Special Education Hearing Officer
Child’s Name: G. D.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
ODR No. 17818-15-16-AS
Parties to the Hearing: Parent[s]
West Chester Area School District 829 Paoli Pike
West Chester, PA 19380-4551
David G. C. Arnold, Esquire 920 Matsonford Road, Suite 106 West Conshohocken, PA 19428
David T. Painter, Esquire
Sweet, Stevens, Katz, Williams, LLP 331 East Butler Avenue
New Britain, PA 18901
Dates of Hearing: August 22, 2016, September 19, 2016, September 23, 2016, October 28, 2016
Record Closed: November 18, 2016
Date of Decision: December 5, 2016
Hearing Officer: William F. Culleton, Jr., Esquire, CHO
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The child named in this matter (Student)1 was a student of the school district named in this matter (District), during the Student’s second grade year (2014-2015 school year), and approximately half of Student’s third grade year (2015-2016 school year). Student is not identified as a child with a disability within the meaning of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §1401 et seq. (IDEA). The District recognizes that Student has a disability within the meaning of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §794 (section 504), and has offered and provided a section 504 service agreement as required by Chapter 15 of the Pennsylvania regulations implementing section 504, 22 Pa. Code §15.7.
On January 4, 2016, Parents withdrew Student from the District and unilaterally placed Student in a private school (School). Student’s Parents thereupon filed this due process request, asserting that the District had failed to meet its “child find” obligations under the IDEA, and had failed to offer and provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under both the IDEA and section 504. Parents seek reimbursement of their tuition payments to the School for the second half of Student’s 2015-2016 school year, and the present, 2016-2017 school year. The District asserts that the Student is ineligible under the IDEA, and that it has offered and provided a FAPE within the meaning of section 504.
The hearing was completed in four sessions. I have determined the credibility and reliability of all witnesses, with regard to the specific issues of fact before me, as discussed below.
I have considered and weighed all of the evidence of record2. I conclude that Parents have failed to meet their burden of persuasion, discussed below, under the law. Therefore, I deny the requested relief and dismiss the matter.
- Did the District fail to perform its “child find” obligations under the IDEA and section 504 during Student’s second and third grade years?
- During the Student’s second and third grade years, did the District fail to offer and provide a FAPE within the meaning of either the IDEA or section 504?
- Is the School an appropriate placement for Student?
- Considering the equities, should the hearing officer order the District to reimburse Parents for all or any part of the tuition that they have paid on account of Student’s placement in the School for part of the 2015-2016 school year and for the entire 2016-2017 school year?