ER vs. West Chester Area School District

PENNSYLVANIA
SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER

DECISION
DUE PROCESS HEARING

Name of Child: E.R.

ODR #15917/14-15 KE

Date of Birth: [redacted]

Dates of Hearing: April 7, 2015 May 4, 2015 May 29, 2015 June 1, 2015

CLOSED HEARING

Parties to the Hearing: Parent[s]

West Chester Area School District 829 Paoli Pike
West Chester, PA 19380

Representative:
Leah Batchis, Esquire Batchis & Nestle
Two Bala Plaza, Suite 300 Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

David Painter, Esquire
Sweet, Stevens, Katz and Williams 331 East Butler Avenue
New Britain, Pa 18901

Date Record Closed: June 13, 2015

Date of Decision: July 1, 2015

Hearing Officer: Linda M. Valentini, Psy.D., CHO Certified Hearing Official

Background

Student1 is an elementary school-aged child residing in the West Chester Area School District [hereinafter District] who prior to age three was found eligible for special education pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] and Pennsylvania Chapter 14 under the classification of speech/language impairment. After receiving two years of preschool early intervention through the IU to address speech/language and behavior issues, Student entered the District’s kindergarten. However, after two weeks Student’s mother [hereinafter Parent] moved Student to a private Kindergarten while the District continued to provide related services, then enrolled Student in a charter school for 1st and 2nd grades, and finally sent Student to an out-of-state private school [hereinafter private school] for 3rd and 4th grades. Near the conclusion of Student’s 3rd grade, the Parent requested that the District offer Student programming for the 2014-2015 school year, Student’s 4th grade year. The District sought and obtained Parent’s permission to conduct an evaluation.

After conducting its evaluation the District concluded that Student was not eligible for special education programming under the IDEA, but that Student is a qualified handicapped person / protected handicapped student under §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. §794), the federal regulations implementing §504 (34 C.F.R. §§104.32—104.37), and Chapter 15 of the Pennsylvania Code. The Parent disagreed and asked for this hearing, alleging that the District’s April 2014 evaluation was inappropriate, as was the ensuing Section 504 Service Plan, and that Student remains eligible for special education programming under the IDEA with the classifications of autism, speech/language impairment and other health impairment [ADHD].

The Parent is seeking reimbursement for a privately obtained educational evaluation and a privately obtained speech/language evaluation, tuition reimbursement for the unilaterally chosen out-of-state private placement during the current school year 2014- 2015, and prospective placement at or reimbursement for the private school for the 2015- 2016 school year. The District’s position is that it conducted an appropriate evaluation, that Student is not eligible under the IDEA, that it offered Student an appropriate Section 504 Service Plan, that the private placement is inappropriate, and that therefore no reimbursement for evaluations or tuition and/or prospective placement is warranted.

Having considered all the evidence provided to me I find in favor of the Parent.

Issues

  1. Is Student eligible for special education under the IDEA?
  2. If Student is IDEA-eligible, under what eligibility classifications?
  3. If Student is not IDEA-eligible, was the offered Section 504 Service Plan appropriate?
  4. If Student is IDEA-eligible, or if Student is not IDEA-eligible but the Section 504 Plan was not appropriate, was the placement unilaterally selected by the Parent appropriate, and if so are there equitable considerations that would remove or decrease the District’s responsibility for tuition reimbursement for the 2014-2015 school year?
  5. Must the District reimburse the Parent for the private educational evaluation and/or the private speech language evaluation?
E-R-West-Chester-Area-ODRNo-15917-14-15-KE

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