JA vs. Abington Heights School District

Pennsylvania
Special Education Hearing Officer

DECISION

Child’s Name: J.A.

Date of Birth: [redacted]

Date of Hearing: February 26, 2013

CLOSED HEARING

ODR Case #13355-1213AS

Parties to the Hearing: Parent

Abington Heights School District 200 East Grove Street
Clarks Summit, PA 18411

Representative:

Harry McGrath, Esquire Bank Towers Building Suite 600
321 Spruce Street Scranton, PA 18503

William McPartland, Esquire Marshall, Dennehy, et. al. P.O. Box 3118
Scranton, PA 18505-3118

Date Record Closed: March 22, 2013

Date of Decision: April 6, 2013

Hearing Officer: Jake McElligott, Esquire

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

[Student] (“student”) is a [teenaged] student residing in the Abington Heights School District (“District”) who has been identified as a student with a disability under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (specifically under Section 504 of that statute, hence the follow-on reference to this section as “Section 504”).1 The parties had come through a prior, contentious round of special education due process and appeal to federal court. The result of those proceedings, for the purposes of this matter, was a settlement agreement that established a compensatory education fund for use by the parent for the student’s educational needs.

Parent claims that the District wrongfully denied the student access to assistive technology in the form of a request for a computer. The District initially filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that the matter sounded in contract law and should be heard in a different forum. The District’s motion was denied on the grounds that the parent’s claim, in the view of this hearing officer, was a claim that the District had denied the student a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in not providing assistive technology.

By the time the hearing convened, the student had been provided with the requested computer. Therefore, the District argued that any harm was remedied. But this was an alternative argument. The District continued to stand by its primary assertion, at the hearing and in its closing statement, that the parent’s claim was grounded in breach of contract and not a denial of FAPE.

For the reasons set forth below, on substantive and not procedural grounds, I find in favor of the District.

ISSUES

Was the student denied a free appropriate public education when the District denied a request for assistive technology in the form of a computer?

If so, is there any remedy due to parent?

J-A-Abington-Heights-ODRNo-13355-1213AS

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