JC vs. Lakeland Area School District

PENNSYLVANIA
SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER
DECISION

Student: J.C.

Date of Birth: [redacted]

Hearing Dates: February 2, 2010, March 16, 2010, and April 19, 2010

ODR File No.: 00387-0910AS

School District: Lakeland Area School District

CLOSED HEARING

Parties:
Lakeland School District

Parent[s]

Representatives:

Jane M. Williams, Esquire
Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams LLP 331 E. Butler Avenue
New Britain, PA 18901

Drew Christian, Esquire Attorney at Law
801 Monroe Avenue Scranton, PA 18510

Date Record Closed: May 15, 2010

Decision Date: May 28, 2010

Hearing Officer: Gloria M. Satriale, Esquire

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case concerns the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (hereinafter “FAPE”) for Student, an eligible elementary school-aged student, who resides with the mother in the Lakeland School District (hereinafter “District”) and who has been identified as being emotionally disturbed. In the Complaint, the claims asserted against the District were premised upon alleged violations by the District of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (hereinafter “IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (hereinafter “Section 504”), 29 U.S.C. § 794 asserting that the District violated the provisions of IDEA ensuring that a child be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment possible (hereinafter “LRE”) as well as in failing to ensure meaningful educational progress through the development and implementation of an appropriate Individualized Educational Plan (hereinafter “IEP”) and program. For these violations the parent requests compensatory education from the period from October 22, 2007 through September 16, 2009.1

The District initially took the position that it conferred its status as the Local Education Agency (hereinafter “LEA”) and the commensurate responsibility of a FAPE to the [local] Intermediate Unit (hereinafter “IU”). The IU contracted with [a private residential rehabilitative institution, hereinafter PRRI] . The IU administered and funded PRRI in which the Student was placed by the District for Student’s educational program for the period in question by the District. Upon oral Motion of the Parent for a determination that the District was, in fact the responsible LEA in the matter, it was determined that the District was the LEA responsible to ensure [NT239-261] the provision of a FAPE.2

Alternatively and under the circumstances of the determination by this Hearing Officer that the school district is LEA responsible for the provision of a FAPE, the District takes the further position that the placement in which the program was developed and ultimately delivered to the student was in a private therapeutic mental health facility over which the District exercised no control, ownership, involvement or decision-making abilities; and; furthermore, the partial hospitalization program in which the Student received Student’s education for the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years (PRRI) is akin to medical facility and medical placement, for which neither a tuition reimbursement nor compensatory education award should be entered. The District also asserts at no time prior to the commencement of the instant action did the District “know or should have known” that the program crafted and ultimately delivered to the Student was, if so found to be, inappropriate.

Due process concerning the current matter was filed with the Office for Dispute Resolution on October 22, 2009. The resolution meeting was held on October 27, 2009. A due process hearing was conducted in this matter on February 2, 2010, March 16, 2010, and April 19, 2010.

  1. Exhibits were submitted and accepted on behalf of the Hearing Officer as follows: HO-1, HO-2
  2. Exhibits were submitted and accepted on behalf of the Parent as follows: P-2, P-4, P-5, P-6, P-7, P-8, P-10, P-12, P-14
  3. Exhibits were submitted and accepted on behalf of the District as follows: SD-1, SD-2, SD-3, SD-4, SD-5, SD-6, SD-7, SD-8, SD-9, SD-10, SD-11, SD-12, SD-13, SD-14, SD-15, SD-16, SD-17, SD-18, SD-23, SD-25, S-26,
  4. Exhibits were submitted and accepted jointly on behalf of both parties as follows: J-1

For the reasons that follow, the Parent’s claim for compensatory education for the period from October 22, 2007 through September 16, 2009, excluding the period between August 20, 2008 through October 21, 2008, and less a reasonable period that the District could have rectified the situation, for each day school was in session is GRANTED. The Parent claims under Section 504 are DENIED.

ISSUES

The issues presented at this hearing included the following:

  1. Whether the Student is entitled to compensatory education for the District’s

    failure to provide an appropriate educational program which was reasonably calculated to confer meaningful educational benefit.

  2. Whether the District violated the Student’s protections under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
J-C-Lakeland-Area-ODRNo-00387-0910AS

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