Boston Public Schools – BSEA #03-0536



<br /> Boston Public Schools – BSEA #03-0536<br />

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS

In Re: Boston Public Schools BSEA # 03-0536

RULING ON STUDENT’S MOTION FOR FINAL DECISION

This Ruling is issued pursuant to 20 USC 1400 et seq . (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), 29 USC 794 (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), MGL chs. 30A (state administrative procedure act) and 71B (state special education law), and the regulations promulgated under said statutes.

A hearing was held on January 29, 2003 in Malden, MA before William Crane, Hearing Officer. The official record of the hearing consists of the testimony of Paul Howe (Assistant Program Director for Out-of-District Placements for the Boston Public Schools); documents submitted by the Student and marked as Student’s Exhibits A through N, and affidavit of Student’s counsel; documents submitted by the Boston Public Schools (hereafter, Boston) and marked as Boston’s Exhibits A through D; and approximately two hours of recorded oral testimony and argument.

Introduction

This Ruling addresses Student’s Motion for Final Decision, Findings and Order Affirming the Terms and Directing the Implementation of the Parties’ Agreed-Upon IEP and Placement Decision (hereafter, Motion for Final Decision ).

Prospective services for Student have been agreed upon by the parties through a signed IEP and an accepted placement at the Bay Cove Academy.

Through her Motion for Final Decision , Student now seeks 1) an order entering into the record the signed IEP and the accepted placement determination, and 2) an order requiring Boston to implement the IEP and placement determination.

The relevant facts are not in dispute.

Procedural History

Student is an eighteen-year-old woman (date of birth 6/14/84) who has needed intensive special education and related services to meet her educational, social and emotional needs. Student’s Exhibit A, Boston’s Exhibit A.

On July 25, 2002, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (hereafter, BSEA) received Student’s pro se Request for Hearing . Student’s Exhibit H. In her Request for Hearing , Student stated that she needs to be in a small, therapeutic setting rather than her current placement at the McKinley School in Boston. On August 5, 2002, the Hearing Officer granted Boston’s request for postponement of the automatic Hearing date of August 14, 2002 and scheduled a Pre-Hearing Conference to occur at the BSEA offices on September 16, 2002.

On August 6, 2002, Student’s attorneys filed their notice of appearance. They also requested that the Pre-Hearing Conference be moved forward to the automatic Hearing date of August 14, 2002 because Student was, at that time, in a Department of Mental Health residential placement and “has no acceptable educational placement for the fall.”

The Hearing Officer then re-scheduled the Pre-Hearing Conference to August 14, 2002. At the Pre-Hearing Conference, the parties were not able to resolve their dispute informally, and the Hearing Officer scheduled the matter to proceed to Hearing on the merits on September 18, 19 and 20, 2002.

By notice dated August 16, 2002, the BSEA Director advised the parties that, for administrative reasons, the matter had been reassigned to a different Hearing Officer (William Crane). By Order of the same date, the new Hearing Officer notified the parties that the Hearing would proceed on the scheduled dates of September 18, 19 and 20, 2003.

On September 5, 2002, Student filed with the BSEA a Motion to postpone the September Hearing dates. Student’s Motion explained that she was awaiting documents from Boston and needed additional time to prepare for the Hearing once these documents were received. She also noted the delay (as a result of Student’s medical appointment) of Student’s scheduled observation of Boston’s proposed placement at the McKinley Vocational High School. By letter of September 5, 2002, Boston’s attorney indicated that Boston did not oppose the request for postponement.

By Order dated September 9, 2002, the Hearing Officer allowed Student’s Motion to postpone the Hearing and scheduled a conference call with the attorneys, which occurred on September 11, 2002. During that conference call, the attorneys agreed (and the Hearing Officer then ordered) that this matter proceed to Hearing on the merits on October 9, 10 and 11, 2002.

On September 26, 2002, the Hearing Officer conducted a telephone conference with the parties, at which time the October Hearing was discussed as well as various issues related to Student’s current and future educational services.

On September 27, 2002, Student’s attorney filed with the BSEA an Emergency Motion for Order Directing Boston Public Schools to Immediately Send Referral Packets to Bay Cove Academy and Farr Academy . On October 3, 2002, Student’s attorney filed an Emergency Motion for Order to Limit People Present During Student’s Testimony at Hearing . On October 4, 2002, the Hearing Officer conducted a telephonic Hearing on both Motions. During the Motion hearing, the parties indicated that they would likely be able to resolve informally the issue of who would be allowed to be present during Student’s testimony.

With respect to the request for packets to be sent to two schools, Boston indicated during the Motion hearing that it did not oppose an Order to send packets if the Order included the following language: “Boston Public Schools shall send referral packets to Bay Cove Academy and Farr Academy for exploratory reasons only and for the purpose of allowing Student to visit these schools.” The Hearing Officer issued a Ruling on October 4, 2002, which allowed Student’s Motion and included this quoted language. Student’s Exhibit C; Boston’s Exhibit C.

In anticipation of the Hearing, the parties filed with the Hearing Officer and with each other their lists of proposed witnesses and the documents that they proposed be admitted into evidence. Student’s Exhibit J. At the BSEA offices during the first scheduled day of Hearing (October 9 th ), the attorneys met briefly with the Hearing Officer and advised him that Boston had proffered an IEP that morning which Student accepted at the BSEA offices, and that the Hearing need not go forward. Student’s Exhibit A; Boston’s Exhibit A.

The Hearing Officer issued an Order to Show Cause, dated November 6, 2002, directing the parties to demonstrate within thirty days why this matter should not now be dismissed. Boston’s Exhibit B. On November 13, 2002, Student’s attorney filed with the BSEA a letter requesting that the BSEA retain jurisdiction over this matter because the following two issues remained outstanding: 1) Boston had not yet provided Student with an MBTA pass for her transportation from her residence to her school, and 2) Student had not yet received from Boston a copy of the requested packets and cover letter sent by Boston to six schools. The Hearing Officer issued an Extension of Order to Show Cause , dated November 20, 2002, extending the Show Cause Order until December 20, 2002.

On December 11, 2002, Student’s attorney filed with the BSEA her Motion for Final Decision which is the subject of this Ruling. On December 17, 2002, Boston’s attorney filed an opposition to the Student’s Motion for Final Decision .

Student’s Requested Relief

In her Motion for Final Decision , Student has sought the following relief:

1. Find that Boston has violated Student’s rights throughout the course of these proceedings.

2. Enter into the record Student’s IEP which was accepted by Student on October 9, 2002.

3. Enter into the record the terms of the Team’s determination of educational placement at the Bay Cove Academy in Brookline, which Student accepted on November 5, 2002.

4. Order Boston to implement said IEP and placement decision, including any changes that may be agreed to from time to time by the Student’s Team, consistent with requirements found within state and federal special education laws.

5. Dismiss the case without prejudice, subject to the continuing effect of the aforesaid findings, decision and order.

A conference call with the Hearing Officer and attorneys was held on December 20, 2002 to discuss and clarify Student’s Motion for Final Decision and to schedule a Hearing on it. Several matters discussed during the conference call were memorialized in the Hearing Officer’s Order of December 23, 2002, including the following.

All of the claims within the Motion for Final Decision relate to alleged violations of Student’s procedural rights throughout the course of the proceedings and these procedural violations allegedly implicate Student’s right to a free appropriate public education (hereafter, FAPE). The Motion for Final Decision does not otherwise include any claims alleging that Boston denied Student appropriate special education or related services.

The Hearing Officer’s Order of December 23, 2002 also reminded the parties that there is an outstanding Extension of Order to Show Cause , dated November 20, 2002. In addition, Student’s Motion for Final Decision has requested that this matter be dismissed without prejudice, subject to the continuing effect of the Hearing Officer’s “findings, decision and order” (par. 5, page 2 of Motion ). The Hearing Officer explained in his December 23 rd Order that he anticipated that when issuing his Ruling on Student’s Motion for Final Decision , this proceeding will be dismissed either as requested by Student in her Motion for Final Decision or pursuant to the Order to Show Cause , and that the parties may address this point in their arguments regarding Student’s Motion for Final Decision .

Summary of the Dispute

The substantive special education issue before me, as raised initially in Student’s Request for Hearing , is whether Boston’s IEP calling for a proposed placement at the McKinley School was reasonably calculated to provide Student with FAPE, or in the alternative, whether Student was entitled to a private educational placement in a therapeutic setting.

The issue of what prospective special education services should be provided to Student was contested by the parties throughout the BSEA proceedings until it was resolved through Boston’s proffer of an IEP on the morning of the first scheduled day of Hearing (October 9, 2002). The IEP provided for the private day placement originally sought by Student in her Request for Hearing , and was offered and accepted without other conditions. Student’s Exhibit A; Boston’s Exhibit A.

When the IEP was accepted on October 9 th , no particular private day school had been identified for Student to attend. On or about November 1, 2002, Student was accepted for admission to Bay Cove Academy. On November 5, 2002, Boston proffered and Student accepted a Team Determination of Educational Placement at Bay Cove Academy. Student’s Exhibit B; Boston’s Exhibit A. Student began attending Bay Cove Academy the next day.

The parties are in agreement that Boston’s offer and Student’s acceptance of the IEP, as well as Student’s placement at Bay Cove Academy, resolves any dispute with respect to Student’s prospective special education and related services. Boston has paid for (and continues to pay for) Student’s placement at the Bay Cove Academy.

Student does not, at this time, seek specific compensatory services for Boston’s alleged procedural violations, nor does Student through her Motion for Final Decision seek at this time to make proof of any denial of FAPE. Rather, Student focuses on certain alleged procedural violations; and, on the basis of these alleged procedural violations, she takes the position that I should enter into the record the accepted IEP and placement at Bay Cove Academy, and that I should order Boston to implement the IEP and placement. See Motion for Final Decision , page 1 (par. 2, 3, 4) and page 12 (par. 10).

Boston takes the position that no procedural rights have been violated and, alternatively, that even if procedural rights have been violated, the violations do not warrant the relief sought by Student.

Discussion

In her Motion for Final Decision , Student has alleged that Boston has committed a number of procedural violations. I will review each alleged violation separately.

A. Compliance with Hearing Officer’s Order of October 4, 2002 .

By Order dated October 4, 2002, the Hearing Officer allowed Student’s Emergency Motion for Order Directing Boston Public Schools to Immediately Send Referral Packets to Bay Cove Academy and Farr Academy . Student’s Exhibit C; Boston’s Exhibit C.

On October 8, 2002, Boston sent referral packets to two schools – the Farr Academy and Bay Cove Academy – as required by the Order. Testimony of Howe; Student’s Exhibit E.

On October 23, 2002, Boston sent a second packet to the Farr Academy and to Bay Cove Academy. The second packet included the first two pages of the IEP signed on October 9, 2002 IEP which had been revised to reflect that Student would be placed in a private day school (the remainder of Student’s IEP had not changed) and information about Student that pre-dated the information in the earlier packet (this additional information was more than two years old). Testimony of Howe; Student’s Exhibit G. Boston first received notice of acceptance by Bay Cove Academy through a facsimile transmittal received on November 4, 2002. Testimony of Howe. Student accepted Boston’s proposed placement at Bay Cove on November 5, 2002, and she began there on November 6, 2002.

In her Motion for Final Decision , Student argued that Boston had sent a packet to Bay Cove Academy late. In light of Mr. Howe’s testimony during the Motion Hearing, Student’s attorney accepted Mr. Howe’s statements as to when he mailed the packets, concluded that the packets were sent to Bay Cove Academy in a timely manner, and withdrew its claim that Boston sent packets late.

However, Student raises an additional concern with respect to the mailing of the referral packets. The packets sent by Boston did not include information with respect to Student’s activities, accomplishments and needs after February 2002. Student’s Exhibits E, G. Student asserts this as a procedural violation. Student argues that implicit within the Hearing Officer’s order to send packets is the obligation to provide a complete and updated referral packet to any private school that would be considering Student for placement.

The undisputed evidence is that Boston had nothing more recent (than February 2002) within the school records that would typically be sent out in a referral packet, and Student has not identified any specific documents that Boston should have included in the referral packet.

But, Student argues that Boston should have sought more recent records from other service providers – for example, from Lighthouse where Student had been receiving services — in order to update its referral packet.

However, assuming arguendo that the referral packets were not up-to-date and therefore not complete, there is nothing in the record to indicate any harm to the Student as a result. That is, Student has presented no evidence that would support a claim that Boston’s failure to include more recent information has negatively impacted the consideration and acceptance of Student at a private school placement. For example, there is no evidence to support a conclusion that the allegedly incomplete packet actually resulted in a delay in the acceptance or placement of Student at Bay Cove. Accordingly, I conclude that whatever procedural error may have occurred did not effect Student’s educational services, and that Student is therefore not entitled to relief with respect to this alleged violation.1

B. Implementation of the IEP .

Student claims that Boston has failed to implement the IEP which Student accepted on October 9, 2002. Essentially, Student is arguing that Boston delayed sending packets to the private schools for the purpose of finding the placement called for in the IEP and that the packets sent were incomplete in that they did not include information regarding Student that was more recent than February 2002.

I find that this claim is substantially the same as Student’s allegation that Boston failed to comply with the Hearing Officer’s Order of October 4, 2002, discussed above in part A of this Ruling. For the reasons discussed above, I conclude that Student is not entitled to relief pursuant to this claim.

C. Failure to Convene a Team Meeting .

As a result of a January 31, 2002 Team meeting, Boston proposed an IEP calling for Student’s placement at the McKinley Vocational High School, which is a substantially separate public school operated by Boston. Student’s Exhibit E, proposed IEP for 1/2001 to 1/2002 at pages 1 & 1.01.

During the month of February 2002, an independent evaluation was conducted of Student by Andrea Weiss, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist. Dr. Weiss concluded in her report that Student is in need of a “completely comprehensive, well integrated program where her social, emotional and academic needs are addressed simultaneously. It would be detrimental to [Student] to be provided with anything less restrictive. . . . A poorly integrated program where [Student] is living in one place and attending school in another is an unacceptable solution currently and will result in her continued deterioration.” Dr. Weiss further opined in her report, “continued deterioration” may result from inappropriate services. Student’s Exhibit E.

The state special education regulations clearly require that, under these circumstances, the Team meet to consider Dr. Weiss’ evaluation. The regulations state in relevant part:

Within ten (10) school days from the time the school district receives the report of the independent educational evaluation, the Team shall reconvene and consider the independent educational evaluation and whether a new or amended IEP is appropriate.2

It is not disputed that Boston never re-convened the Team to consider Dr. Weiss’ evaluation a nd thereby violated this regulatory requirement. The regulatory requirement is of obvious importance for any student, but particularly so for Student who has needed intensive educational and related services.

Yet, Boston provided no opportunity for its Team to consider the evaluation and recommendations of Dr. Weiss. By failing to re-convene the Team, Boston also denied Student and her father the opportunity to discuss these issues with the other Team members and to participate in the possible development of an amended IEP that would be responsive to Dr. Weiss’ recommendations and that would meet Student’s unique individual needs.

For these reasons, I conclude that Boston denied Student her procedural rights.3

However, Student has presented no evidence or argument as to when Dr. Weiss’ evaluation report was received by Boston (thereby starting the ten-day period during which the Team should have been re-convened). Boston does not dispute that it received the evaluation report (the evaluation report is part of the referral packet which Boston sent to the private day placements), but Boston has not been able to shed any light on the question of when it received the report.

Without additional evidence and factual findings regarding this question, I can make no determination regarding the extent of Boston’s procedural violation and its effect on Student and her receipt of FAPE. For example, had Boston received this evaluation report a day or so before packets were sent to private schools on October 8, 2002, the procedural violation would have had negligible effect upon Student’s educational services. I therefore find that I have insufficient basis for determining what relief, if any, should be ordered with respect to this procedural violation.

Student has further argued that there was sufficient change in Student’s circumstances so that Boston should have re-convened the Team to re-consider her needs and how those needs should be met. The federal special education regulations require that the Team meet and review the IEP “periodically, but not less than annually, to determine whether the annual goals for the child are being achieved.”4

When the Team met on January 31, 2002 and developed Student’s IEP, she was an inpatient on a psychiatric unit at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital where she had resided since November 2001. Student’s Exhibit E, proposed IEP for 1/2001 to 1/2002 at pages 1 & 1.01. In February 2002, Student was discharged from the psychiatric unit and began living at Lighthouse, a Department of Mental Health residential program. Student’s Exhibit E, Evaluation by Dr. Weiss. Presumably, new information would have been available to Boston at that time from the service providers at Lighthouse. Student argues that this change of circumstance is sufficient to require a re-convening of the Team.

Boston’s January 31, 2002 IEP proposed that Student be placed at the McKinley School, which placement would occur after Student’s discharge from the psychiatric hospital. The Team and the proposed IEP presumably anticipated the change of circumstances which Student argues should require re-consideration of Student’s needs. Student has provided no evidence as to how Student’s needs actually changed, other than to point to the change in residence from the psychiatric hospital to Lighthouse. I conclude that a change in place of residence, which presumably was anticipated by the Team, is not by itself sufficient reason to require that the Team be re-convened.

D. Claim of “Protracted Litigation” Followed by Settlement .

Student alleges that Boston has committed a procedural violation through what Student refers to as Boston’s “protracted litigation followed by last-minute reversal.” In support of this claim, Student recounts the procedural history of this dispute, beginning with Student’s Request for Hearing dated July 22, 2002. She notes that during the entire course of these proceedings, Student sought a private school placement which Boston resisted until the first day of the Hearing (October 9, 2002). Student further points out that during this time period, Student was receiving tutorial services but was not enrolled in any school program.

Other than this procedural history, Student does not identify any particular basis for its claim that the litigation was “protracted”. It is understandable that Student wished that Boston would have decided more quickly than October 9, 2002 to offer Student precisely what she had been seeking since July 22, 2002. However, it is not unusual for cases, which have been contested throughout the BSEA proceedings, to settle on the first day of hearing.

Student implicitly makes the argument that she was entitled to receive the services which Boston eventually agreed to, and therefore Boston should have provided these same services much earlier. But, it would be inappropriate for me to make any assumptions about Student’s needs (and how they should be met) on the basis of Boston’s offer of the requested IEP for the purpose of settling the BSEA dispute on October 9, 2002. I also note that Student has never objected to the hearing schedule, and she sought postponement of the September 2002 hearing dates.

I find nothing within this procedural history which demonstrates that Boston has violated Student’s procedural rights.

E. Requested Relief .

Finally, I address the relief sought in Student’s Motion for Final Decision . The relief sought may be divided into two parts – first, an order entering into the record the signed IEP and the accepted placement determination, and second, an order requiring Boston to implement the IEP and placement determination.

I assume, without deciding, that I have the authority to read the IEP and placement determination into the record, or to otherwise incorporate the parties’ settlement into an order of the BSEA.5 However, as explained in a Ruling in another matter, when parties resolve a dispute between themselves, this typically occurs before a Hearing Officer has heard all of the evidence in the case, before he or she has heard or read closing arguments and, in any event, before he or she has rendered a decision on the merits. In this context, the general BSEA practice has been for the Hearing Officer to decline to endorse or otherwise affirm parties’ private settlement agreements by reading them into the record.6

Student has provided no basis for my departing from this general practice. Moreover, even were I to agree with each of Student’s alleged procedural violations, I am not persuaded that what should follow (as the appropriate relief) would be an order entering into the record the signed IEP and the accepted placement determination. Instead, the appropriate relief in this case would likely be compensatory education.7

I now consider Student’s requested relief of an order requiring Boston to implement the IEP and placement determination. For the reasons explained below, I find no basis for such an order, nor do I believe that such an order would be appropriate were I to agree with each of Student’s alleged procedural violations.

Boston voluntarily entered into agreements to provide the services requested by Student and to provide these services at a place (Bay Cove Academy) acceptable to Student. Boston has not disputed its continuing obligation to provide the requisite services through its funding of the placement at Bay Cove Academy. In addition, Student has made no representation that Boston is currently failing to provide these services and placement, nor that Boston is likely to fail to provide these services and placement in the future. In the event that Boston should fail to comply with its agreed-upon obligations to Student, a BSEA Hearing Officer would have the authority to hear that claim and order relief pursuant to the accepted IEP and placement at Bay Cove Academy.8

Under these circumstances, I can find no basis for Student’s requested relief.

Order

For these reasons, Student’s Motion for Final Decision is DENIED.

Student’s claims for compensatory education services are DISMISSED without prejudice,9 and Student’s remaining claims are DISMISSED with prejudice, pursuant to the Hearing Officer’s Extension of Order to Show Cause dated November 20, 2002.

By the Hearing Officer,

_________________

William Crane

Dated: February 4, 2003

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS

EFFECT OF BUREAU DECISION AND RIGHTS OF APPEAL

EFFECT OF DECISION AND RIGHTS OF APPEAL

The decision of the Bureau of Special Education Appeals is final and is not subject to further agency review. Because 20 U.S.C. s. 1415(i)(1)(B) requires the Bureau decision to be final and subject to no further agency review, the Bureau cannot permit motions to reconsider or to re-open a Bureau decision, once it is issued. Any party aggrieved by the Bureau decision may file a complaint in the Superior Court of competent jurisdiction or in the District Court of the United States for Massachusetts for review of the Bureau decision. 20 U.S.C. s. 1415(i)(2). Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 30A, Section 14(1), appeal of a final Bureau decision must be filed within 30 days of receipt of the decision.

Except as set forth below, the final decision of the Bureau must be implemented immediately. Under G.L. c. 30A, s. 14(3), appeal of the decision does not operate as a stay; rather, a party seeking to stay the decision of the Bureau must seek such stay from the court having jurisdiction over the party’s appeal.

Under the provisions of 20 U.S.C. s. 1415(j), “unless the State or local education agency and the parents otherwise agree, the child shall remain in the then-current educational placement,” during the pendency of any judicial appeal of the Bureau decision, unless the child is seeking initial admission to a public school, in which case “with the consent of the parents, the child shall be placed in the public school program,” 20 U.S.C. s. 1415(j). Therefore, where the Bureau has ordered the public school to place the child in a new placement, and the parents or guardian agree with that order, the public school shall immediately implement the placement ordered by the Bureau. School Committee of Burlington, v. Massachusetts Department of Education , 471 U.S. 359 (1985). Otherwise, a party seeking to change the child’s placement during the pendency of judicial proceedings, must seek a preliminary injunction ordering such a change in placement from the court having jurisdiction over the appeal. Doe v. Brookline , 722 F.2d 910 (1st Cir. 1983); Honig v. Doe , 484 U.S. 305 (1988).

RECORD OF THE HEARING

The Bureau of Special Education Appeals will provide an electronic verbatim record of the hearing to any party, free of charge, upon receipt of a written request. Pursuant to M.G.L. c.30A, ss. 11(6) and 14(4), an appealing party seeking a certified written transcription of the entire proceedings, must arrange for the transcription, or portion thereof, by a certified court reporter, at his/her own expense. Transcripts prepared by the party must then be submitted to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals with appropriate court reporter certification for final review and certification. A party unduly burdened by the cost of preparation of a written transcript of the sound recordings may petition the Bureau of Special Education Appeals for relief.

COMPLIANCE

A party contending that a decision of the BSEA is not being implemented may file a complaint with the Department, whose responsibility it shall be to investigate such complaint. 603 CMR s. 28.00, par. 407.0.

In addition, the party shall have the option of filing a motion with the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, requesting the Bureau to order compliance with the decision. The motion shall set out the specific area of alleged non-compliance. The Hearing Officer may convene a hearing at which the scope of inquiry will be limited to facts bearing on the issue of compliance, facts of such nature as to excuse performance and facts bearing on a remedy. Upon a finding of non-compliance, the Hearing Officer may fashion appropriate relief and refer the matter to the Legal Office of the Department of Education for enforcement.

CONFIDENTIALITY

In order to preserve the confidentiality of the child involved in these proceedings, when an appeal is taken to Superior Court or to Federal District Court, the parties are strongly urged to file the complaint without identifying the true name of the parents or the child, and to move that all exhibits, including the transcript of the hearing before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, be impounded by the court. See, Webster Grove School District v. Pulitzer Publishing Company , 898 F.2d 1371 (8th Cir. 1990). If the appealing party does not seek to impound the documents, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, through the Attorney General’s Office, may move to impound the documents.

NOTICE OF REVISED BUREAU PROCEDURES

ON RECONSIDERATION/REHEARING

The United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in its 1990 Monitoring Report, issued July 17, 1991, ordered the Bureau to amend its procedures to eliminate the availability of reconsideration or re-opening as post-decision procedures in the Bureau cases. Accordingly, parties are notified that the Bureau will not entertain motions for reconsideration or to re-open. Bureau decisions are final decisions subject only to judicial review.

In addition, parties should be aware that the federal Courts have ruled that the time period for filing a judicial appeal of a Bureau decision is thirty (30) days, as provided in the Massachusetts Administrative Procedures Act, M.G.L. c.30A. See, Amann v. Town of Stow , 991 F.2d 929 (1 st Cir. 1993); Gertel v. School Committee of Brookline , 783 F. Supp. 701 (D. Mass. 1992). Therefore, an appeal of a Bureau decision to state superior court or to federal district court must be filed within thirty (30) days of receipt of the Bureau decision by the appealing party.


1

See NL v. Knox County Schools, 38 IDELR 62 (6 th Cir. 2003) (“school district’s failure to comply with the procedural requirements of the Act will constitute a denial of FAPE only if such violation causes substantive harm to the child or his parents”).


2

603 CMR 28.04(5)(f).


3

As the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently explained,
a school district’s failure to comply with the procedural requirements of the Act will constitute a denial of FAPE only if such violation causes substantive harm to the child or his parents. Substantive harm occurs when the procedural violations in question seriously infringe upon the parents’ opportunity to participate in the IEP process. Knable, 238 F.3d at 765 (citations omitted) (emphasis added). In Knable, we concluded that failure to hold an IEP meeting constituted a substantive harm. Id. at 766-67.

NL v. Knox County Schools, 38 IDELR 62, (6 th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted). See also Pihl v. Mass. Dept. of Ed. , 9 F.3d 184 (1 st Cir. 1993) (IEP is the primary safeguard of a student’s right to receive FAPE and the parents’ opportunity for meaningful input into all decisions affecting their child’s education); Roland M. v. Concord School Committee , 910 F.2d 983, 994 (1 st Cir. 1990) (compensatory education may be awarded if parents’ opportunity to participate in the formulation process of the IEP has been “seriously hampered”).


4

34 CFR 300.343(c)(1).


5

MS v. New York City Board of Education , 38 IDELR 7 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) (issuing consent orders incorporating settlements is an essential part of adjudicative decision-making and thus does not require explicit statutory authorization); J.S. & M.S., individually, and J.S., a minor by his mother and legal guardian, M.S. v. Ramapo Central School District , 35 IDELR 185 (USDNY 2001) (implying that if requested to do so, the Hearing Officer could have affirmed the informal resolution reached by the parties); Jose Luis R. v. Joliet Township H.S. District , 2001 WL 1000734 (N.D.Ill. 2001) (the Hearing Officer read into the record the agreement that the parties reached through mediation).


6

In Re: Rockport Public Schools , BSEA # 01-4954, 8 MSER 1 (SEA MA 2002).


7

See, e.g., Pihl v. Mass. Dept. of Ed. , 9 F.3d 184 (1 st Cir. 1993) (“compensatory education is available to remedy past deprivations”).


8

Rose et al. v. Yeaw , 214 F.3d 206, 210 (1 st Cir. 2000) (administrative hearing officer has authority to hear claim for failure to implement what was agreed upon by the parties in an amended IEP); In Re: Boston Public Schools & Waltham Public Schools , BSEA # 02-4323 (SEA MA 2002) (section 1415(b)(6) of the IDEA grants jurisdiction to a BSEA Hearing Officer over parties’ agreement).


9

In her Motion for Final Decision , Student has reserved her rights to any compensatory education claims.


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