Student vs. Centennial School District

PENNSYLVANIA
SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER

DECISION

CLOSED HEARING

Parties:

Centennial School District

433 Centennial Road Warminster PA, 18974

Representatives:

Parent Attorney: Ilene Young, Esquire Ilene Young Law Offices
50 East Court Street
Doylestown, PA 18901

School District Attorney: Anne Hendricks, Esquire Nicole Thompson, Esquire

Levin Legal Group
1301 Masons Mill Business Park 1800 Byberry Road
Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006

Date Record Closed: May 5, 2010

Decision Date: May 19, 2010

Hearing Officer: Gloria M. Satriale, Esquire

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case concerns the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (hereinafter “FAPE”) for Student (hereinafter referred to as “Student”), a teen aged student, who resides with Student’s parents in the Centennial School District (hereinafter referred to as “District”) and who has suffered from multiple medical conditions since kindergarten which have hindered Student’s ability to attend school and fully participate in the regular educational process. The Parents contend that the District failed to fulfill its obligations under Child Find since, despite the presence of Student’s medical challenges since the inception of Student’s educational career and the chronic nature of the difficulties as the Student progressed through the grades, the Student was neither identified as a student eligible for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (hereinafter referred to as “IDEA”) or as a student in need of protections under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (hereinafter referred to as “Section 504”). The parents further asserted that, since the District failed to identify the student as one entitled to protections under IDEA or Section 504, that Student was deprived of a FAPE, thereby entitling Student to compensatory education. The Parents also asserted the right to an Independent Educational Evaluation (hereinafter referred to as an “IEE”). The District asserts that Section 504 accommodations put in to place immediately following the Districts’ suspicions that accommodations may be necessary; however, no degree of accommodation could overcome the student’s chronic failure to attend school and failure to make up the work missed as a result of Student’s absences. Therefore, it is the District’s position that the Student’s inability to fully participate in regular public education is not a result of the Student’s debilitating illness or the District’s failure to adequately accommodate for Student’s illness, but as a result of the Student’s lack of effort and family’s failure to fully avail themselves of District supports, attend school, and complete work as the Student was able.

Although this case involves a complex fact pattern regarding time frame (periods of homebound instruction, dual enrollment, attendance within the district and within alternative placement) issues regarding proper and improper accreditation of academic credit toward graduation requirements; and disputes within the record regarding disclosure by the parents and recognition by the District of symptomlogy of this

Students medical condition, the core question is basic: Did the District have reason to suspect the Student has a disability? Did the District have reason to suspect that special education services may be necessary to address the disability? W.B. vs Matula 67 F 3rd 484 (3rd Cir.1995). The question is not, as the District argues, that the Student is not in need of specially designed instruction and hence ineligible as a student with a disability1. Eligibility is precisely the question one must answer. This question can only be answered by a thoroughly comprehensive evaluation in compliance with the law.

Due process was filed with the Office for Dispute Resolution by the District on November 19, 2008, in support of its denial of Parent’s request for an Independent Education Evaluation. Thereafter, the District filed an Answer to its own Compliant, including a motion to dismiss, which was denied by Hearing Officer DeLauro. The Parents’ Complaint was filed on January 23, 2009, at ODR#9645/08-09 KE. The two matters were thereafter consolidated. The claims sought within Parent’s complaint were limited the period of time beginning January 23, 2007 through January 23, 2009 by Hearing Officer DeLauro2. The parties waived a resolution meeting.

A Due Process hearing ensued over eight (8) sessions on April 23, 2009, June 30, 2009, August 25, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 15, 2009, December 2, 2009, and December 7, 2009 before Hearing Officer Deborah DeLauro as well as on March 5, 2010 before Hearing Officer Gloria Satriale.

a. Exhibits were submitted and accepted on behalf of the Parent as follows:

P-2, P-4, P-5, P-6, P-7, P-8, P-9, P-10, P-11, P-13, P-14, P-15, P-16, P-17, P-18, P-19, P-20, P-21, P-22, P-23, P-24, P-26, P-27, P-28, P- 29, P-30, P-31, P-32, P-33, P-33A, P-33B, P-34, P-40, P-40A, P-40B, P-40C, P-41, P-45, P-48

b. Exhibits were submitted and accepted on behalf of the District as follows:

SD-5, SD-6, SD-7, SD-8, SD-9, SD- 11, SD-12, SD-13, SD-14, SD-16, SD-17, SD-18, SD-19, SD-20, SD-21,SD-22, SD- 23, SD-26, SD-27, SD-30, SD-37, SD-38, SD-40, SD-41, SD- 42, SD-43, SD-44, SD-47, SD-48, SD-57, SD-58, SD-59, SD- 60, SD-62, SD-66, SD-67

For the reasons that follow, Parents’ claims for an Independent Educational Evaluation at Public Expense and for compensatory education for the period of time beginning January 23, 2007 through January 23, 2009 are GRANTED.

ISSUES

  1. Whether the School District violated its Child Find obligations in failing to evaluate the Student to determine whether Student was a student with a disability in need of protections under IDEA or Section 504.
  2. Whether the Parents are entitled to an IEE at School District expense.
  3. Whether the Student is eligible for Special Education services under IDEA
  4. Whether the 504 Service Agreement offered by the School District was appropriate.
  5. Whether compensatory education should be awarded to the Student for the time period between January 23, 2007, and January 23, 20093.
Student-Centennial-ODRNo-09469-0809LS-09645-0809KE

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