Student vs. Bristol Township School District

PENNSYLVANIA
SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER

DECISION
DUE PROCESS HEARING

Name of Child: Student

ODR #10019/08-09 LS

Date of Birth: xx/xx/xx

Dates of Hearing: June 25, 2009 August 26, 2009 September 2, 2009 September 9, 2009 September 30, 2009 October 15, 2009 October 27, 2009

CLOSED HEARING

Parties to the Hearing:

Bristol Township School District 6401 Mill Creek Road Levittown, Pennsylvania 19057

Representative:
Hollie John, Esquire
Connolly, Jacobson & John
188 North Main Street Doylestown, Pennsylvania 18901

Heather Durrant, Esquire
Rudolph, Pizzo and Clarke, LLC Eight Neshaminy Interplex, Ste. 215 Trevose, Pennsylvania 19053

Last Transcript Received: November 1, 2009

Record Closed November 30, 2009

Date of Decision: December 15, 2009

Hearing Officer: Deborah G. DeLauro, M.Ed, J.D.

Background

Student enrolled in the Bristol Township District as a kindergarten student in the 2004-2005 school year. Student accrued numerous absences, late arrivals, early dismissals and nurse visits due to Student’s difficulty separating from Student’s parents. Student’s separation difficulties manifested in a variety of somatic complaints including stomach issues, chest issues and issues related to Student’s diagnosed asthma. Parents sought medical reasons for Student’s complaints but also asked for help from the District.

Student started having academic difficulties due in part to Student’s excessive absences. In December 2004, Student was identified as an eligible student based upon the classification of Speech/ Language Impairment, and an IEP was developed to address Student’s articulation problems. Some tutoring in math was added in first grade, but Student’s academic problems and excessive absences continued to escalate.

In December 2006, the District conducted a 504 meeting to discuss health issues but because of the team’s understanding that a medical diagnosis was required, did not develop a 504 Service Plan until June 2007. The 504 Plan did not address Student’s attendance issues or the instruction missed due to Student’s absences.

The District initiated Truancy proceedings against the Parents at the end of the 2006-2007 school year. The following year, Student’s absences continued to increase and Student’s teachers started reporting that Student was not making adequate progress. When all other medical issues were ruled out, it was suggested that Student might be suffering from separation anxiety and Student was referred to an independent psychologist and psychiatrist.

In June 2008 the 504 Plan was discontinued because the Parents did not provide updated medical information. The Parents protested in July 2008 and requested a psycho-educational evaluation. In spite of Student’s diagnoses of ADHD, School Phobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a R/O for Aspergers, the October 2008 Re- Evaluation Report, discontinued speech and Language services and determined that although Student had met the disability criteria under the category of Other Health Impairment, Student was not in need of specially designed instruction.

In January 2009, the District agreed to fund an independent educational evaluation, included an independent speech/language evaluation, and in the Spring 2009, the IEE found Student to be eligible for special education services as a student with an Emotional Disturbance and in need of specially designed instruction.

In May 2009, Student’s Parents filed a due process complaint to seek compensatory education due to the District’s alleged failure to meet its Child Find obligations under IDEA and Section 504 by failing to appropriately and timely evaluate Student and provide Student with a Free Appropriate Public Education.

The due process hearing was held over seven sessions between June 25 and October 27, 2009. For the reasons explained below, the Parents have met their burden by a preponderance of the evidence.

Issues

  1. Whether the District failed to meet its’ child find obligations under IDEA and Section 504 by failing to timely and appropriately evaluate Student?
  2. Whether the District failed to provide Student with a free appropriate public education under IDEA and/or §504 of the Rehabilitation Act ?
  3. Whether Student is entitled to compensatory education; and if so, how much?
  4. Whether Parents are owed reimbursement for the costs expended to obtain counseling services for Student?
Student-Bristol-Township-ODRNo-0019-08-09-LS

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