SS vs. Pittsburgh Public School District

PENNSYLVANIA
SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER

DECISION

Child’s Name: S.S.

Date of Birth: [redacted]

CLOSED HEARING

ODR File No. 18270-16-17 AS

Parties to the Hearing:

Parent Parent[s]

Local Education Agency Pittsburgh Public School District 341 South Bellefield Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3516

Representative:

Parent Attorney
Tiffany E. Sizemore-Thompson, Esq. Tribone Center for Clinical Legal Education
Duquesne University School of Law 600 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15282

LEA Attorney
Aimee Rankin Zundel, Esq. Weiss Burkardt Kramer, LLC
445 Fort Pitt Boulevard, Suite 503 Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Date of Hearing: October 17, 2016

Date of Decision: October 25, 2016

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

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The student in this matter (hereafter Student)1 is a primary elementary school-aged student in the Pittsburgh Public 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 asserting that its notice of a change in placement to an interim alternative educational setting violated specific protections in the IDEA and its implementing regulations.

The case proceeded to an expedited due process hearing concluding in a single session.3 Both parties presented evidence in support of their respective positions, with the central issue whether the District properly sought a unilateral 45-day interim placement based upon its conclusion that the principal of the elementary school building that Student attended suffered a serious bodily injury due to actions by Student, as permitted by 20 U.S.C. § 1415(k)(1)(G)(iii) and 34 C.F.R. § 300.530(g)(3). The Parent contended that the facts did not rise to the level of the explicit definition of “serious bodily injury” and requested an order that Student return to the home elementary school; the District sought approval of its determination on the 45-day interim placement.

For the reasons set forth below, this hearing officer concludes that the principal did not suffer a serious bodily injury within the meaning of the applicable law and, thus, the District lacked the authority to unilaterally remove Student; but that, nonetheless, maintaining the placement at the home elementary school presents a substantial likelihood of injury to Student and others. The attached Order will therefore provide for a change in placement for Student to an alternative educational setting.

ISSUE

Whether the injury on September 20, 2016 constituted a serious bodily injury such that the District properly sought a unilateral removal of Student to an alternative educational setting for a period of 45 days?

S-S-Pittsburgh-Public-ODRNo-18270-16-17-AS

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