SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER
Child’s Name: C. J.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
ODR File No. 17382-15-16 KE
Parties to the Hearing:
Local Education Agency Penn Manor School District 2950 Charlestown Road Lancaster, PA 17603
Mark W. Voigt, Esquire
Plymouth Meeting Executive Campus 600 West Germantown Pike, Suite 400 Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
Jeffrey F. Champagne, Esquire Elizabeth S. Daniels, Esquire McNees, Wallace, & Nurick LLC 100 Pine Street, P.O. Box 1166 Harrisburg, PA 17108
Dates of Hearing: June 1, 2016, June 9, 2016, June 16, 2016
Date Record Closed: June 21, 2016
Date of Decision: July 11, 2016
Hearing Officer: Cathy A. Skidmore, M.Ed., J.D. Certified Hearing Official
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The student (hereafter Student)1 is a mid-teenaged student who resides within the geographic boundaries of the Penn Manor School District (District). Student, who is eligible for special education pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),2 previously attended school in the District but currently attends a public charter school (Charter School) that is some distance from the family’s home. In February 2016, Student’s Parents filed a due process complaint against the District asserting that the program it offered to Student in December 2015 did not provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,3 as well as the federal and state regulations implementing those statutes.4
The case proceeded to a due process hearing convening over three sessions.5 The Parents sought to establish that the District failed to offer FAPE to Student in its program developed for the 2015-16 school year, and requested reimbursement for expenses associated with Student’s placement in the Charter School and an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). The District maintained that its special education program, as offered, was appropriate for Student, and that no remedy was due to the Parents. The record closed upon receipt of a document produced in response to this hearing officer’s request for additional evidence, namely the version of Student’s 2015-16 Charter School IEP that was current as of the end of October 2015 as referenced in the testimony.6
For the reasons set forth below, the Parents will prevail on their claim for transportation expense reimbursement, but the District will prevail on the issues of IEE reimbursement and expert witness fees.
- Whether the District’s special education program proposed for Student for the 2015-16 school year was appropriate;
- If the District’s proposed program was not appropriate, whether Charter School is appropriate for Student and, if so, whether equitable considerations operate to reduce or deny reimbursement for expenses incurred by the Parents for Charter School;
- Whether the District should be ordered to provide door to door transportation to Charter School prospectively;
- Whether the Parents are entitled to reimbursement for an IEE; and
- Whether the Parents are entitled to reimbursement for fees incurred in connection with the testimony of their expert witness at the hearing?