Special Education Hearing Officer
Student’s Name: J.K.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
ODR No. 3465-12-13-KE
Parties to the Hearing: Parents
Downingtown Area School District 540 Trestle Place
Downingtown, PA 19335-2643
Caryl Andrea Oberman, Esquire Shannon M. Rafferty, Esquire Law Offices of Caryl Andrea Oberman, LLC
705 North Easton Road Willow Grove, PA 19090
Sharon W. Montanye, Esquire Christina M. Stephanos, Esquire Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams,LLP 331 Butler Avenue, P.O. Box 5069 New Britain, PA 18901
Record Closed: January 7, 2013
Date of Decision: January 22, 2013
Hearing Officer: William F. Culleton, Jr., Esq., CHO
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The Student named in the title page of this decision (Student) is an eligible resident of the school district named in the title page of this decision (District). (NT 8.) Student attends a private high school (School), and previously attended the District’s high school. The District has identified Student with Autism, Other Health Impairment and Speech or Language Impairment. (NT 9-10.)
Parents unilaterally removed Student from the District and placed Student in the School after disputes arose with the District at the end of Student’s ninth grade. At that time, as part of a settlement agreement of the disputes, the District agreed to fund the private placement for three years. After three years, the District refused to pay tuition for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. Parents assert that the District has failed to offer a FAPE to Student for the 2011- 2012 and 2012-2013 school years, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §1401 et seq. (IDEA). (NT 58-59.) Parents seek tuition reimbursement for Student’s placement in the private school during the 2011-2012 school year and the 2012-2013 school year. (NT 58-59.) Parents also seek reimbursement for the costs of transportation to the private school during both school years. Parents additionally allege violations of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §794 (section 504) [redacted].
The District asserts that the settlement agreement was time limited and expired. It further asserts that it offered Student a FAPE for both years in question, that the private school is not appropriate, and that it would be inequitable for the hearing officer to award tuition reimbursement. It denies any violation of section 504 or Pennsylvania law [redacted].
The hearing was concluded in seven half-day sessions1. The parties submitted written summations, and the record closed upon receipt of those summations.
1. Did the District fail to offer an appropriate program and placement to Student for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years?
2. Is the Student’s current private high school placement appropriate?
3. Does equity support an order for reimbursement of private school tuition and transportation costs for all or any part of the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years?
4. Did the District discriminate against Student on the basis of handicap, in violation of section 504 by denying Student access to services on the basis of handicap or by retaliating against either Student or Parents because of Parents’ advocacy for Student?