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CENTRAL YORK SCHOOL DISTRICT v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (03/26/79)

decided: March 26, 1979.

CENTRAL YORK SCHOOL DISTRICT, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of Education in case of In Re: The Educational Assignment of Holly, a student in the Central York School District, Special Education Appeal Opinion, No. 69, entered November 3, 1977.

COUNSEL

Michael W. King, with him Henry B. Leader, and Stock and Leader, for petitioner.

Allen Warshaw and John A. Alzamora, with them Ernest N. Helling, Assistant Attorney General, and Patricia A. Donovan, Deputy Attorney General, Chief Counsel, for respondent.

William Fearen, Michael I. Levin, and Cleckner & Fearen, for amicus curiae, Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Judges Rogers, Blatt and DiSalle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 41 Pa. Commw. Page 384]

The Central York School District has appealed an order of the Secretary of Education requiring the School District to provide a special education program

[ 41 Pa. Commw. Page 385]

    for an exceptional student, Holly H. Holleran, who happens to deviate from average in mental characteristics in that she is gifted.

Holly's parents requested a program placement conference and due process hearing pursuant to Department of Education regulations at 22 Pa. Code ยงยง 13.31-13.33 to question the assignment of their daughter to a regular fifth grade class for the 1976-77 school year. Following the hearing, at which the parents presented unchallenged evidence that Holly was a gifted student, the Hearing Officer recommended that Holly should be educated in a program appropriate for the mentally gifted. On appeal, the Secretary of Education dismissed the School District's exceptions to the Hearing Officer's report, adopted his recommendations and ordered the School District to provide Holly with special education.

The School District does not dispute the fact that Holly is gifted; it argues that its duty to provide a special education program for gifted students is contingent upon the Commonwealth's obligation to reimburse the School District for the cost of the program and that since the School District had what it believed was accurate advice from the Department of Education that reimbursement would not be forthcoming, it was not obliged to accommodate Holly. We firmly disagree with this thesis and will affirm the order of the Secretary of Education.

"[A] school district is a creature or agency of the Legislature . . . whose sole purpose is the administration of the system of public education under the direction of the Legislature." Chartiers Valley Joint Schools v. Allegheny County Board of School Directors, 418 Pa. 520, 544, 211 A.2d 487, 500 (1965). Section 1371 of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as ...


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