SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER
Child’s Name: G. P.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
ODR File No. 18583-16-17KE
Parties to the Hearing:
Local Education Agency Pittsburgh Public School District 341 South Bellefield Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3516
Jeffrey J. Ruder, Esquire John Valantassis, Esquire Ruder Law
429 Forbes Avenue, Suite 450 Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Annemarie Harr, Esquire
Weiss Burkhardt Kramer LLC 445 Fort Pitt Boulevard, Suite 503 Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Dates of Hearing: 4/7/2017, 4/11/2017, 6/6/2017, 6/8/2017, 6/13/2017, 6/16/2017, 6/27/2017
Date of Decision: August 7, 2017
Hearing Officer: Cathy A. Skidmore, M.Ed., J.D. Certified Hearing Official
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The student (hereafter Student)1 is a primary elementary school-aged student who resides within the boundaries of the Pittsburgh Public School District (District). Student, the Parent, and a sibling moved to the area from a foreign country in April 2015 because Student was and is in need of an organ transplant, and is currently on a waiting list for such a procedure.
The Parent contacted the District prior to the family’s arrival in the United States and again when they had moved to the geographic area served by the District. After Student was enrolled for the 2015-16 school year, several meetings occurred with friends of the Parent providing interpretation services because the Parent and Student had very limited English proficiency. Student ultimately attended school in the District on only a few days prior to enrolling in a private school in or about March 2017.
In December 2016, the Parent filed a Due Process Complaint against the District asserting that Student is a child with a disability and, as such, is eligible for special education pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),2 and also falls within the protections of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)3 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).4 The Parent amended her Complaint by agreement of the District in February 2017.
The case proceeded to a due process hearing convening over multiple sessions which were necessary to accommodate all schedules including a witness from the family’s native country, as well as to allow sufficient time for interpretation services at each session.5 The decision due date was adjusted following the filing of the Amended Complaint and extended for good cause shown on requests of one or both parties over the course of the proceedings.
At the hearing, the Parent sought to establish that the District erroneously failed to identify Student under the IDEA, and failed to offer a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to Student under the IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA, prior to Student’s enrollment in a private school. She also raised various discrimination claims. The District maintained that it did not violate any of its obligations to Student, and that it offered appropriate accommodations to meet Student’s needs. The record concluded with the parties’ written closing arguments.6
For the reasons set forth below, the Parent’s claims must be granted in part and denied in part. More specifically, the Parent has not established Student’s eligibility under the IDEA, but must prevail on certain Section 504 claims.
- Whether the District complied with its obligations under the IDEA from August 2015 through Student’s withdrawal in failing to identify Student as eligible for special education and providing an appropriate program;
- Whether the District complied with its obligations under Section 504 and the ADA by failing to develop an appropriate program from August 2015 through Student’s withdrawal based on Student’s status as a protected handicapped student;
- Whether the District complied with all relevant procedural requirements under the applicable laws;
- If the District did fail in any of its obligations to Student under the IDEA, Section 504, and/or the ADA, whether Student should be awarded compensatory education;
- If the District did fail in any of its obligations to Student under the IDEA, Section 504, and/or the ADA, whether the Parent should be reimbursed for certain expenditures she incurred in securing education-related services for Student;
- Whether the District otherwise discriminated against, and acted with deliberate indifference toward, Student on the basis of Student’s disability; and
- Whether the District discriminated against the Parent based on her association with an individual with a disability (Student)?