United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
BRADEN O., et al. Plaintiffs
WEST CHESTER AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT Defendant WEST CHESTER AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT Plaintiff
B.O., et al Defendants
I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, U.S.D.C. J
Order dated September 19, 2016, [ECF 15], the parties'
joint motion to consolidate the following matters was
granted: Braden O., v. West Chester Area School
District, Civ. No. 16-0071, and West Chester Area
School District v. B.O., et al., Civ. No. 16-0758.
before this Court are cross-motions for judgment on the
administrative record filed by the West Chester Area
School District (the “School
District”), [ECF 20], and by B.O. by and through his
parents, B.O. and K.O., (“Parents”), [ECF 22], which
address the School District's appeal of three adverse
orders/decisions issued in the underlying due process
litigation brought by Parents pursuant to the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20
U.S.C. §1401 et seq., and Parents' action,
as the prevailing party, to recover attorneys' fees and
costs in said litigation. The issues raised in the
parties' respective motions have been fully briefed and
are ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated herein, the
School District's motion for judgment on the
administrative record is granted, Parents' motion is
denied, and this matter is remanded to the administrative
matter involves a minor student, B.O.
(“Student”), who has been diagnosed with autism
and related impairments, including, intellectual disability,
anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (“OCD”),
and attention deficient hyperactivity disorder
(“ADHD”), and who has received special education
services since the age of seven. In August 2014, when Student
was seventeen years old, Parents moved from Mt. Diablo
Unified School District (“Mt. Diablo”), in
California, to the West Chester Area School District, in West
Chester, Pennsylvania. A month prior to the move to West
Chester, Parents contacted by email Dr. Leigh Ann Ranieri,
the West Chester School District's Director of Pupil
Services, to discuss Student's educational needs and to
request that the School District continue Student's
existing services, including a residential
placement. On that same day, Dr. Ranieri responded to
Parents' email as follows:
Because special education regulations vary from
state-to-state, an evaluation will need to be conducted to
determine specific IEP needs based on Pennsylvania
regulations. In the interim, we will implement the California
IEP to the extent possible. We're responsible for
offering a program in the least restrictive environment and
there are many options available between a student's home
school and residential placement. The IEP team will make a
recommendation based on the individual needs of your son.
A very restrictive option is an Approved Private School such
as Camphill. While school districts don't make
residential recommendations or approvals, the district is
responsible for the school portion of the tuition when a
student attends an Approved Private School (APS). I've
attached a list of APS in Pennsylvania which might serve as a
resource for you.
Best wishes as you decide on your new home! Please contact me
once you've made a final recommendation.
(Administrative Record (“A.R.”) Ex. 9, P-38).
September 8, 2014, Parents registered Student with the West
Chester Area School District, and provided the School
District with a copy of Student's June 11, 2014 Mt.
Diablo individualized education program (“IEP”).
On September 22, 2014, and October 9, 2014, the School
District staff met with Parents to discuss Student's
educational program and placement. On October 9, 2014, the
School District issued a Notice of Recommended Educational
Placement (“NOREP”), (A.R. Ex. 8, HO-1 at pp.
38-41), indicating therein that its purpose was to
“implement Out-of-state IEP pending completion of
initial evaluation.” (Id. at p. 38). The NOREP
described the School District's proposed action as
To implement the California IEP dated June 1, 2014 in the
autistic support program at the Child Career and Development
Center (“CCDC”) pending completion of an initial
evaluation to determine special education eligibility in the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and to determine educational
(Id.). Although the School District noted
Parents' opinion that Student required a residential
placement, it indicated that the “IEP team will
re-visit [Student's] level of educational need upon
completion of the multidisciplinary team evaluation proposed
to the parents on October 9, 2014.” (Id. at p.
39). On October 17, 2014, Parents rejected the School
District's NOREP and insisted that Student “needs a
residential placement.” (Id. at p. 40).
November 19, 2014, Parents filed a Due Process Complaint
Notice. (A.R. Ex. 10, S-22). In the notice, Parents alleged
School District has refused to implement a residential
placement in Pennsylvania pending evaluation or other due
process procedures. The day placement the District has
offered is not appropriate educationally. Without a
residential placement, [Student] cannot receive FAPE.
(Id.). As a “Proposed Resolution, ”
Parents indicated “School District will honor
[Student's] pendent placement pursuant to 20 U.S.C.
1414(d)(2)(C)(i)(II).” (Id.). This recognition
specifically invoked the interstate transfer
provision, discussed below.
Hearing Officer's Orders/Decisions
result of Parents' complaint, a due process hearing was
scheduled. During the administrative proceedings, the Hearing
Officer issued three separate orders/decisions, each of which
is the subject of the School District's appeal before
this Court. The first decision involved Parents'
pre-hearing motion filed on December 30, 2014, seeking an
order to maintain Student's residential placement during
the pendency of the due process proceedings. (A.R. Ex. 8,
HO-1 at pp. 8-14). By Memorandum and Order dated January 18,
2015 (the “Interim Pendency Ruling”), the Hearing
Officer granted Parents' motion, thus, requiring the
School District to pay for Student's day school and
residential placement during the pendency of the due process
proceedings. (Id. at pp. 1-6). In its decision, the