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P.G. v. Southern York County School Dist.

October 24, 2006

P.G., ON BEHALF OF C.B., PLAINTIFF
v.
SOUTHERN YORK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christopher C. Conner United States District Judge

(Judge Conner)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court is the motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, disposition on the administrative record (Doc. 43), filed by defendant, Southern York County School District ("School District"). The School District contends that the action sub judice is precluded by a prior decision of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

I. Statement of Facts*fn1

C.B. is a seventeen-year-old student who resides in the School District.

(Docs. 44 ¶ 1; 54 ¶ 1.) C.B. is eligible to receive special education and related services pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1491o,*fn2 because he has "a Specific Learning Disability in the areas of reading and written expression." (Docs. 44 ¶ 2; 54 ¶ 2.)

C.B.'s challenges in the areas of speech and language first became apparent during his kindergarten year in the School District. A multi-disciplinary evaluation conducted during that year concluded that an Individualized Education Program ("IEP")*fn3 was needed to provide speech and language support for C.B. (Docs. 44 ¶¶ 3-4; 54 ¶¶ 3-4.) In addition, a psychological evaluation revealed that C.B. had an I.Q. of 65, which classified him as mentally retarded. (Docs. 54 ¶ 5; 45, Ex. E at 3.) Yet, C.B.'s achievement test scores were higher than would typically be expected for someone with mental retardation. (Doc. 45, Ex. K at 345.)

More than five years later, a second psychological evaluation increased C.B.'s I.Q. score to 76. (Docs. 44 ¶ 6; 54 ¶ 6.) Despite this increase and C.B.'s achievement test scores, C.B. remained eligible for "continuing services as a Mentally Retarded student." (Doc. 45, Ex. F at 4.) In June 2002, the School District conducted a third evaluation of C.B., which increased his I.Q. to 88. (Docs. 44 ¶ 7; 54 ¶ 7.) This increase changed C.B.'s disability category from "Mental Retardation" to "Specific Learning Disability" in the area of written language and expression.*fn4 (Docs. 44 ¶ 8; 54 ¶ 8.) As a result, C.B.'s IEP for the 2002-2003 school year was amended to provide additional support in the areas of "oral and written communication skills, reading, and academic skills." (Docs. 44 ¶ 9; 54 ¶ 9.) C.B.'s mother, P.G., approved this IEP, but now denies that the reading and written expression goals were appropriate. (Docs. 44 ¶ 11; 54 ¶¶ 11, 35.)

Five months later, P.G. obtained an Independent Educational Evaluation of C.B. (Docs. 44 ¶ 12; 54 ¶ 12.) This evaluation concluded that C.B. had a "language-based learning disability of the Dyslexic Type" and that C.B. should be placed in an "intensively, remedial, private school setting with a full day program geared to meet the needs of" such a student. (Doc. 45, Ex. J at 30, 32.) The evaluation also concluded that C.B.'s initial diagnosis of mental retardation was improper and that the steady increases in C.B.'s I.Q. score should have revealed this error in diagnosis. (Doc. 54 ¶ 46.)

Soon thereafter, the School District developed C.B.'s IEP for the 2003-2004 school year. (Docs. 44 ¶¶ 13-14; 54 ¶¶ 13-14.) This IEP continued to provide C.B. with support in the areas of "reading and written expression" and prescribed several methods of instruction to be conducted in a "one-to-one and small group" setting. (Docs. 44 ¶ 15; 45, Ex. L at 10; 54 ¶ 15.) P.G. rejected this IEP as inadequate, arguing that it contained only vague, "boilerplate" instructions that "failed to give guidance to [C.B.'s] teacher." (Doc. 54 ¶¶ 15, 19, 36.) P.G. also claimed that private school instruction was necessary to bridge "the deficit between [C.B.'s] current level and his ability." (Doc. 54 ¶ 19.) The School District refuted this, maintaining that it could provide a program appropriate for C.B.'s needs. (Docs. 44 ¶ 20; 54 ¶ 20.)

At P.G.'s request, a due process hearing was commenced before a Hearing Officer. (Docs. 44 ¶¶19, 21; 54 ¶¶ 19, 21.) The Hearing Officer considered whether C.B.'s IEPs for the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 school years were adequate and whether C.B. should be placed in a private school for the remainder of the 2003-2004 school year. (Docs. 44 ¶ 21; 54 ¶ 21.) The Hearing Officer concluded that the "reading components" of C.B.'s IEPs were inadequate to meet his needs. (Doc. 45, Ex. A at 30.) Accordingly, the Hearing Officer determined that the School District had failed to provide C.B. with a free appropriate public education ("FAPE"), and awarded him 230 hours of compensatory education.*fn5 (Doc. 45, Ex. A at 30-31.) However, the Hearing Officer declined to award private school tuition reimbursement,*fn6 citing the lack of evidence that the private school program was the least restrictive*fn7 placement available. (Doc. 45, Ex. A at 3.)

Both parties filed exceptions to the Hearing Officer's recommendations, which were heard by the Special Education Due Process Appeals Review Panel ("Appeals Panel"). (Docs. 44 ¶ 23; 54 ¶ 23.) The Appeals Panel affirmed the Hearing Officer's decision, but increased the amount of compensatory education awarded to 540 hours. (Docs. 44 ¶ 24; 54 ¶ 24.) The Appeals Panel concluded that this increase in compensatory education was needed to allow C.B. to make up for "the years of lack of appropriate, intensified, remedial instruction and lack of concomitant progress." (Doc. 54 ¶ 24.)

On May 14, 2004, the School District filed a petition for review with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania,*fn8 seeking review of the Appeals Panel's decision. (Docs. 44 ¶ 25; 54 ¶ 25.) On June 21, 2004, P.G. attempted to remove the case to this court; however, the case was remanded to Commonwealth Court because P.G.'s attempted removal was untimely. (Docs. 44 ¶¶ 26-28; 54 ¶¶ 26-28; Civil Action No. 1:04-CV-01333, Doc. 19.)

On October 7, 2004, P.G. initiated the action sub judice seeking review under the IDEA of the same administrative decisions that were at issue in the Commonwealth Court. (Docs. 44 ¶ 29; 54 ¶ 29.) P.G. added claims under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 790-794e, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134, and § 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Each of these claims relies "on the same core of operative facts" as P.G.'s IDEA claim. (Docs. 44 ¶ 30; 54 ¶ 30.) On December 14, 2004, the School District filed a motion to dismiss the instant action, arguing that this court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction because of the parallel action pending in Commonwealth Court. ...


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