JB vs. West Jefferson Hills

Pennsylvania
Special Education Hearing Officer

DECISION
ODR No. 14223-1314 KE

Child’s Name: J.B.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
Dates of Hearing: 12/19/13, 12/20/13, 1/31/14

CLOSED HEARING

Parties to the Hearing:

Parents Parent[s]

School District
West Jefferson Hills 835 Old Clairton Road Pittsburgh, PA 15025

Representative:

Parent Attorney
Jeffrey Ruder, Esquire
Ruder Law
429 Forbes Avenue, Suite 450 Pittsburgh, PA 15219

School District Attorney Aimee Zundel, Esquire
Law Offices of Ira Weiss 445 Fort Pitt Blvd., Suite 503 Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Date Record Closed: March 21, 2014

Date of Decision: April 14, 2014

Hearing Officer: Anne L. Carroll, Esq.

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Student was identified as IDEA eligible in the Learning Disabilities category near the end of 4th grade, the first year of enrollment in the District. Although Student struggled academically in both elementary and middle school, Student was noted by teachers to be respectful and compliant, although sometimes lacking focus in the classroom.

Student’s demeanor changed dramatically in 9th grade, when behavior problems and complaints of almost constant illness arose immediately. In the summer between 8th and 9th grades, Student was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and depression, and began taking medication. A psychiatric hospitalization in October and attendance issues prompted the District to conduct an FBA and develop a behavior plan that was implemented in January 2011. Student’s problem behaviors, including cutting class, tardiness, defiance and disrespect continued through 9th grade and escalated in 10th grade until an explosive incident in December 2011 resulted in the District placing Student in a private, alternative school for students with behavior problems. Student’s problem behaviors continued to escalate and academic achievement decreased until the parties agreed, via mediation, to homebound instruction in February 2013 through the end of the school year. Student enrolled in a cyber charter school for the current school year.

Parent initiated the due process complaint in August 2013, seeking compensatory education for the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 school years, primarily for the District’s alleged violations of the IDEA Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirements as a result of the private school placement. The record compiled over three hearing sessions in late December 2013 and late January 2014 established numerous procedural and substantive IDEA violations, and that Student regressed in behavior and academics in both the District and private school placements, resulting in a substantial award of compensatory education for Student.

ISSUES

  1. Did the School District fail to appropriately evaluate student for all potential disabilities?
  2. During the course of District evaluations, did the District fail to fully assess all of student’s needs?
  3. Did the School District fail to assure Parent’s meaningful participation in all decisions made regarding the educational placement, or the provision of a Free, Appropriate, Public Education to Student?
  4. Did the School District fail to appropriately consider all available supports and services, as well as fully consider a continuum of placements before selecting a private school for student’s placement in December 2011, through the end of the period that Student was placed in that setting?
  5. If Student was denied an appropriate placement in the Least Restrictive Environment, and/or if Parent was denied meaningful participation in the IEP process, is Student entitled to an hour for hour compensatory education award from the December 2011 private school placement until the end of the 2012/2013 school year?
  6. Did the school District offer an appropriate program/placement in the last proposed IEP, dated November 29, 2012.
J-B-West-Jefferson-Hills-ODRNo-14223-1314-KE

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