SM vs. Downingtown Area School District

PENNSYLVANIA
SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER

DECISION

Child’s Name: S.M.

Date of Birth: [redacted]

CLOSED HEARING

ODR File No. 17175-15-16 AS

Parties to the Hearing: Parent[s]

Local Education Agency Downingtown Area School District 540 Trestle Place
Downingtown, PA 19335-2643

Representative:

Parent Attorney
Michael J. Connolly, Esquire McAndrews Law Offices, P.C. 30 Cassatt Avenue
Berwyn, PA 19312

LEA Attorney
Sharon W. Montanye, Esquire
Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams LLP P.O. Box 5069, 331 Butler Avenue New Britain, PA 18901

Dates of Hearing: February 19, 2016, April 21, 2016, April 28, 2016, and May 17, 2016

Date Record Closed: June 13, 2016

Date of Decision: July 1, 2016

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

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The student (hereafter Student)1 is a late-teenaged student who resides within the Downingtown Area School District (District). Student is eligible for special education pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).2 Student’s Parents filed a due process complaint against the District in December 2015, asserting that Student was denied 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.

The case proceeded to a due process hearing,4 with an initial session devoted to evidence on the scope of the hearing based on the IDEA statute of limitations. Following a ruling wherein this hearing officer concluded that the Parents had not filed their Complaint within two years of the “knew or should have known” date, the hearing was limited to the two year period immediately preceding the filing of the Complaint. (HO-1) Evidence on the substantive issues was presented in three subsequent hearing sessions.5 The Parents sought to establish that the District failed to offer Student a program that would provide FAPE, seeking reimbursement for tuition at the private placements Student attended from October 2014 through the present. The District maintained that it was not obligated to evaluate Student or offer a special education program for the time period in question, and that no remedy was due.

The record was closed upon receipt of the parties’ written closing arguments.6 For the reasons set forth below, the Parents will prevail on a portion of their claims.7

ISSUES

  1. Whether the District had an obligation to develop and offer a special education program to Student after the 2013-14 school year;
  2. If the District had such an obligation, whether it should be responsible for reimbursing the Parents for tuition to the private placements Student attended from October 2014 through the end of the 2015-16 school year; and
  3. Whether the Parents are entitled to reimbursement for an Independent Educational Evaluation obtained in the fall of 2015?
S-M-Downingtown-Area-ODRNo-17175-15-16-AS

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