Beth and Marshfield Public School – BSEA # 07-1052



<br /> Beth and Marshfield Public School – BSEA # 07-1052<br />

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS

In re: Beth1 and Marchfield Public School

BESA #07-1052

DECISION

This decision is rendered pursuant to M.G.L. Chapters 30A and 71B; 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq.; 29 U.S.C. §794; and the regulations promulgated under these statutes.

A hearing in the above-entitled matter was held on March 26 and 27 at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals in Malden, MA. The record remained open for final summations and receipt of final documents until April 20, 2007.

Those in attendance were:

Mother

Father

Student

Christine Blake Educational Consultant

Mary Ann Brown Student Advisor, College Internship Program,

The Berkshire Center

Lucy Allarie-Gosselin Vocational Coordinator, CSTEP, The Berkshire Center

Cynthia Rooney Child Neurologist, Children’s Hospital

Robert Kraus Attorney for Parents/Student

Susan Dupuis Director of Special Education, Marshfield Public Schools

Susan Burm Special Education Teacher, Marshfield Public Schools

Barbara Sanderson Learning Disabilities Specialist, Marshfield Public Schools

Jeanine Smith School Adjustment Counselor, Marshfield Public Schools

Virginia Bowker School Psychologist, Marshfield Public Schools

Mary Ellen Sowyrda Attorney for Marshfield Public Schools

Raymond Oliver Hearing Officer, Bureau of Special Education Appeals

The evidence consisted of Parents’ Exhibits labeled P-1 through P-652 , Marshfield Public Schools’ Exhibits labeled S-1 through S-46; and approximately 10 ½ hours of oral testimony.

HISTORY/STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Beth is a nineteen year old young lady who resides with her Parents in Marshfield, MA. Beth attended the Marshfield Public Schools (MPS) for her entire educational career, through June 2007. Beth has always been a special education student functioning under an individual education plan (IEP). During 9 th grade at Marshfield High School (MHS) Beth began in a primarily substantially separate special education program but during second semester, pursuant to Beth/Parental request, Beth was placed in regular education classes (modified for her) with a 1:1 aide for all classes except math. Beth received her math in the library on a 1:1 basis from her aide in a program supervised by the substantially separate special education teacher (Ms. Burm). Beth continued this type of program for 10 th and 11 th grades. In 12 th grade essentially the same arrangement continued regarding modified regular education classes with a 1:1 aide for all academic classes except math, but Beth received her math instruction from a learning disabilities specialist (Ms. Sanderson) in an academic support room with two other students. (See testimony, Burm; Sanderson; Mother; Student; S-12, 13, 14, 15, 18; P-6, 9, 10.)

Until mid-way through her senior year, Beth had failed to achieve passing scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests. In January 2006 Mother wrote to MPS regarding what MPS planned to do for Beth if she was unable to pass MCAS and, therefore, was unable to receive her diploma (P-31).3 MPS special education director, Ms. Dupuis, wrote back that Beth’s program would be discussed at her next IEP meeting the following month (P-32). On March 22, 2006 the team met and developed an IEP for Beth covering 3/22/06-3/22/07, which essentially continued Beth’s IEP for the remainder of her senior year and stated that another team meeting would be held regarding post senior year issues. This IEP was not accepted by Parents. (P-8; S-9; testimony, Mother; Dupuis).

Meanwhile, also in March 2006, Beth re-took the MCAS exam. This time she passed the English/language arts MCAS but failed the math MCAS by four points, achieving a score of 216. A score of 220 is necessary to pass. (See P-5; S-16; testimony, Sanderson; Dupuis.) By the end of her senior year in June 2006, Beth had achieved all of the requirements of MPS for graduation (S-7; testimony, Dupius) but because she had not passed the math portion of the MCAS, she was unable to receive a diploma. Instead, Beth received a Certificate of Attainment (S-8).

The team reconvened on June 19, 2006 and developed a new IEP for Beth covering March 23, 2006-March 21 2007 (S-2; P-12), which provided for continued services from MPS via its Transitional Learning Center Program, as well as for summer services over the 2006 summer (testimony, Dupuis; Burm). Parents never accepted this IEP (testimony Mother).

On February 28, 2006 Beth had been accepted by the College Internship Program – The Berkshire Center, for the 2006 summer and fall programs. On July 6, 2006 Parents’ attorney, pursuant to 20 U.S.C. §1412 (a)(10)(c)(iii)(I)(bb), wrote to MPS’ attorney notifying MPS of Parents’ intention to place Beth at the College Internship Program – The Berkshire Center, and that Parents sought MPS funding for this placement (P-42). On July 12, 2006 MPS’ attorney wrote back that MPS declined to fund said placement (P-44). Beth began at the College Internship Program – The Berkshire Center in July 2006 (testimony, Mother; Student).

On August 15, 2006 Parents requested a hearing before the BSEA, the case was assigned to Hearing Officer Lindsay Byrne, and a hearing date was set for September 18, 2006. Numerous postponements were requested and the parties participated in a BSEA settlement conference which did not result in resolution. A hearing was scheduled for March 12-13, 2007. Pursuant to the parties’ requests the case was re-scheduled to March 26-27, 2007. On March 22, 2007 the case was re-assigned to Hearing Raymond Oliver who conducted a conference call with the parties. The case proceeded to hearing on March 26-27, 2007.

ISSUES IN DISPUTE

1) Did MPS’ proposed IEP (S-2; P-12) for Beth appropriately address her special education needs so as to provide her with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive educational environment?

2. If not, did Parents’ unilateral placement of Beth at the College Internship Program – The Berkshire Center address her special education needs so as to provide her with FAPE in the least restrictive educational environment?

STATEMENT OF POSITIONS

Parents position is that MPS’ proposed IEP for Beth was inappropriate to address her special education needs so as to provide her with FAPE in the least restrictive educational environment. Parents contend that Beth required an out of district, residential placement at the College Internship Program – The Berkshire Center in order to receive FAPE in the least restrictive educational environment. Parents request retroactive reimbursement for their unilateral placement of Beth at the College Internship Program – The Berkshire Center from July 3, 2006.

MPS’ position is that its March 2006 – March 2007 IEP was appropriate to address Beth’s special education needs so as to provide her with FAPE in the least restrictive education environment. MPS contends that Beth does not require the restrictiveness of an out of district residential placement in order to receive FAPE; and further that the College Internship Program – The Berkshire Center is an inappropriate placement for Beth. MPS also contends Parental reimbursement is barred pursuant to 34 CFR 300.148(d)1(ii) because Parents’ demand letter for funding was not written at least ten days prior to their unilateral placement, but rather three days after Beth already had begun the program.

BRIEF PROFILE OF STUDENT

Beth has a complex medical and educational profile. From a very early age she has been diagnosed with epilepsy. She has had numerous hospitalizations and many medications for this condition. In November 2001 (7 th grade) Beth underwent a procedure in which a vagus nerve stimulator was implanted in her chest. As a result, the number of seizures Beth experienced dropped from over one hundred per month to only several per month. This procedure also allowed the amount of her medications to be reduced. As a result, Beth became less fatigued and “the fog lifted” (testimony, Mother). Dr. Cynthia Ronney, Beth’s neurologist since she was 2 ½ years old, reported on April 25, 2006:

Beth is a patient under my care being treated for a refractory complex partial seizure disorder, which can secondarily generalize, cortical dysplasia of the right frontal lobe, neurodevelopmental disorder secondary to seizure disorder, and management of a vagus nerve stimulator (P-35; S-29).

Dr. Rooney testified, via speakerphone, that Beth remains on seven different medications which are all related to her seizure disorder. Dr. Rooney testified that Beth’s neurodevelopmental disorder results from having so many significant seizures from an early age, which can result in deficits in cognitive tasks, mental processing, integration of information, language, and visual-spatial functioning which affect a student’s academic, social, and adaptive functioning. (See testimony, Rooney.)

Beth has been extensively evaluated. (See P-1, 2, 3, 4; S-23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.) The most recent psychological evaluation by MPS was done in October 2005 (P-3; S-23). On the Wechster Adult Intelligence Scale – 3 rd edition (WAIS-III) Beth achieved a Verbal IQ of 83 (low average); a Performance IQ of 68 (extremely low range); and a Full Scale IQ of 74 (borderline range). On the WAIS-III Index Scores Beth performed in the low average range on the Verbal Comprehension Index-89; in the borderline range on the Perceptual Organization Index – 72; in the low average range on the Working Memory Index – 82; and the extremely low range on the Processing Speed Index – 69. (See P-3; S-23; testimony Bowker.) On the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test – 2 nd edition (WIAT-II) also administered in October 2005, Beth’s reading comprehension was at a fifth grade level; math at a mid-fourth grade level; and written expression at an eighth grade level (testimony, Bowker).

In November/December 2005 Beth received an independent neuropsychological evaluation from Dr. Carol Leavell (P-4; S-26), received by MPS in June 2006 (testimony, Dupuis; Sanderson; Bowker). Based upon the Gray Oral Reading Test – 4 th edition (GORT-4) Dr. Leavell found Beth’s grade level reading scores to be as follows:

Reading Subtest Grade Level Scores

Reading Rate 5.4

Reading Accuracy 6.4

Reading Fluency 6.0

Reading Comprehension 5.4

On selected tests of the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement-3 rd edition (WJ-3) Beth achieved the following grade level scores:

Subject Area Grade Level Score

Spelling 7.7

Math Calculation 4.1

Math Fluency 2.1

Math Applied Problems 2.8
(See P-4; S-28 for Dr. Leavell’s complete neuropsycholigical evaluation results.)

PARENTS’ PROPOSED PROGRAM

Parents proposed that Marshfield fund their unilateral placement of Beth at the College Internship Program – The Berkshire Center (CIP) located in Lee, Massachusetts as a residential student.

CIP’s mission is to provide individualized, post-secondary academic, internship, and independent living experiences for young adults with learning differences. CIP is a four year program. It is divided into six departments – academic; student advising/money management; vocational; clinical; residential/recreational; and cooperative cooking skills. The academic program is an in-house four year curriculum at CIP and/or classes at Berkshire Community College (BCC). Student advising consists of a one hour meeting each week with the student advisor focusing on practical money skills/banking management, checking on students’ progress, arranging appointments, facilitating home visits, and setting short and long term goals. The vocational program facilitates practical workplace skills via CIP’s Career Skills Training and Employment Program (CSTEP). CSTEP also provides career planning and internship placements. The clinical program provides weekly individual counseling and weekly group counseling. The residential component focuses upon skills necessary for independent living including apartment maintenance and cleaning, laundry and clothing care and personal hygiene. The recreational and leisure time component offers activities on the weekends designed to encourage social interests and activities. The cooperative cooking skills component focuses on menu planning/nutrition, shopping, sanitation, cooking skills and clean-up. Each student has a program plan and progress reports are written each semester.

Beth attended CSTEP for her academic and classroom vocational training for three days per week. Beth’s vocational experience/unpaid internship was a YMCA day care center/nursery school for two days per week. This internship is located in Pittsfield, MA 20 miles away from CIP. Beth received individual counseling once per week, group counseling once per week, and a reframing (relationships) class three times per week. She met with her student advisor once weekly and met with a medical coordinator once weekly regarding her medications. Beth attended two tutorial sessions weekly and usually two study halls weekly. Beth participated in two recreational activities on the weekends that she stayed at CIP (she went home 1-2 times per month). Beth lived in an apartment with roommates in a building that houses four apartments. Three apartments are rented by CIP students and one apartment is occupied by the CIP residential staff assigned to that apartment building.

CIP is not a Massachusetts Department of Education (MDOE) approved special education placement. CIP does have MDOE approved for funding as a sole source of care placement.
(See P-21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 65; testimony, Brown; Gosselin; Student; Mother.)

SCHOOL’S PROPOSED PROGRAM

MPS proposed that Beth attend the Transitional Learning Center (TLC) program at MHS for her continued special education services. Since October 2006 the TLC program has also had an off-site location solely for the TLC program/students about one mile from MHS. Under the TLC program Beth would have received instruction in functional academics, social skills, life skills, and vocational skills, as well as have participated in a vocational/internship experience in the commonly or a surrounding community. MPS also proposed a summer component over the 2006 summer.

Under the IEP proposed by MPS for the 2006 summer Beth would have received functional math twice a week for one hour each session for six weeks from a special education teacher (Ms. Sanderson). Beth would have also received a social skills program twice a week for one hour each session for six weeks from the social skills specialist (Ms. Gordon).

For the academic year the TLC operated on a six day schedule. The school day ran from 7:15 a.m. – 1:47 p.m. Under the service delivery grid on the proposed MPS IEP, Beth would have received functional academics on a daily basis for 85 minutes per day; functional math for 85 minutes every other day; daily living skills for 85 minutes every other day; and a work study experience every other day for 85 minutes. Although not specifically listed on the IEP TLC students participated in a weekly group counseling session for 85 minutes with the school adjustment counselor. There were three major blocks of time each school day consisting of functional academics; community/vocational work; and vocational/current events/job search/social skills. However the schedule can vary for students based upon their individual job/internship placements.

The IEP also provided for a social skills program four times per week for 60 minutes each time after the normal school day. Additionally students may have participated in Career Quest4 programs after school including job placements with a Career Quest job coach, if necessary.

Each student’s program was highly individualized based upon each student’s strengths, weaknesses and areas of vocational interest. Examples of the various activities/skills Beth would have worked on included: managing a checkbook; cooking skills; shopping/menu planning; citizen skills such as registering to vote and going to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to obtain a picture identification card (for students who do not or cannot drive such as Beth); job skills including filling out job applications, compiling resumes and interviewing skills; social skills; safety skills; and social pragmatics including peer relationships, identifying social cues and job/social issues.

Vocational internships/job placements are determined by the interests and capabilities of the individual student. Some are paid positions, some unpaid. Jobs and internships during the school day included supermarkets (Stop & Shop; Roache Brothers; Shaw’s); CVS; Christmas Tree Shop; I-Party; Marshall’s; Pet-Co.; Au Bon Pain; Council On Aging; Children’s World (Daycare); South Shore Hospital; Marshfield Florists; Thomassis Nursery; and Wendy’s. Job coaches are used as necessary.

The teacher of the TLC program is Ms. Burm who has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in special education and a CAGS in school adjustment counseling and social work. She has been director of the TLC for 19 years. Prior to MPS, Ms. Burm helped develop the vocational program at the Pilgrim Area Collaborative (PAC). Ms. Burm is designated as a highly qualified teacher under No Child Left Behind. The group counselor (individual counselor as needed) is Dr. Smith who is the School Adjustment Counselor and is a licensed independent clinical social worker. There is also a job coach, one full time aide and one half-time aide in the TLC program.
(See S-2, 6, 10, 11; P-12, 20; testimony, Burm; Dupuis; Smith; Sanderson.)

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

It is undisputed by the parties and confirmed by the evidence presented that Beth is a student with special education needs as defined under state and federal statutes and regulations. The parties are also in substantial agreement regarding the nature and manifestations of Beth’s special education needs. The fundamental issues in dispute are listed under ISSUES IN DISPUTE , above.

Based upon two full days of oral testimony, the extensive documentation introduced into evidence, and a review of the applicable law, I conclude that:

I. MPS’ proposed IEP through March 2007 at the TLC program was appropriate to address Beth’s special education needs so as to provide her with FAPE in the least restrictive education environment;

II. Parents have failed to prove the necessity for a residential placement to address Beth’s special education needs so as to provide her with FAPE in the least restrictive educational environment. Further, Beth’s unilateral placement at CIP has been problematic with several areas of major concern.

My analysis follows.

I.

Parents’ independent evaluator, Dr. Leavell, administered a neuropsychological evaluation to Beth in late 2005 (P-4; S-28), which was not made available to MPS until June 2006 (testimony, Dupuis; Sanderson; Bowker). In her summary and conclusion, Dr. Leavell recommended a specialized post-secondary program that was highly structured with repetition and reinforcement. Dr. Leavell recommended support with learning life skills, particularly as associated with math. Dr. Leavell recommended a vocational assessment, counseling, and vocational training within the context of Beth’s post secondary education. Dr. Leavell also recommended a technologies assessment to determine what type of computer hardware and software would suit Beth’s needs academically and socially in terms of activities of daily living.5

The IEP proposed by MPS (S-2; P-12) clearly addressed the recommendations of Dr. Leavell. The five goals of the IEP were: 1) Mathematices; 2) Communciation/social skills; 3) Functional Academics: 4) Independent Living; and 5) Vocational, with objectives and benchmarks for each goal. Based upon the IEP itself and the testimony of Ms. Burm; Dr. Smith; Ms. Sanderson; Ms. Bowker; and Ms. Dupuis (See S CHOOL’S PROPOSED PROGRAM , above); I find that MPS’ proposed IEP addressed Beth’s special education needs so as to provide her with FAPE within the least restrictive educational environment. Ms. Burm was Beth’s special education teacher in 9 th grade and oversaw her educational program/was her IEP liaison from 9 th through 11 th grade. Dr. Smith has known Beth during her entire MHS career as the student advisor to the class of 2006 in addition to providing Beth with individual counseling on at least a weekly basis during most of her senior year. Ms. Sanderson provided Beth small group special education math instruction during her senior year and was Beth’s IEP liaison during her senior year. Ms. Bowker has evaluated Beth on three separate occasions in 2000, 2003 and 2005. (See testimony, Burm; Smith; Sanderson; Bowker; S-2; P-12.) Therefore, these professionals have either instructed, counseled, observed or evaluated Beth over extensive periods of time during her MHS experience and I place substantial weight on their testimony.6

I find Parents’/Beth’s position to be highly contradictory from a legal perspective. The testimony and exhibits are replete with Beth’s intense desire to graduate (testimony, Mother; Student; P-4, 6; S-12, 28). Indeed, but for four points on the math MCAS, Beth would have graduated from MHS. Had Beth graduated, she would have had no further legal entitlement to any special education services from MPS. Parents’/Beth’s response to her not being able to receive a diploma has been to place her in what is the most restrictive placement possible pursuant to state and federal special education law – a residential placement. It must be noted that no documentary or testimonial evidence from any educational or mental health professional has been submitted which recommends a residential placement to address Beth’s special education needs.

The testimony and exhibits are also replete with references to Beth’s desire to have a college experience, live in a dorm or apartment, live away from home, not want to live at home. (See testimony, Mother; Beth; Brown; S-2, 9 12; P-4, 6, 8,12.) While CIP may offer Beth these total life experiences, college experiences and residential experiences, for their own sake, are not the responsibility of the Local Education Agency (LEA).

Parents/Student argue that Beth did not like her placement in Ms. Berm’s class in 9 th grade; that there is integration between undergraduates and post-secondary students in Ms. Burm’s classroom; and that Beth sees herself as different from the students in the TLC. Parents also argue that MPS’ proposed IEP/description of the TLC was not sufficiently comprehensive and that Parents were unable to ascertain all aspects of the program. Parents also argue that Beth was socially isolated with few friends and unable to participate fully in MHS during her high school years. I have carefully considered these arguments. Based upon the evidence presented, I do not find such arguments to be persuasive.

The fact that Beth did not like placement in Ms. Burm’s class in the past and does not want to go there now is most unfortunate. Certainly student’s wishes are a factor that must be considered, along with all of the other evidence. However, such wishes cannot dictate a BSEA decision. While both undergraduate and post-secondary students are in the classroom, they are together for only one period per day and are in separate parts of the large classroom (testimony, Burm.)7 Further, as a post-secondary student, Beth would be spending time not only in the MHS TLC classroom but also at the off-site location and at vocational internship/job sites (testimony, Burm).

Parents argue that Beth sees herself as different from the other students in the TLC. Four of the five students currently in the TLC qualify for Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation (DMR) services (P-18; testimony, Burm). On February 16 2006 DMR found Beth to be ineligible for DMR services because she did not meet DMR criteria (P-33). Ms. Bowker, MPS school psychologist, testified that Beth’s full scale IQ (74) was four points above the DMR cutoff for services but that Beth’s IQ Performance Score (68) was within the range to qualify for DMR services. Ms. Bowker also testified that she has evaluated all of the post-secondary students in the TLC program and that Beth would be, overall, in the middle of the TLC students in terms of ability and achievement, with some students functioning higher than Beth, some functioning lower. (See testimony, Bowker.)

Parents argue that the IEP was not sufficiently comprehensive for them to ascertain all aspects of the program. While the proposed IEP was more of a blueprint or framework rather than a lengthy, detailed opus, I find that the IEP provided sufficient information regarding the type of program and services being offered to Beth. Parents were very aware of the TLC program and Ms. Burm. Beth had been in Ms. Burm’s class in 9 th grade and Ms. Burm had been Beth’s liaison through 11 th grade. Mother works at MHS (testimony, Mother). Further, for the post secondary students, each student’s program is highly individualized with multiple options. Students are not fitted into a pre-existing program but the specific program is built around the particular student based upon individual strengths, weaknesses and specific vocational interests (testimony, Burm; Dupuis). Therefore, much is dependent upon the Student’s participation in the process. Beth was not present at the June 19, 2006 team meeting which developed the IEP (testimony, Mother; S-2; P-12), nor had Beth returned the Career Quest career focus/interest inventory/job inventory completed in the spring of 2006 (testimony, Dupuis; S-11, 46). Finally, Parents had been exploring various out-of-district residential options since February 2005 including Landmark College, Riverview School and a placement in Connecticut (testimony, Mother; P-28). Mother and Student’s testimony was clear – Beth did not want an in-district placement in MPS. Beth had already been accepted by CIP at the end of February 2006 (P-34) four months prior to the development of the IEP in dispute. On June 20, 2006, the day after the June 19, 2006 team meeting, MPS sent Parents a Records/Information Release Form to allow MPS to release information regarding Beth to the Duxbury High School and Scituate High School post-graduate programs to see if they had program which would meet Beth’s need. This form (S-4) was not signed by Parents. Beth began at CIP on July 3, 2006. Based upon the above, I conclude that any MPS program or any public school program that MPS might have offered would likely not have resulted in Parental acceptance.

Finally, Parents argue that Beth was socially isolated and had no friends at MHS. I note the following quote from Dr. Leavell’s neuropsychological evaluation done mid-way through Beth’s senior year (P-4; S-28) under psychosocial adjustment:

It is very important to underline again that [Beth] is socially well
adjusted and has a good group of friends . Emphasis added.

I also note that Beth participated in numerous school activities and functions over her MHS career including the drama club for all 4 years; the yearbook staff for all 4 years; and the key club during 9 th grade.8 Beth participated in the freshman fun night and the sophomore fashion show. Beth attended the junior prom with a date from MHS and participated in the senior banquet. On alumnae day in December 2006 Beth returned to MHS, speaking with students in the drama club and some teachers, telling them what college she was in and what she was doing. Based upon the above I do not find merit in Parents’ argument.

II.

As stated in Section I, above, no documentation or testimony from any educational or psychological professional has been introduced into evidence which concludes that Beth requires a residential placement in order to address her special education needs.

Additionally, several areas of concern need to be addressed regarding Beth’s placement at CIP.

First, the documentation from CIP indicates that Beth has experienced significant problems and adjustment issues at CIP. Beth’s fall progress reports from CIP (P-24) contain the following excerpts:

Coming to CIP has been a huge adjustment for [Beth]. She has far less supervision then when at home, and part of the journey this semester has been observing where [Beth] loses herself. [Beth] needs to learn better self care skills. She does not always eat well and she sometimes stays up very late socializing. With her seizure disorder, these very basic areas of self care are the foundation for success in all other areas. Her performance significantly declines when she is tired and/or hungry. [Beth] does take her seizure disorder very seriously, as reflected by her diligence with her medications. These other areas were, I’m sure handled by her parents, so this becomes part of the self-parenting curriculum required for successful independent living. [Beth’s] focus this semester has been on her social life. She needs to work on clarifying her vocational goals and balance the social with work and activities that bring satisfaction….. (Verna Hauff).

[Beth] continues to have difficulties with understanding a problem, choosing a correct and mature solution and going to staff or a friend to help her acknowledge and/or identify a problem. She has difficulties not only within her apartment but with other CIP students which she tends to seek out and “hang on to”. [Beth] tries to do the right and honorable thing but her emotions take over and, therefore, she is at the center of a lot of the campus drama. [Beth] needs to work on rationally understanding a problem so that she can choose a solution without getting emotionally involved….(Mary Ann Brown).

The world of social interaction is a very challenging one for [Beth]. She does best one on one. When involved in dyadic or even more difficult, triadic interactions she frequently feels left out, judged, ignored, or abused…. (Verna Hauff).

I also note the testimony of Ms. Brown that she had to pull two students/roommates out of Beth’s apartment and that there is no curfew at CIP (testimony, Brown; Mother).

I also note that Beth tested into a remedial reading class at BCC and attended BCC (20 miles away from CIP) for the first semester for reading. She failed that course and now receives her entire academic and vocational program (except her vocational internship) in the CSTEP program, which is new to CIP this school year. Ms Gosselin, who is the head teacher at CSTEP and teaches several courses to Beth, is also new to CIP this school year. Ms. Gosselin has never read Beth’s IEP. I further note that Beth’s day care internship is located in Pittsfield, also 20 miles away from CIP. Beth is driven to her internship by CIP but takes a bus back to CIP. Beth spends one hour comminuting to her internship and one hour returning to CIP each time she goes to her internship which is twice per week for a total of 4 hours commuting time per week. On weekends that she comes home, Beth takes a bus from Lee to Springfield, changes buses in Springfield and takes another bus to Boston. These trips take about three hours, one way. (See testimony, Student; Mother; Brown; Gosselin; P-24.) When Beth came home for spring break, she first went to her classes and internship and took the bus from Lee to Boston. Beth then got sick, vomited, lost her medications, had seizures, had to go to Children’s Hospital where she was hospitalized for her vacation week, and then spent a week at home recuperating (testimony, Mother; Student).

Based up the above, I have serious reservations about the overall appropriateness of the CIP as a placement for Beth, given both her special education needs and her complex medical condition.

Finally, I note that Parents would have been foreclosed from recovering their summer placement costs for Beth at CIP given that the Parental demand letter to MPS (P-42) was sent on July 6, 2006 which was three days after Beth had already begun her summer program at CIP, rather than at least 10 days prior to any unilateral placement as mandated by federal law 20 U.S.C. §1412 (a)(10)(c)(iii)(I)(bb) and federal regulation 34 CFR 300.148(d)1(ii).

ORDER

I. MPS’ proposed IEP for Beth through March 2007 was appropriate to address her special education needs so as to provide her with FAPE in the least restrictive education environment.

II. MPS is not financially responsible for Beth’s unilateral placement at CIP.

By the Hearing Officer

___________________

Dated:

Raymond Oliver


1

Beth is a pseudonym chosen by the Hearing Officer to protect the privacy of the Student in publicly available documents.


2

There is no P-51, 52, 59 or 60.


3

Beth had designated Parents to continue to make educational decision for her after her eighteenth birthday (P-11; S-12).


4

Career Quest is an agency funded through a state grant that facilitates job exploration, job skills/training and employment (testimony, Burm; Dupuis.)


5

It is noted that Parents did not fill out MPS’ Referral for Assistive Technology Services sent to Parents on June 20, 2006, the day after the June 9, 2006 team meeting which considered Dr. Leavell’s evaluation. (See S-4.)


6

In contrast Parents’ expert witness, Ms. Blake, conducted a records review, observed the TLC/MHS location and TLC/off site location once; and met with Beth on only one occasion before finding the MHS placement inappropriate. She did meet Beth on one other occasion but that was at Parents’ attorney’s office in preparation for hearing.


7

The one exception is Dr. Smith’s once weekly group counseling session which happens during that one period and includes post-secondary and some undergraduate students (testimony, Smith).


8

Although not a school activity, Beth also participated in Girl Scouts until she aged out of the program (testimony, Student).


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