RM vs. Palmerton Area School District

Pennsylvania
Special Education Hearing Officer

DECISION

Child’s Name: RM

Date of Birth: xx/xx/xx

Date of Hearing: July 14, 2008

CLOSED HEARING

ODR #8938/ 07-08 AS

Parties to the Hearing: Ms.

Palmerton Area School District 3533 Fireline Road
Palmerton, PA 18071-0350

Representative: Pro Se

Andrew E. Faust, Esquire
Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams, LLP 331 East Butler Avenue
New Britain, PA 18901

Date Record Closed: July 24, 2008

Date of Decision: August 1, 2008

Hearing Officer: William F. Culleton, Jr., Esquire

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Student is a teen aged eligible resident of the Palmerton Area School District (District). (S-3, S-20 p. 1.) The Student is identified with Serious Emotional Disorder, based upon, among other things, a longstanding diagnosis of school phobia. (NT 190-191.)

Ms. (Parent) requested due process on June 4, 2008, alleging that the District had refused to provide ESY services in the form of a summer camp that had been the pendent ESY placement for three summers, Camp [redacted]. The Parent also asserted that the District had insisted upon ESY services in a school setting that the Student was unable to attend due to Student’s disability of school phobia. (HO-1.) The Parent requested an order that the District pay for the Student’s attendance at Camp.

The District, in its response dated June 24, 2008, moved to dismiss the Complaint Notice on grounds that a previous hearing officer had found the District’s offered in-school programming appropriate. (HO-1.) The District asserted that this hearing officer was precluded by the doctrine of issue preclusion from making any findings on the appropriateness of the District’s ESY offer. Ibid.

The hearing officer denied the motion to dismiss and convened the hearing on July 14, 2007. However, he did rule that the previous hearing officer’s findings were binding. In particular, he ruled that evidence of past school phobia and past benefit from the summer camp would not be determinative, because the previous hearing officer had found that the Student’s emotional condition “may be different now than it was in the past.” (HO-1.) The record was held open for receipt of documents offered to supplement the record (NT162-166; S-22), and the record closed on July 24, 2008.

ISSUES

1. Does the Student’s school phobia prevent Student from benefiting from the school-based ESY program offered by the District for the summer of 2008?

2. Is Camp an appropriate ESY placement for the Student?

RM-Palmerton-Area-ODRNo-8938-07-08-AS

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