SPECIAL EDUCATION HEARING OFFICER
Child’s Name: T.C.
Date of Birth: [redacted]
ODR File No. 18868-16-17AS
Parties to the Hearing:
Local Education Agency Hempfield Area School District 4347 Route 136
Greensburg, PA 15601
Kristen C. Weidus, Esquire Ruder Law, LLC
429 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Rachel K. Lozosky, Esquire Peacock Keller & Ecker, LLP 70 East Beau Street Washington, PA 15301
Dates of Hearing: 5/22/2017, 7/24/2017, 7/27/2017, 7/28/2017, 8/1/2017, 8/8/2017
Date of Decision: August 21, 2017
Hearing Officer: Cathy A. Skidmore, M.Ed., J.D. Certified Hearing Official
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The student (hereafter Student)1 is a late-teenaged resident of the Hempfield Area School District (District) who is eligible for special education pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)2 on the bases of Autism and Other Health Impairment. Student is now beyond twelfth grade, having previously participated in a local vocational- technical program (VTP) before returning to a full time District program, and then transferring to a different, Intermediate Unit (IU)-provided program at the start of the 2016-17 school year.
In March 2017, Student’s Parents filed a due process complaint against the District asserting that it denied Student a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,3 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),4 as well as the federal and state regulations implementing those statutes.
The case proceeded to a due process hearing convening over six sessions.5 The Parents sought to establish that the District failed to provide Student with FAPE throughout the time period in question, particularly with respect to post-secondary transition services following a number of incidents involving peers at the VTP, which has resulted in an overly restrictive placement. The District maintained that its special education program, as offered and implemented, was appropriate for Student, and that neither it nor the VTP had knowledge of the peer incidents, but responded appropriately when informed; and, that Student has made appropriate progress in any event.6 The decision due date was extended on joint request and the record closed upon receipt of the parties’ written arguments.
For the reasons set forth below, the Parents’ claims will be granted in part and denied in part.
- Whether the District complied with its obligations to Student to provide a free, appropriate public education from the start of the 2014-15 school year and continuing through the present?
- If the District did not comply with its obligations to provide Student with a free, appropriate public education at any point during the relevant time period, should the Parents be reimbursed for expenditures incurred in providing Student with counseling and therapeutic support?
- If the District did not comply with its obligations to provide Student with a free, appropriate public education at any point during the relevant time period, should Student be awarded compensatory education?
- Whether the District acted with deliberate indifference to Student in light of Student’s disability?