Special Education Hearing Officer
Child’s Name: K.C.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
Dates of Hearing: October 21, 2013 November 7, 2013 November 12, 2013
ODR Case # 14230-1314KE
Parties to the Hearing: Parents
Belle Vernon Area School District 270 Crest Avenue
Belle Vernon, PA 153012
Pamela Berger, Esquire 434 Grace Street Pittsburgh, PA 15211
Aimee Zundel, Esquire 445 Fort Pitt Boulevard Suite 503
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Date Record Closed: November 12, 2013
Date of Decision: November 22, 2013
Hearing Officer: Jake McElligott, Esquire
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Student is a pre-teen age student residing in the Belle Vernon Area School District (“District”) who has been identified as a student with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act of 2004 (“IDEA”)1. The student, diagnosed with Down Syndrome, has been identified under the terms of IDEA as a student with an intellectual disability, and a speech/language impairment. Parent claims the program and placement proposed for the student by the District for the 2013-2014 school year is not reasonably calculated to provide the student with a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in the least restrictive requirement (“LRE”), as required under IDEA and Pennsylvania special education regulations.
More specifically, the parents claim that, with the closure of the out-of-District life skills classroom where the student’s individualized education plan (“IEP”) was being implemented, the District’s proposed placement at a newly-created life skills classroom within the District is not the LRE. Parents claim the District, with the student’s transition back to the District, should employ supplementary aids and services to allow the student to attend the student’s neighborhood school within the District.
The District does not discount the importance of LRE considerations in the student’s educational program but asserts that the newly-created life skills classroom is the more appropriate placement. Therefore, the District argues, the appropriateness of its proposed placement in the life skills classroom outweighs LRE considerations involving attendance at the student’s neighborhood school.2
For the reasons set forth below, I find in favor of the parents and student.
Is the least restrictive environment
for the student’s education program
the student’s neighborhood school, or the District’s life skills classroom?