SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER
DUE PROCESS HEARING
Name of Child: J.T.
ODR #17560 / 15-16-KE
Date of Birth:
Date of Hearing: April 22, 2016
Parties to the Hearing: Parent[s]
Chester Community Charter School 200 East 5th Street
Chester, PA 19013
Representative: Pro Se
Gabrielle Sereni, Esquire Tracey Waldmann, Esquire Raffaele & Puppio
19 West Third Street Media, PA 19063
Date Record Closed: April 25, 2016
Date of Decision: April 25, 2016
Hearing Officer: Linda M. Valentini, Psy.D., CHO Certified Hearing Official
Background and Procedural History
Student1 (Student) is an early elementary school aged student enrolled in the Charter School (School). At the Parent’s request the School conducted an initial evaluation and found Student to be eligible for special education under the classification of Other Health Impairment (OHI). Subsequently the Parent requested an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at public expense because although she agrees that Student is eligible for special education she disagrees with the designated classification. Believing its evaluation to be appropriate the School declined the Parent’s request and filed for this hearing as is required of an LEA when refusing a parental request for an IEE at public expense.
The hearing officer sent prehearing materials to the Parent and the attorney for the School, including a letter tailored to parents who are not represented by counsel and who did not file for the hearing. On several dates the School and the School’s counsel sent correspondence about the hearing to the Parent by email and/or by US Mail but received no response from the Parent. A few days prior to the hearing the hearing officer twice emailed the Parent and counsel for the School checking on the status of the matter. The School’s counsel responded but the Parent did not. [NT 4-5, 8-11; HO-1]2 On the date and at the time of the hearing the Parent did not appear.
The following attempts to reach the Parent and ascertain her intent were made on the record prior to beginning the hearing: 1) An email to ODR and a phone call to ODR asking if the Parent had made any contact to indicate she could not attend. ODR responded by phone and by email that there had been no contact from the Parent; 2) Phone calls to three phone numbers the School supplied for the Parent [home, cell and work]. The call did not ring through on one number, a voicemail was left on another number, and the third number was not working at the time. Being unable to reach the Parent, the hearing officer conducted the hearing in her absence. [NT 5-8, 22, 25]
Shortly after the hearing ended on Friday the Parent called after receiving the message left on the voicemail and later in the day the hearing officer was able to speak with the Parent. The Parent indicated that she would check but couldn’t say for sure if she received the emails that were sent, and supplied another email address to use for the transcript and the decision. The Parent was gracious and did not indicate dissatisfaction with the hearing having been held in her absence. The Parent contacted the hearing officer again on Monday to let her know that she checked her email account and definitely did not receive any emails from ODR, from the hearing officer or from the school. She was advised to acknowledge receipt of the transcript and the decision that would be sent to the new address she had furnished, and counseled that if she disagreed with the decision she could file an appeal according to instructions that would be supplied.