SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER
Child’s Name: J. M.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
ODR File No. 18009-16-17 KE
Parties to the Hearing:
Local Education Agency Coatesville Area School District 3030 C G Zinn Road Thorndale, PA 19372
Anita Fulwiler O’Meara, Esquire The O’Meara Law Firm, PC
915 Buck Run Road, Suite 102 East Fallowfield, PA 19320
Christina M. Stephanos, Esquire Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams LLP 331 Butler Avenue
New Britain, PA 18601
Dates of Hearing: September 7, 2016; September 12, 2016; September 14, 2016; September 27, 2016; October 13, 2016
Date of Decision: October 31, 2016
Hearing Officer: Cathy A. Skidmore, M.Ed., J.D.
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The student (hereafter Student)1 is a late teenaged high school student in the Coatesville Area School District (District). Student has been identified as a protected handicapped student under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 19732 following an incident in October 2015 after which Student was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In July 2016, Student’s Parents filed a due process complaint against the District asserting that it denied Student a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) during the 2015-16 school year under Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),3 as well as the federal and state regulations implementing those statutes.
Specifically, the Parents claimed that the District violated Student’s rights as a child with a disability in failing to conduct appropriate evaluations of Student, including under Section 504 and in complying with its Child Find obligations under the IDEA; and in failing to develop and implement an educational program that met all of Student’s needs related to Student’s disability. The Parents sought compensatory education, reimbursement for certain expenses they incurred during the time period in question, and certain declaratory relief. The District maintained that its evaluation and educational programming were appropriate under the law and that no remedies were warranted.
The case was initially expedited because of an extended school year (ESY) issue;
however, the parties elected to proceed under the ordinary statutory and regulatory timelines, with the due process hearing convening over five sessions.4 Following review of the entire record, and for the reasons set forth below, the Parents will prevail in part and the District will prevail in part.
- Whether the District conducted appropriate evaluations of Student in all areas of suspected disability and reached an appropriate conclusion on eligibility;
- Whether the District’s programming as developed and implemented from October 2015 through the end of the 2015-16 school year was appropriate for Student;
- If the District’s evaluations and/or educational programming were not appropriate, should Student be awarded compensatory education;
- If the District’s evaluations and/or educational programming were not appropriate, should the District be ordered to reimburse the Parents for any expenses; and
- Should the hearing officer order declaratory relief with respect to Student’s earned credits and attendance records?