Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of Education in case of In Re: Educational Assignment of Steven O., a student in the Centennial School District, Special Education Appeal Opinion, No. 95-A.
Robert W. Suter, with him Suter and O'Connor, for petitioners.
Ernest N. Helling, Assistant Attorney General, with him Patricia A. Donovan, Deputy Attorney General, Chief Counsel, for respondents.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Rogers and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 289]
This is an appeal from an order of the Secretary of Education (Secretary) dismissing the appeal of Centennial School District and vacating a report issued by a hearing officer following a due process hearing conducted pursuant to Department Regulations found at 22 Pa. Code §§ 13.31 to 13.33.
Steven Richard O'Grady, who was born on May 8, 1965, is an exceptional child within the meaning of Section 1371 of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 13-1371. Steven had attended two special education programs provided by the Centennial School District during school years from 1973 until September 1977 when he was hospitalized because of severe stress. During the hospitalization the School District recommended that upon Steven's release he be placed in an approved private school with a program for learning disabled children and specifically stated that the Pathway and Wood Schools were being considered. In the notice of recommended educational assignment the School District claimed limitation of its financial responsibility to the educational component of any residential program. Steven's parents did not approve the School District's educational assignment and on October 28, 1977 requested a due process hearing. The School District also requested a hearing by letter dated November
[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 2907]
, 1977. After Steven's release from the hospital, the School District made a revised recommended assignment on December 27, 1977 to Wordsworth Academy-Linfield program, a day program, but his parents rejected the program because it was not a residential placement.
A hearing Officer's report issued after hearing recommended that Steven be placed in a free public program of education and training, including a residential component, in an approved private school and the development of an Individualized Education Plan by the School District working in conjunction with the approved private school. The School District filed exceptions to the report and the Secretary, by interlocutory order dated April 26, 1978, remanded the matter to the hearing officer to make further findings of fact supporting his recommendation.
On June 29, 1978, however, the Secretary issued a final order from which the present appeal was taken, dismissing the School District's appeal from the decision of the hearing officer and vacating the remanded decision. The Secretary based her decision on an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County sitting as a Juvenile Court, dated March 21, 1978, committing Steven into the custody of the Pathway School. The court's order was made in response to Mr. and Mrs. O'Grady's petition to have Steven declared a deprived*fn1 child and placed in the residential treatment facility of the Pathway School. The Secretary reasoned that the Court's order relieved the parents of responsibility for
[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 291]
Steven's education by transferring legal custody of Steven from his parents to the Pathway School. The Secretary concluded that Steven's parents no longer had standing to contest the School District's recommended educational ...