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

ODR No. 15488-1415AS

Child’s Name: C.L.

Date of Birth: [redacted]

Dates of Hearing: 11/10/14

CLOSED HEARING

Parties to the Hearing:

Parents Parent[s]*

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

Representative:

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

School District Attorney
Thomas Breth, Esquire
Dillon, McCandless, King, Coulter & Graham
128 West Cunningham, Street Butler, PA 16001

Date Record Closed: November 12, 2014

Date of Decision: November 24, 2014

Hearing Officer: Anne L. Carroll, Esq.

 

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Student, an elementary school-aged child, entered the School District at the beginning of the 2014/2015 school year with a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder and a longstanding history of disruptive behavior. Student began exhibiting significantly challenging classroom behaviors within the first few weeks of the school year, prompting the District to suggest an alternative placement by mid-September. Mother refused, but signed a Permission to Evaluate form (PTE) at the request of the School District to determine whether Student is IDEA eligible.

While the evaluation was underway, Student was suspended from school for a total of 14 days for disciplinary infractions. After a series of behavior incidents on October 27, 2014 the District initiated expulsion proceedings, but first conducted a manifestation determination review which resulted in the conclusion, over Parents’ dissent, that the behaviors in question were not a manifestation of Student’s disability.

Parents’ appeal of the District’s manifestation determination conclusion was heard in an expedited due process hearing on November 10.

The due process hearing record very clearly established that the District’s manifestation determination conclusion was erroneous because it was based on standards unsupported by either law or logic, and that the expulsion proceedings were designed to achieve a change of Student’s educational placement prior to an IDEA eligibility determination that would give Parents the right to object to, and would likely foreclose, immediate transfer to the alternative educational setting that the District believes will better serve Student’s behavior needs. The District, therefore, is required to reinstate Student to the regular education placement and to follow IDEA educational placement procedures in accordance with the order that follows.

ISSUES

Did the School District accurately and appropriately determine that behaviors in which Student engaged on October 27, 2014 were not a manifestation of Student’s disability?

Was the District, therefore, justified in imposing the same discipline it would have imposed on a non-IDEA eligible student for a serious violation of the District’s code of student conduct, i.e., Student’s expulsion from the District for the 2014/2015 school year?

 

C-L-Mars-Area-ODRNo-15488-1415AS

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