JM vs. Council Rock School District

Pennsylvania
Special Education Hearing Officer

DECISION
ODR No. 14266-1314 AS

Child’s Name: J.M.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
Dates of Hearing: 11/26/13, 12/16/13

OPEN HEARING

Parties to the Hearing: Parent[s]

School District

Council Rock
The Chancellor Center
30 North Chancellor Street Newtown, PA 18940

Representative:

Parent Attorney

Michael Gehring, Esq. McAndrews Law Offices 30 Cassatt Avenue Berwyn, PA 19312

School District Attorney

Joanne Sommer, Esquire Eastburn and Gray
60 East Court Street Doylestown, PA 18901

Date Record Closed: January 20, 2014

Date of Decision: February 4, 2014

Hearing Officer: Anne L. Carroll, Esq.

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The family involved in this case has resided in the District for many years, but Student, whose IDEA eligibility is currently based on intellectual disability (ID), was enrolled in a private school throughout high school, funded initially by the District and later by Parents. After refusing to fund Student’s private school placement for 12th grade, the District received Parents’ permission to reevaluate Student and completed an evaluation late in 2012.

The evaluation confirmed Student’s eligibility for special education until age 21, and the District offered an annual IEP to begin in January 2013. Although Parents wanted Student to complete the final high school year with classmates at the private school, the parties discussed various vocational training programs and locations for a “13th year” in the late spring of 2013.

At the end of the 2012/2013 school year, however, the District learned that the private school was prepared to issue a regular high school diploma to Student, having determined that Student met all of its graduation requirements, albeit in an entirely individualized program with content far below that expected to be mastered by students without an intellectual disability. Upon receiving that information, the District notified Parents that Student is no longer IDEA eligible, and, therefore, refused to provide ESY or other services.

Parents submitted a due process complaint challenging the District’s decision, including its failure to issue a NOREP exiting Student special education services prior to refusing services. A two session hearing followed in November and December 2013. For the reasons explained in detail below, the District will be ordered to provide a full summer of ESY and a full year of transition services, extending beyond age 21 if necessary for Student to fully participate in an appropriate vocational training program.

ISSUES

1. Did Student earn a regular high school diploma by meeting all graduation requirements under Pennsylvania law, including the academic standards applicable to private schools?

2. Did the private school Student attended during high school award Student a regular high school diploma in May 2013, at the end of 12th grade, thereby terminating Student’s eligibility  for further special education services or was eligibility otherwise properly terminated?

3. Did the School District fail to follow appropriate procedures in terminating Student’s IDEA eligibility?

4. Did the District’s reliance on guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Education make its actions in this matter substantively appropriate notwithstanding any procedural violation?

5. Does Pennsylvania law and/or federal law otherwise support the District’s position that it is not required to provide further IDEA services to Student?

6. Should the District be equitably estopped from denying Student special education services based upon the circumstances presented by this case?

7. Is Student absolutely entitled to IDEA services until the age of 21 because the terms of the PARC Consent Decree guarantee such services to all intellectually disabled students in Pennsylvania?

J-M-Council-Rock-ODRNo-14266-1314-AS

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