Pennsylvania Special Education Hearing Officer
Final Decision and Order
ODR File Number: 18822 16 17
Child’s Name: M. S.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
Dates of Hearing:1
Counsel for Parent
Noah Geary, Esquire, 30 East Beau Street, Suite 225, Washington, PA 15301
Local Education Agency:
McGuffey School District, 119 Main Street, Box 491, Claysville, PA 15323
Counsel for the LEA
Patricia Andrews, Esquire, 1500 Ardmore Blvd, Suite 506, Pittsburgh, PA 15221
Hearing Officer: Michael J. McElligott, Esquire
Date of Decision: 09/25/17
[The Student] (“student”)2 is [an early teenaged] student who resides in the McGuffey School District (“District”). The student’s status as a student who qualifies under the terms of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act of 2004 (“IDEIA”)3 is not currently disputed between the parties. As set forth more fully below, the dispute between the parties centered on whether the District had timely identified the student as a student with a disability under the terms of IDEIA, and whether the District discriminated against the student and/or retaliated against the family in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, particularly Section 504 of that statute (“Section 504”).4
Parent claims that the student was denied a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) due to the District’s alleged failure to identify the student as a student with a specific learning disability in mathematics. Parent also claims that the District wrongfully discontinued implementation of the student’s Section 504 plan/Chapter 15 agreement, discriminated against the student on the basis of disability, particularly as related to an inadvertently recorded conversation amongst District educators, and retaliated against the student and family following this conversation.
The District counters that it did not deny the student FAPE under its obligations to the student under IDEIA. Furthermore, the District asserts that it did have the permission of one parent to discontinue the Section 504 plan/Chapter 15 agreement, that it did not discriminate against the student, and that it did not retaliate against the student or family.
As part of an interim ruling, the IDEIA failure-to-identify issue was found not to be an issue in the hearing. (See the Procedural Background section below.)
For the reasons set forth below, I find in favor of each party on various aspects of the remaining Section 504 claims. I find in favor of the District in that it did not wrongfully discontinue the Section 504 plan/Chapter 15 agreement and did not retaliate against the student and family. I find in favor of the student that the District discriminated against the student in violation of Section 504.
Did the District wrongfully terminate the student’s Section 504 plan?
Did the District discriminate against the student on the basis of disability?
Did the District retaliate against the student and family?M-S-McGuffey-ODR-18822-16-17-