The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANDISH
WILLIAM STANDISH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
This is a civil action under the Education of the Handicapped Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., and Pennsylvania state law in which plaintiffs Leonard Liscio, a minor, and Blanche Hippensteel, his parent, challenge the educational placement of Leonard, a handicapped child. After a non-jury trial, the court makes the findings of fact and conclusions of law set forth below.
1. Plaintiffs are Leonard Liscio, a minor, and his parent, Blanche Hippensteel.
2. Defendant Woodland Hills School District (the District) is a governmental unit which administers all public schools within the District.
3. Defendant Allegheny Intermediate Unit (the AIU) is a governmental unit which, in association with the District, administers special education programs and schools to which exceptional children in the District may be placed.
4. Defendant Thomas Gilhool is the Secretary of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As such, he is responsible for the administration and operation of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
5. Leonard Liscio was born on October 30, 1978. He resides with his mother, Blanche Hippensteel, in the District. For the upcoming 1989-90 school year, he will be in the 5th grade.
6. Leonard has been diagnosed as having the dual handicap of educably mentally retarded (EMR) and socially and emotionally disturbed (SED). He has a history of attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity which is characterized by inattentiveness, difficulty in completing tasks, inability to control drives well and distractibility by irrelevant peripheral stimuli. In addition, Leonard has a mild oppositional disorder which is manifested by stubbornness, a strong will and a tendency to easily get into power struggles with adults. He also has mild epilepsy which is controlled with medication.
7. Eastern Area School is a special education center operated by the AIU within the District. During the 1985-86 and 1986-87 school years, Leonard was placed on a full-time basis in an EMR/SED program at Eastern Area School. This type of program is now designated as a SED/MR class because some children fall within the range who are below the EMR range. Although Eastern Area School teaches children who are severely retarded, it also has students who are higher functioning, socially and academically, than Leonard.
9. Pursuant to the Education of the Handicapped Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., (the EHA) and Pennsylvania state law, 22 Pa.Code § 13.31 et seq., Mrs. Hippensteel invoked the due process procedures established by those laws and requested a pre-hearing conference.
10. The pre-hearing conference was held on June 17, 1987. The District and the AIU offered to integrate Leonard into an EMR class in Ben Fairless School for one period per week. Under this proposal, integration would be increased gradually with a projection of 50% integration by January of 1988, depending on Leonard's progress. Mrs. Hippensteel rejected this proposal and requested a due process hearing pursuant to the EHA and Pennsylvania state law. The District and the AIU invoked the "stay put" provisions of the EHA which resulted in Leonard's full-time placement in the SED/MR class at Eastern Area School during the pendency of the due process hearing.
11. On January 11 and February 1, 1988, a due process hearing was conducted by a special education hearing officer to determine the appropriate educational placement for Leonard. Thereafter, on February 25, 1988, the hearing officer issued a decision in which he determined that Leonard's appropriate placement in the least restrictive environment was a transition from the SED/MR class at Eastern Area School to an EMR class in a regular District school. The hearing officer recommended that Leonard initially be assigned to the District-based EMR class for at least two periods per day and lunch or recess. Eventually, it was hoped that Leonard would be placed in a District-based EMR class on a full-time basis. Further, the hearing officer recommended that a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meet weekly to monitor Leonard's progress and to provide a support system for Leonard.
12. The District and the AIU did not appeal the findings of the hearing officer. However, Mrs. Hippensteel filed exceptions to the hearing officer's decision with the Secretary of Education. Specifically, Mrs. Hippensteel objected to the recommendation that Leonard be required to attend classes at both schools during the transitional period.
14. On September 30, 1988, plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the District and the AIU from failing to place Leonard in a District-based EMR class on a full-time basis. After hearing, the motion was denied on October 6, 1988.
15. Thereafter, the District and Mrs. Hippensteel agreed on an interim placement of Leonard during the pendency of this case. Pursuant to this agreement, Leonard has attended an EMR class at Ben Fairless School for two periods per day in the morning since October 11, 1988. In addition, Leonard has been mainstreamed at Ben Fairless School for such classes as homeroom, physical education, library, music and art. Leonard spends the remainder of his school day attending the SED/MR class at Eastern Area School.
16. Dr. Claire Cohen, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, initially evaluated Leonard in December, 1987, at his mother's request, to make a recommendation respecting Leonard's educational placement. At that time, Dr. Cohen concluded that her diagnosis of Leonard's handicap did not preclude placement in a regular school and recommended that Leonard be placed in an EMR class in a District-based school. In addition to capability, Dr. Cohen noted that Leonard was highly motivated to be mainstreamed with his nonhandicapped peers. However, due to Mrs. Hippensteel's request for a due process hearing, and the invocation of the "stay put" provisions of the EHA by the District and the AIU, Leonard remained in the SED/MR class at Eastern Area School.
17. Dr. Cohen saw Leonard again in September, 1988, the beginning of the new school year. Mrs. Hippensteel was concerned about the deterioration of his behavior. Leonard was exhibiting signs of sleep disturbance, anger, frustration, decrease in appetite and gastrointestinal problems. He called his mother "dumb" due to her inability to have him placed at Ben Fairless School. In Dr. Cohen's office, he threw the school bus toy, but no other toy, and expressed concern about going to jail for refusing to go to school. Dr. Cohen diagnosed Leonard's condition as an adjustment disorder with anxious mood, resulting from stress in his environment. She termed the diagnosis "situational" and short term, rather than a chronic illness. Leonard's condition did not change Dr. Cohen's opinion regarding the appropriateness of his placement in an EMR class in a District-based setting. She determined that the stressor itself was the denial of Leonard's placement in Ben Fairless School. Dr. Cohen criticized the proposal of the District and the AIU to begin partial integration of Leonard in the EMR class at Ben Fairless School with only one period per week. Rather, Dr. Cohen believed that Leonard's integration should be much quicker.
18. Shortly thereafter, on October 11, 1988, Leonard began the agreed upon interim placement in the EMR class at Ben Fairless School for two periods in the morning. In addition, Leonard was mainstreamed for physical education and library at this time. The placement appeared to work well for several weeks. However, Leonard believed that he would get additional classes at Ben Fairless School and became frustrated when such an increase did not occur. In December, 1988, Mrs. Hippensteel took Leonard to see Dr. Cohen because he was still frustrated over the school situation. Leonard stated that he "hated school" and was clear about his desire to attend Ben Fairless School on a full-time basis. Dr. Cohen began to see Leonard for therapy on a weekly basis.
19. Dr. Cohen criticized the District and the AIU for beginning Leonard's partial integration with math, the subject which is most difficult for Leonard. Dr. Cohen also criticized the Behavior Modification Plan (BMP) which was being used by Miss Haluska, Leonard's teacher in the EMR class at Ben Fairless School. Dr. Cohen testified that an effective BMP must be clear as to its requirements and as to the consequences for not meeting the criteria. She believed that the BMP in the EMR class at Ben Fairless School was frustrating for Leonard because he did not understand it. Dr. Cohen claimed that Leonard had a clearer sense of when he would be rewarded in the BMP which was utilized by Mrs. Fox, his teacher in the SED/MR class at Eastern Area School, and that it was more encouraging. She maintained that this BMP could be utilized in an EMR class in a District-based setting without a lot of effort.
20. By March, 1989, Leonard's anxiety over his school placement decreased. He was sleeping well and was less angry with the school and his mother. On May 15, 1989, Dr. Cohen observed Leonard in his classes at both schools. Her observations of Leonard in Ben Fairless School included homeroom, music and the EMR math class. While Dr. Cohen described Leonard as a little fidgety in these classes, she stated that he was significantly more disruptive in the SED/MR class at Eastern Area School. This was due, at least in part, to the greater interaction between Leonard and his peers in SED/MR class. Based on these observations, Dr. Cohen concluded that Leonard could adequately perform in a District-based EMR class on a full-time basis due to his ...