SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER
Child’s Name: J.V.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
ODR File No. 17720-15-16 KE
Parties to the Hearing:
Local Education Agency Pottstown School District Administration Building Pottstown, PA 19464
Nicole Reimann, Esquire Batchis Nestle & Reimann, LLC Two Bala Plaza, Suite 300
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
Mark W. Fitzgerald, Esquire Shannon R. Pierce, Esquire Fox Rothschild, LLP
10 Sentry Parkway, Suite 200 P.O. Box 3001
Blue Bell, PA 19422
Dates of Hearing: June 21, 2016; July 20, 2016; July 21, 2016
Date of Decision: August 12, 2016
Hearing Officer: Cathy A. Skidmore, M.Ed., J.D. Certified Hearing Official
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The student (hereafter Student)1 is a primary elementary school-aged student residing in the Pottstown School District (District) who is eligible for special education pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).2 Student has been attending a private school (Other School) pursuant to a District placement since January 2016. Dissatisfied with that program and placement, Student’s Parent filed a due process complaint against the District in May 2016, asserting that it denied Student a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,3 as well as the federal and state regulations implementing those statutes.4
The case proceeded to a due process hearing convening over three sessions.5 The Parent sought to establish that the District failed to provide Student with FAPE in the least restrictive environment during the 2015-16 school year, and in its proposals for Extended School Year (ESY) services during the summer of 2016 and the program for the start of the 2016-17 school year. As remedies, the Parent requested compensatory education and a directive for a placement for Student within a District elementary school. The District maintained that its special education program, as offered and implemented, was appropriate for Student without violating the principles of least restrictive environment, and that a return to the District for the start of the 2016-17 school year would be premature and fail to meet Student’s needs.
For the reasons set forth below, the Parent will prevail on many but not all of the claims presented.
- Whether Student’s placement was and is appropriate for Student and in accordance with the principles of least restrictive environment;
- If that placement is not appropriate for the 2016-17 school year, should the District be directed to develop a new program and placement; and
- If that placement was not appropriate during the 2015-16 school year and summer of 2016, whether Student is entitled to compensatory education, and in what form and amount?