ML vs. School District Exeter Township

Pennsylvania
Special Education Hearing Officer

DECISION
ODR No. 15868-1415AS

Child’s Name: M. L.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
Dates of Hearing: 4/15/15, 5/5/15, 5/7/15

CLOSED HEARING

Parties to the Hearing:

Parents Parent[s]

School District Exeter Township 200 Elm Street Reading, PA 19606

Representative:

Parent Attorney
Leah Snyder Batchis, Esquire Batchis & Nestle, LLC
The Special Education Law Group Two Bala Plaza, Suite 300
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

School District Attorney
Katie Metcalfe, Esquire
Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams 331 Butler Avenue, P.O. Box 5069 New Britain, PA 18901

Date Record Closed: May 22, 2015

Date of Decision: June 5, 2015

Hearing Officer: Anne L. Carroll, Esq.

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Student in this case is an IDEA eligible resident of the District who has been enrolled in Parent selected but District funded private schools from early in first grade through the end of the 2013/2014 school year.

For the current school year, which began after the last of a series of settlement agreements between the parties expired, Parents enrolled Student in a private school different from the school Student had attended during the 2013/2014 school year. The District declined to pay Student’s tuition for that school and proposed an approved private school (APS) placement.1

The first APS the District identified did not accept Student. Parents rejected the second APS the District offered, contending that it cannot appropriately meet Student’s needs, and that Student was making meaningful progress in the private school at the time the District proposed the second APS, and has continued to make appropriate progress there. With the private school impasse unresolvable by the parties, Parents submitted a due process complaint seeking payment of Student’s private school tuition and transportation costs, as well as the costs of additional services provided by the private school, and reimbursement for an independent educational evaluation (IEE).

Based on the record produced over the course of a three session hearing in April and May 2015, Parents have established that the District’s proposed private school is not appropriate for Student, that the private school Parents selected is appropriate and that there is no equitable reason to deny or reduce payment of tuition at the private school for all services provided to

1 Since the overarching issue in this case involves comparing two private schools rather than a public school placement and a unilateral private school placement, for ease of reference, the District’s proposed private school placement will be referred to in this decision as the APS and Parent’s selection as the private school.

Student. Parents also presented sufficient evidence to support their claim that the District should fund the IEE Parents obtained in the summer of 2014.

ISSUES

  1. Is the School District required to reimburse Student’s Parents/pay Student’s costs for tuition, including ESY for the summer of 2015, costs of additional services for the private school that Parent selected for the 2014/2015 school year, and transportation costs in that:
    1. The School District failed to offer an appropriate placement for Student for the 2014/2015 school year;
    2. Student’s program/placement at the Parent–selected private school is appropriate;
    3. There are no equitable reasons to deny or reduce reimbursement?
  2. Is the School District required to reimburse Student’s Parents/directly pay for an independent educational evaluation of Student that they obtained in the summer of 2014?
M-L-Exeter-Township-ODRNo-15868-1415AS

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