JG vs. Philadelphia City School District

PENNSYLVANIA
SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER

DECISION

Child’s Name: J. G.
Date of Birth: [redacted]

]CLOSED HEARING

ODR File No. 18111-16-17 KE

Parties to the Hearing:

Parent Parent[s]

Local Education Agency Philadelphia City School District Office of General Counsel Philadelphia, PA 19130

Representative:

Parent Attorney None

LEA Attorney
Judith Baskin, Esquire Office of General Counsel 440 N Broad Street Suite 313 Philadelphia, PA 19130

Date of Hearing: October 19, 2016

Date of Decision: October 29, 2016

Hearing Officer: Cathy A. Skidmore, M.Ed., J.D.

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The student (hereafter Student)1 is an early-teenaged student who resides in the School District of Philadelphia (District) who is eligible for special education pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).2 Student’s Parent filed a Due Process Complaint against the District asserting that it failed in its obligations under the IDEA, amounting to a denial of a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) on both substantive and procedural grounds during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. Student currently attends a charter school.

Upon assignment of the case to this hearing officer, she sent the parties informational materials that included, among other things, the timelines applicable to special education due process hearings with references to the federal regulations that set forth events that could result in adjustment to those timelines. The specific decision due date calculated from the date of the filing of the Complaint was also provided to both parties. After an unopposed continuance requested by the Parent, and a further rescheduling of the hearing without objection due to a District closure for a school holiday, the hearing convened on October 19, 2016 in a proceeding consolidated with that of Student’s sibling by agreement of the parties. It became evident during discussions on and off the record that both parties intended to call witnesses who were not available on the date of the hearing. However, neither party moved for an extension of the decision due date as permitted by 34 C.F.R. § 300.515(c), and it was not possible to schedule an agreeable date for a second hearing session within the mandatory timelines.3 Accordingly, the record was concluded in a single hearing session.

The parties each presented evidence in support of their respective positions. The Parent sought to establish that the District failed to comply with its procedural and substantive obligations under the IDEA: procedurally in the timing of Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings and a reevaluation, as well as the composition of IEP team meetings, and substantively in not appropriately addressing Student’s needs in the area of reading. The Parent sought compensatory education for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years and placement in a different school that would be appropriate for Student’s needs. The District maintained that there was no substantive denial of FAPE, that no reevaluation was due, and that any procedural irregularities did not deny Student FAPE; thus, the District contended, no remedy was warranted.

For the reasons set forth below, the Parent will prevail in part on the procedural issues, but no remedy will be awarded.

ISSUES

  1. Whether the District complied with its procedural obligations to Student under the IDEA, including the composition of Student’s IEP team meetings, during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years;
  1. Whether the District complied with its substantive obligations to Student under the IDEA, specifically with respect to providing appropriate programming to address Student’s needs in the area of reading;
  2. If the District did not comply with its procedural and/or substantive obligations to Student, should Student be awarded compensatory education; and
  3. Should the hearing officer order the District to provide a placement to Student in a different school that will meet Student’s needs?
J-G-Philadelphia-City-ODRNo-18111-16-17-KE

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