CH vs. Lower Merion 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

DUE PROCESS HEARING

Name of Child: CH
ODR #9199/08-09 LS

Date of Birth:
XX/XX/XX

Dates of Hearing:
December 8, 2008, 6:35 pm to 8:53 pm
December 19, 2008, 9 am to 3:39 pm
January 26, 2009, 4:20 pm to 8:02 pm
February 25, 2009, 6:00 pm to 8:38 pm
February 27, 2009, 6:00 pm to 7:54 pm
March 30, 2009, 4:30 pm to 8:21 pm
April 22, 2009, 6:00 pm to 8:42 pm
April 29, 2009, 6:00 pm to 7:37 pm

CLOSED HEARING

Parties to the Hearing: Ms.

Lower Merion School District 301 E. Montgomery Avenue Ardmore, Pennsylvania 19003

Representative:
Bessie Dewar, Esquire
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia 125 S. 9th Street, Suite 700
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107

Lawrence Dodds, Esquire Wisler Pearlstine
484 Norristown Road, Suite 100 Blue Bell, Pennsylvania 19422

Date Record Closed: June 9, 2009

Date of Decision: June 24, 2009

Hearing Officer: Linda M. Valentini, Psy.D.

 

Background

Student is a late teen-aged eligible student enrolled in the Lower Merion School District (hereinafter District). Student’s mother, Ms. (hereinafter Parent) requested this hearing to address her concerns that Student had been denied a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Pursuant to this hearing officer’s rulings on a pre- hearing motion (HO-1) and because certain information came to light in the pre-hearing conference regarding the lack of timely completion of the publicly-funded Independent Educational Evaluation (NT 14-16), the scope of this hearing was limited to the period from July 30, 2005 through the day before the first day of the 2008-2009 school year; thus the hearing covers Student’s 8th, 9th, and 10th grade years.

At the pre-hearing conference counsel discussed their disagreement about whether a particular witness would be allowed to testify, and this hearing officer ruled that the witness would not be permitted to testify. Parent’s counsel made a written request for reconsideration of this ruling, and after considering the request and the District’s answer, this hearing officer determined that her ruling would stand. (NT 16-17; HO-3)

Because of her work schedule the Parent requested that all hearing sessions be in the evening, but arranged her hours so that one daytime session could be held. This circumstance, combined with the difficulty of matching the calendars of the parties, their counsel and their witnesses, was responsible for the length of time it took this hearing to be completed. Written closing arguments were due on May 29, 2009 but at the request of District counsel, with Parent counsel’s concurrence, the deadline was extended one week. Subsequently, as the Parent’s counsel changed unexpectedly, Parent’s counsel asked for another extension with no objection from District’s Counsel.

 

Issues

  1. Did the Lower Merion School District fail to provide Student with a free, appropriate public education in the areas of mathematics, reading and writing? Specifically:

First, did the District fail to conduct appropriate evaluations in these areas and/or fail to consider information from testing that was administered in order to modify the Student’s program;

Second, were the Student’s IEPs inappropriate because goals were dropped in areas where the Student still had needs;

Third, were the Student’s IEPs inappropriate because they did not address the Student’s need for self-advocacy, study and organizational skills;

Fourth, were the Student’s IEPs inappropriate because goals lacked baselines and measurability;

Fifth, were the Student’s IEPs inappropriate because the District failed to address lack of progress and subsequently alter the curriculum or teaching strategies;

Sixth, were the Specially Designed Instructions inappropriate because they were not specific to the Student and not altered from year to year to meet Student’s changing needs.

  1. Did the Lower Merion School District fail to provide Student with an appropriate transition plan to enable Student to access post-secondary education?
  2. Did the Lower Merion School District fail to provide Student’s special education program in the least restrictive environment?
  3. If the Lower Merion School District failed in these regards is Student entitled to compensatory education, and if so in what kind and in what amount?
CH-Lower-Merion-ODRNo-9199-08-09-LS

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