RC vs. Lower Merion School District

PENNSYLVANIA
SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER

DECISION

Child’s Name: R.C.

Date of Birth: [redacted]

Dates of Hearing:
February 23, 2011, March 31, 2011, April 7, 2011, May 9, 2011, June 2, 2011, June 14, 2011

CLOSED HEARING

ODR File No. 01784-1011KE

Parties to the Hearing: Parent[s]

Lower Merion School District 510 Bryn Mawr Avenue
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

Representative:

Sonja D. Kerr, Esquire
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Second Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Amy T. Brooks, Esquire
Wisler Pearlstine, LLP
Blue Bell Executive Campus 460 Norristown Road, Suite 110 Blue Bell, PA 19422

Date Record Closed: July 25, 2011

Date of Decision: August 6, 2011

Hearing Officer: Cathy A. Skidmore, M.Ed., J.D.

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Student1 is a middle school-aged student in the Lower Merion School District (District) who is eligible for special education pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).2 Student’s Parent filed a due process complaint against the District in November 2010, 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, for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. The Parent was subsequently permitted to amend the complaint which provided clarification to, but did not expand, her claims.4

The case proceeded to a due process hearing which convened over six sessions, at which the parties presented evidence in support of their respective positions. The Parent sought to establish that the District failed to provide Student with FAPE in the least restrictive environment throughout the time period in question. The District maintained that its special education program, as offered and implemented, was appropriate for Student. Of further significance was the admission of a settlement agreement dated November 18, 2009 which, according to the District, precluded any claim for the 2009-10 school year. As remedies, the Parent requested two hours of compensatory education for each school day during the 2009-10 school year from November 19, 2009 forward, and for each school day during the 2010-11 school year; she also requested certain declaratory relief.5 The record closed on July 25, 2011 upon receipt of the parties’ written posthearing submissions.6

For the reasons set forth below, I find in favor of the Parent on a portion of the claims and in favor of the District on a portion of the claims.

ISSUES

1. Whether Student was denied a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment over the 2009-10 school year from November 18, 2009 forward;

2. Whether Student was denied a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment over the 2010-11 school year;

3. If Student was denied a free, appropriate public education, is Student entitled to compensatory education and, if so, in what amount;

4. Whether the District should be ordered to hire an outside consultant to provide training to its staff at the middle school Student attends; and

5. Whether the District should be ordered to provide a written apology to the Parent for an incident that occurred on September 14, 2010 at the middle school Student attends.

R-C-Lower-Merion-ODRNo-01784-1011KE

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