CL vs. Mars Area 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: C. L.
Date of Birth: [redacted]

Dates of Hearing:

December 16, 2015
January 21, 2016
February 1, 2016
February 8, 2016
February 22, 2016
April 5, 2016
April 12, 2016
April 13, CLOSED HEARING

ODR Case # 16696-1516AS

Parties to the Hearing:

Parent[s]

Mars Area School District 116 Browns Hill Road Valencia, PA 16059

Representative:

John Corcoran, Jr., Esquire 411 Seventh Avenue
Suite 1200
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Thomas Breth, Esquire 128 W. Cunningham Street Butler, PA 16001

Date Record Closed: May 25, 2016

Date of Decision: June 21, 2016

Hearing Officer: Jake McElligott, Esquire

INTRODUCTION

Student1 is an elementary school age student residing in the District. The parties’ dispute arises out of an intricate factual background, centering on the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year (the student’s 1st grade year) and particularly focusing on a behavioral incident in October 2014, which is set forth in the Findings of Fact section below.

In terms of the parties’ positions, the student’s mother2 claims that the student is eligible as a student with a disability under the terms of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act of 2004 (“IDEA”)3, and that the District, through various acts and omissions, denied the student a free-appropriate public education (“FAPE”), specifically in terms of how, in November 2014, it handled discipline of the student as a thought-to-be-eligible student who was in the midst of an evaluation process. As a result, parent asserts, she undertook a unilateral private placement of the student in December 2015. Parent seeks tuition reimbursement for that private placement, in addition to compensatory education for the period of November and December 2014, when the parent claims the student was wrongfully excluded from school by the District.

Additionally, parent asserts that the District has not met its obligations to the student under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, particularly Section 504 of that statute (“Section 504”).4 The parents seek a finding that the District discriminated against the student on the basis of the student’s disability, in violation of Section 504.5

The District counters that, at all times, it met its obligations to the student under IDEA and Section 504. The District asserts that nothing in its work with the student in the period August-November 2014 supports any finding that it did not meet its legal obligations to the student. As a result, the District argues that parent is not entitled to any remedy.

For the reasons set forth below, I find in favor of the parent.

 

ISSUES

1. Did the District fail to meet its obligations to the student under IDEA, thereby denying the student FAPE?

2. Did the District fail to meet its obligations to the student under Section 504, thereby denying the student FAPE?

3. If the answer to either question #1 or #2, or both questions, is/are answered in the affirmative,
is the student entitled to compensatory education?

4. If the answer to either question #1 or #2, or both questions, is/are answered in the affirmative,
is the parent entitled to tuition reimbursement?

5. Did the District discriminate against the student on the basis of disability, in violation of Section 504?

 

C-L-Mars-Area-ODRNo-16696-1516AS

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