RJ vs. Pottstown School District

Pennsylvania
Special Education Hearing Officer

DECISION

Child’s Name: R.J.

Date of Birth: [redacted]

Dates of Hearing: March 15, 2010 May 18, 2010 May 19, 2010 August 16, 2010 August 17, 2010

CLOSED HEARING

ODR No. 10064-0809AS

Parties to the Hearing: Parent[s]

Mrs. Rita Cohen
Secondary Special Education Supervisor Pottstown School District Administrative Annex
940 North Franklin Street
Pottstown, PA 19464

Representative:

Giovanni O. Campbell, Esquire 100 S. Broad Street, Suite 1530 Philadelphia, PA 19110

Timothy E. Gilsbach, Esquire Fox, Rothschild LLP
10 Sentry Parkway, Suite 200 P.O. Box 3001

Blue Bell, PA 19422-3001

Date Record Closed: September 10, 2010

Date of Decision: September 24, 2010

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

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Student1 is currently a late-teen aged former student in the Pottstown School District (District). By complaint dated May 13, 2009, Student’s custodial parents (hereafter Parents) filed a due process complaint against the District claiming that it denied a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to Student during the 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09 school years.

This case was assigned to a hearing officer who dismissed the complaint without a hearing on June 18, 2009. On February 16, 2010, the case was remanded by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for a hearing, based upon its determinations that (1) the Parents had standing to make educational decisions for Student; (2) the Parents had standing to “seek reimbursement, or other relief, for expenditures made on behalf of [Student] … and for monies spent by [the Parents’ son] if owed by the [Parents] to [the Parents’ son]”; and (3) Student had standing to commence this action on Student’s own behalf.2

Upon remand, the matter was assigned to this hearing officer and a hearing was scheduled for March 15, 2010. On March 3, 2010, the District renewed its motion to limit the scope of the hearing to preclude any claims related to the time period prior to May 19, 2007. The Parents, through counsel, filed a response.3 The March 15, 2010 hearing session was convened and was limited to evidence on the statute of limitations. In an interim decision on April 13, 2010, this hearing officer determined that the Parents had established an exception to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)4 statute of limitations, and would be permitted to present substantive evidence on all of the claims presented in their due process complaint, i.e., to the beginning of the 2006-07 school year.5

Four subsequent due process hearing sessions were conducted at which the parties presented evidence in support of their respective positions. For the reasons which follow, I find in favor of the District on all claims.

ISSUES

  1. Whether the District denied FAPE to Student for the 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008- 09 school years;
  2. If so, whether Student is entitled to compensatory education for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years, and whether the Parents are entitled to tuition reimbursement for the 2008-09 school year.
R-J-Pottstown-ODRNo-10064-0809AS

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