The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYNER
Plaintiffs Michael and Sondra G. have brought this action on their own behalf and that of their son Jonathan G., appealing the decision of the Pennsylvania Special Education Appeals Panel ("Appeals Panel" or "Panel"), under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), as codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq (West 1990 & Supp. 1996).
Nevertheless, we have affirmed the decision of the Appeals Panel.
Jonathan G. is a student with learning disabilities as defined by IDEA, and is currently attending school in the Lower Merion School District ("Lower Merion"). In the 1993-1994 school year, while in fifth grade, Jonathan attended a self-contained learning support class.
In the subsequent year, he attended a resource room learning support program. Both placements were approved by his parents although they also purchased private educational services for him.
In April 1995, Lower Merion developed a Comprehensive Evaluation Report ("CER") and Notice of Recommended Assignment ("NORA"), as well as an Individualized Educational Program ("IEP") for Jonathan.
Based on these reports, Lower Merion proposed an educational placement for Jonathan in an inclusive setting with regular education students in seventh grade. Nevertheless, Mr. and Mrs. G. rejected the inclusionbased IEP that was proposed on April 20, 1995 and obtained independent evaluations during July and August 1995.
Since the disagreement between Lower Merion and Jonathan's parents was not resolved at a pre-hearing conference on September 7, 1995, due process hearings were held before a Special Education Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer, in a decision dated December 31, 1995, directed the implementation of the School District's proposed IEP and denied the parents' request for reimbursement of their expenses for the additional educational services. Subsequently, the parents appealed the decision of the Hearing Officer and the Appeals Panel affirmed the Hearing Officer's decision in all respects. Plaintiffs then brought this action to challenge the Appeals Panel's decision, raising two primary issues for our consideration, namely, the adequacy of Jonathan's placement, and their entitlement to reimbursement for the additional educational services they obtained.
Nevertheless, after careful evaluation of the record presented to us, we affirm the decision of the Appeals Panel.
In reviewing a claim under the IDEA, this court is required to "receive the records of the administrative proceedings, hear additional evidence at the request of a party" and base its decision on the "preponderance of the evidence." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2).
The court is also required to give "due weight to the administrative proceedings," Board of Education v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 206, 73 L. Ed. 2d 690, 102 S. Ct. 3034 (1982), although the court must consider the findings of the administrative tribunal carefully, and may accept or reject such findings. Susan N. v. Wilson School Dist., 70 F.3d 751, 758 (3d. Cir. 1995). Finally, the court must be careful not to substitute its judgment about proper education methods for that of the state educational authorities. Rowley, at 207.
Congress' intent in enacting IDEA was to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that children with disabilities are educated with those who are not disabled. See 20 U.S.C. § 1412(5)(B). Indeed, IDEA provides that children with disabilities should only be removed from a regular education environment when the disability is such that education in that environment is not feasible, even with the use of supplementary ...