or the other or both.

ODR File No. 15205-1415AS Page 2 of 19

ISSUES

  1. Whether the District complied with the procedural and substantive requirements of the IDEA when it failed to issue a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement in February 2014;
  2. Whether the District’s offer of special education programming and placement for the 2014-15 school year is appropriate;
  3. If the District’s offer for the 2014-15 school year was not appropriate, whether Student requires a residential placement for that school year; and
  4. Whether the District complied with the procedural requirements of the IDEA when it made revisions to Student’s IEP and issued a NOREP in June 2014.
B-L-Owen-J-Roberts-ODRNo-15205-1415AS

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