Melrose Public Schools – BSEA # 08-4385



<br /> Melrose Public Schools – BSEA # 08-4385<br />

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS

In Re: Melrose Public Schools

BSEA No. 08-4385

DECISION

This decision is issued pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 USC §1400 et seq .; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 USC §794); the Massachusetts special education statute or “Chapter 766,” (MGL c. 71B) and the Massachusetts Administrative Procedures Act (MGL c. 30A), as well as the regulations promulgated under these statutes.

On February 6, 2008 Parents filed a hearing request with the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) alleging that the Melrose Public Schools had failed to provide agreed-upon speech and language services between September 2007 and January 2008. As relief, Parent requested an out-of-district placement until Student’s 22 nd birthday. (Student is 18 years old). Following a pre-hearing conference on March 7, 2008, as well as several telephone conference calls, the parties agreed that the issue of speech/language therapy had been resolved, and the issue for hearing was whether the IEP and placement proposed by Melrose for the period April 11, 2008 through April 11, 2009 is reasonably calculated to provide Student with a free, appropriate public education, particularly in the areas of vocational and community training and experience.

Parents now seek an order requiring Melrose to place Student in a vocational program for students with disabilities operated by the LABB Collaborative in Lexington, MA.

A hearing was held on May 28, 2008. Parents proceeded pro se, and the School was represented by counsel. Each party had an opportunity to examine and cross-examine witnesses and submit documents into the record. The documentary record consists of Parents’ exhibits P-1 through P-15 and School’s exhibits S-1 through S-30. The record also consists of approximately 3 hours of tape-recorded testimony and argument. The parties made oral closing arguments on June 2, 2008 and the record closed that day.

Those present for all or part of the proceeding were:

Student’s Mother

Patricia White-Lambright Administrator of Pupil Personnel Services, Melrose Public Schools (MPS)

Cathy Jo Maloney Special Education Teacher, MPS

Annemarie M. Service Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, MPS

Thomas Nuttall, Esq. Attorney for Melrose Public Schools

ISSUES PRESENTED

The issues for hearing are the following:
a. Whether the IEP and placement that Melrose has proposed for April 2008 through April 2009 are reasonably calculated to provide Student with a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment;

b. If not, whether Student requires placement in the vocational program operated by the LABB Collaborative in Lexington, MA in order to receive FAPE.

POSITION OF PARENTS

Student is a young adult with autism and cognitive limitations. At this point in his life, Student needs a well-developed program specifically designed to teach vocational and community living skills to young adults on the autism spectrum. Melrose’s proposed program for Student is well-intentioned, but is in its infancy. The program lacks the depth and quality of services that Student needs. Thus far, the program proposes only one specific new job site in addition to the job sites where Student has been placed throughout high school. Melrose has only hired one of two job coaches needed. The teacher who will oversee the program lacks experience with adults on the autism spectrum. On the other hand, the LABB program is well-established and would offer a larger number of potential job sites, as well as more community experiences with peers. Student is entitled to a program that is fully developed and that can afford him a broader, more stimulating range of experiences in order to increase his ability to be employed and to function independently.

POSITION OF SCHOOL

Student has made tremendous progress during the past four years at Melrose High School, and already has many excellent foundational skills for employment and increased independence. Melrose agrees with Parents that the focus of Student’s program now should shift from academics to development of employment and independence-related skills. Melrose also agrees that the Student should spend increasing amounts of time on job sites and elsewhere in the community, rather than in Melrose High School. Melrose disagrees with Parents’ characterization of its proposed program, however, and asserts that the proposed IEP is capable of meeting Student’s needs. The IEP appropriately emphasizes a variety of skills that Student will need to function as an adult. Although the program is new, and is being developed to meet the needs of Student and some of his classmates, it is well-planned and appropriately staffed. The lead teacher of the program has significant experience in program development, and is well-qualified for her position. The proposed additional job site is appropriate, and can be added to Student’s existing job placements, where he is doing very well. Given Student’s difficulties with transition and change, it would not be appropriate, at this point, to offer multiple job placement options in addition to his current job placements.

Parents have offered no evidence suggesting that Melrose’s program is inappropriate. Moreover, they have introduced no evidence demonstrating that LABB could meet Student’s needs.

Finally, to the extent that missed speech/language therapy is an issue, the School has offered some 27 sessions to compensate Parents and Student for sessions missed between September 2007 and January 2008.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Student is an 18-year-old young man who lives with his family within the Melrose Public School District. Upon reaching majority, Student transferred educational decision-making rights to Parents. (S-2) The parties agree that Student has many skills and qualities that serve him well in school, employment, and community settings, including that he is pleasant, cooperative, willing to work, eager to please, and reliable. (S-5, S-9)

2. There is no dispute that Student is a student with disabilities within the meaning of the IDEA and Chapter 766, and is eligible for special education and related services. There also is no dispute as to Student’s profile. He carries a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and mental retardation. (S-5) Student’s disabilities affect many aspects of his functioning, particularly his intellectual and social understanding and communication. (S-9)

3. From January through March 2008, Melrose conducted a three-year re-evaluation of Student consisting of psycho-educational, occupational therapy (OT) and speech-language assessments. The psycho-educational assessment consisted of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale –III (WAIS-III) and the Adaptive Behavior Scale–School 2 (ABS-S2). Student scored at or below the first percentile on the verbal portion of the WAIS-III, and between the first and fifth percentile on the performance portion. Student showed relative strength in his ability to recognize visual patterns. The ABS-2 showed that Student’s greatest strength is in pre-vocational and vocational activity and responsibility, and that he also has good self-care skills within his home and school. Outside of these settings, he relies heavily on structure and cues to manage his responsibilities. Areas of weakness are language development and use of money. Student has only two areas of problematic behavior, which are social engagement and stereotypical behavior. (S-9) These behaviors are mild and do not prevent him from fully participating in his school and vocational programming. (Service, Maloney, S-5)

4. The OT assessment showed relative strength in fine motor skills, independent ADLs, desire and willingness to please, and ability to quickly learn multi-step vocational activities. Areas of weakness are visual motor integration, visual perceptual skills, generalizing newly learned skills, and problem solving when an aspect of a routine is changed. The occupational therapist recommended, in relevant part, use of a keyboarding program, continued exposure to “an array of vocational settings and skills,” as well as maximization of fine and gross motor abilities in vocational activities, use of visual pictures or symbols to depict steps in new activities, and clear and explicit expectations of tasks. (S-4)

5. The speech-language assessment consisted of formal and informal testing and showed Student to have severely reduced receptive and expressive language. His expressive language in particular improves with cues, however. Regarding social pragmatics, Student makes eye contact, and can communicate in one to two turn conversations. He needs support with three or more turns. Student does not initiate communication, but responds to most questions. (S-5) Student is polite and well-mannered, and knows how to use scripted pleasantries. He is empathic to others, and very sensitive to correction. (S-3)

6. Within the school setting, Student is well-liked by teachers and peers. He independently initiates and completes tasks he has previously mastered. With support, Student participates in structured group activities. He behaves appropriately across settings, throughout the day. He has some auditory sensitivity and other subtle sensory processing needs, and appropriately removes himself from situations when he feels overwhelmed. He is very responsible about self-care and fulfilling his assigned tasks. He participates in the Best Buddies Program at Melrose High School, and attends dances and sports events after school. (S-3)

7. Student reads chapter books at approximately a 2.4 grade level with assistance. He can sight-read common safety words, and can match items to words on a five-item shopping list. He can use a calculator for some math computations, and can count out up to $10.00 to pay a cashier for an item. As of April 2008, Student was beginning to learn how to do computer data entry. Student learns best with explicit instruction and a teacher-student ratio of 1:3. He needs assistance in learning how to handle variations in work routines. (S-5)

8. At home and in the community, Student has good self-care and housekeeping skills. He walks to school safely and appropriately, although he needs to work on increasing his independence with crossing streets. (S-3)

9. Student has attended special education programs within the Melrose Public Schools for his entire school career, sometimes in substantially separate programs and sometimes in inclusion classrooms. (S-29) For the past four years, from the 2004-2005 school year to the present, Student has attended the S.T.E.P.1 program, which is a substantially separate program, with some mainstreaming and reverse inclusion, within the Melrose High School. The program now serves approximately eight students with profiles similar to Student’s. (S-9, S-29)

10. During Student’s high school years, the program provided functional academic instruction along with prevocational and vocational experiences within school buildings and in other settings, as well as community experiences. (S-29, S-24) Although Parent asserts that Student’s program has been inadequate, the unrebutted evidence on the record indicates that Student has made considerable progress in the S.T.E.P. program, academically, behaviorally, and vocationally. (Service, Maloney, S-11, 16, 17, 21, 26; P-3 through P-7)

11. With minor variations in location, Student worked at the same sites throughout his high school years: a middle school store and library, an elementary school cafeteria, and a hospital cafeteria, conference rooms, and waiting rooms. (Service, S-29) As of June 2007, Student also has worked in the public library. (White-Lambright) Student’s tasks have expanded and varied somewhat during these years, and have included washing, folding, and displaying clothing for sale at the school store, writing up sales receipts at that store, dusting library shelves, removing, replacing and restocking library books, vacuuming, and cleaning furniture in school and hospital cafeterias and conference rooms. Once Student knows a routine he is able to follow it perfectly (sometimes using a picture schedule). He can sign in and out, retrieve, set up and return equipment. (Service, Maloney) Student seems to prefer work environments with predictable routines, and limited random social interactions. (S-3)

12. In January 2005, at the request of Melrose, the SEEM Collaborative conducted a vocational evaluation of Student, who was then 14 years old. (S-28) The evaluation consisted of the Employee Maturity Interview (EMI), Work Temperament Inventory (WTI), Work Personality Profile (WPP), Career Orientation Preference Survey—Picture Inventory of Careers (COPS—PIC), and Wide Range Achievment Test-3. At the time of the evaluation, Student’s vocational activities included newspaper delivery to classrooms at Melrose Middle School, collating, stapling, and shredding documents for the High School office staff, routine food preparation and set up at the school cafeteria, and work at the school thrift store, stocking shelves and labeling goods. Student also volunteered at a hospital cafeteria and a preschool classroom, doing light cleaning and photocopying. (S-28)

13. The SEEM Collaborative evaluation identified as employment-related strengths Student’s pleasant personality, motivation, attention to detail, willingness and ability to follow directions and work in a group. Weaknesses were, generally, his reluctance to ask for help or clarification. The COPS-PIC, which quantifies interest in an occupational area without regard to the interviewee’s ability to perform the job, indicated that Student was primarily interested in clerical work, “consumer economics” (i.e., packaging of foods and beverages), “skilled business,” and “skilled service;” however, the evaluator noted that it was difficult to determine whether the interview results reflected all of Student’s potential interests, or, rather, simply reflected the jobs he actually had performed. The SEEM evaluation recommended that Student increase his reading, typing, filing, and basic math skills, as well as learn basic word and data processing, and continue to become proficient with office and kitchen machinery. (S-28)

14. The SEEM evaluation report stated the following regarding the S.T.E.P. program: “[the teacher at the time] and Melrose High School have done a wonderful job creating opportunities for [Student] to gain vocational experience, both within the school setting, and in the community. It is difficult to make recommendations for a program that is already following the best practices. They offer great variety in their job trialing [sic]. They have been very creative in creating on campus work opportunities. They provide job coaching during and after school hours.” (S-28)

15. In April 2006, when Student was 16 years old and a sophomore, the Merrimac Education Center (MEC) of the Merrimac Special Education Collaborative conducted an “Program Evaluation” in order to “evaluate the Supported Training and Education Program (S.T.E.P.) at Melrose High School as it relates to [Student’s] vocational and social programming. The evaluation consisted of three separate observations of Student in the program, both at Melrose High School and on job sites (the school cafeteria and a hospital) as well as conversations with classroom teachers. The evaluator observed Student perform his assigned tasks of wiping tables, washing fruit, and filling plastic ware containers. In the hospital setting, the evaluator also observed Student arriving at work, taking the elevator to his work location, interacting with co-workers, and the like. Finally, the evaluator observed Student in a Best Buddies meeting and in some integrated activities in the High School (a square dancing class) (S-26).

16. In general, the evaluator from MEC concluded that the S.T.E.P. program provided a good variety of vocational opportunities as well as opportunities for inclusion and natural interactions with typical peers. The evaluator made some specific suggestions for enhancing Student’s vocational opportunities (e.g., by developing more jobs within the hospital and community, exploring Student’s aptitude for clerical skills, as this was an area of interest identified in the vocational assessment, developing an electronic portfolio demonstrating Student’s skills and abilities.). Finally, the evaluator also made some recommendations for increasing Student’s social skills, within the context of his current placement. (S-25)

17. The TEAM considered the MEC evaluation, among others, at Student’s April 2006 TEAM meeting. The resulting IEP and attached Transitional Planning Chart adopted some of the MEC recommendations, by adding vocational objectives: learning beginning data entry skills, exploring additional office skills, increasing the generalization of known skills to new environments, and increasing independence from Student’s job coach. Parents accepted this IEP in June 2006. (S-25)

18. As referred to above, Melrose conducted Student’s 3-year re-evaluation in January through March of 2008, and convened a TEAM meeting on April 11, 2008. The TEAM produced an IEP covering April 2008 through April 2009. As Student was to participate in graduation ceremonies in June 2008, the intent of the TEAM in formulating this IEP was to develop a post-high school special education program that focuses on community opportunities, and life-skills training. (S-3) In the Statement of Parent and/or Student Concerns and Vision Statement on this IEP, Parents indicated that they wanted Student to participate in an “established program that can intensely focus the development of vocational skills, independent daily living skills, and social and recreational needs,” as well as to “explore a greater variety of vocational options that match his interests and abilities.” (S-3)

19. In addition to some consultation services, the proposed IEP calls for of the following services, listed in Section B of the Service Delivery Grid, for April-June 2008 and September 2008 – April 2009 (there is a 5 week ESY program during July and August 2008): functional academics (5×90 minutes/week); OT and speech therapy (2×45 minutes/week each), social skills instruction (1×45 minutes/week), recreational/leisure skills (3x 90 minutes/week), life skills instruction (5×120 minutes/week) and vocational activities with a job coach (5×120 minutes/week). (S-3). Parent has rejected this IEP.

20. At various times between September 2007 and January 2008, Melrose did not provide Student with speech/language services because there was no therapist available. In a letter dated February 1, 2008, Melrose offered 27 sessions of compensatory speech/language therapy, which could be delivered in school during the school year, or during the summer of 2008. (S-7)

Program Proposed by School

21. Melrose’s proposed IEP is designed to deliver the IEP services described above within the context of a “post graduate” program, beginning in September 2008. (Maloney) Melrose is in the process of developing this program to serve Student and about 5 of his peers, all of whom will have completed the 12 th grade in the S.T.E.P. program. The post-graduate program is intended to continue and expand the students’ work and community experience with the goal of advancing students’ employability as well as independent living skills and participation in community recreational and leisure activities. Because the post-graduate program will not be tied to the rotating weekly schedule used by Melrose High School, it will be easier for Melrose to plan and implement job placements and community activities. (Maloney, White-Lambright).

22. The teacher for the post-graduate program will be Ms. Cathy Jo Maloney, who currently is Student’s 12 th grade teacher in the S.T.E.P. program. Ms. Maloney has a Master’s degree in special education and has taught special education in grades 1 through 12 in New Hampshire, where she also has served as an assistant principal. Ms. Maloney does not hold Massachusetts certification, but has received a certification waiver from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in the area of severe special needs. (Maloney)

23. Ms. Maloney has worked with students on the autism spectrum during her practicum and has worked with one 18 year old with Asperger’s disorder. She has no specific previous experience in programs organized for adults with autism. On the other hand, Ms. Maloney has extensive experience in developing various educational and community programs for young adults with a variety of severe special needs, including academic, life-skills, vocational, and recreational programming. Much of this experience has involved forming relationships between schools and outside individuals, businesses and agencies in order to provide opportunities for students with disabilities. (Maloney)

24. In addition to Ms. Maloney, Melrose plans to staff the post-graduate program with a paraprofessional on an “as needed” basis, speech/language and occupational therapists, and two job coaches. As of the hearing date, Ms. Maloney and the therapists were already on staff. Melrose had not yet identified a paraprofessional to work in the new program. Melrose had hired one job coach, and had anticipated making an offer to a candidate for the second job coach position. (Maloney, White-Lambright)

25. Both Ms. Maloney and Patricia White-Lambright, who is the Administrator of Pupil Personnel Services for the Melrose Public Schools, are and will be involved in the development and oversight of outside vocational placements as well as recreational and community activities for the post-graduate program. Ms. White-Lambright has a bachelor’s degree in special education, a master’s degree in educational administration, and is working on her doctoral dissertation. She has 25 years of experience as a special education teacher of adolescents, including some experience teaching high school students on the autism spectrum. Ms. White-Lambright has some background in designing and developing programs for students with disabilities. (White-Lambright)

26. Ms. Mahoney and Ms. White Lambright plan to develop additional community-based vocational placements. They expect that much of this job development will occur during summer 2008 in preparation for the start of the school year. As of the hearing date, Ms. White-Lambright had had discussions with the office of the Mayor of Melrose regarding possible job placements in that office as well as in other city departments (Veterans’ Affairs, Parks and Recreation, etc.). Ms. White-Lambright and city officials also discussed potential jobs (e.g., paper shredding, painting, groundskeeping). While the Mayor’s office was supportive regarding incorporating post-graduate students, as of the date of hearing it was not clear exactly how many positions would be available, if any, where they would be located, or what the students’ responsibilities would be. (White-Lambright, Maloney)

27. Melrose also is exploring possible job placements at hotels, a movie theatre, and the public library, as well as broadening the scope of opportunities at the local hospital. As of the hearing dates, no definite placements actually had been created; again, Melrose anticipates that this work will be done during summer 2008. (White-Lambright, Maloney)

28. Melrose also has been discussing relationships with the YMCA for recreational activities. (Wright-Lambright).

Program Proposed by Parents

29. The Parents wish for Student to attend the Educational and Vocational branch of the LABBB Collaborative (Hereafter, “LABBB Program”). According to its own brochure, the LABBB Program, located within Lexington High School, “offers comprehensive educational, pre-vocational and vocational services to students with developmental challenges between the ages of 14 and 22. Using an independent living skills perspective, the Program consists of both in school and community based components whose major focus is to provide students…with the opportunity to gain marketable vocational competencies in the least restrictive educational and employment environments.” (P15)

30. According to the brochure, the LABBB Program provides students with occupational training, paid job or training placements on campus or in the community during the school year, training in employment-related skills such as professional behavior, time management, and conflict resolution. In addition to teachers, LABBB is staffed with job coaches and related service providers. LABBB has relationships with a variety of public and private worksites. In addition to its educational and vocational programs, LABBB offers a variety of recreational programs, field trips, dances and overnight trips. Like Melrose High School, LABBB hosts the Best Buddies program. (P-15)

31. Ms. White-Lambright has had discussions with the LABBB Program director. She noted that the recreational activities, while well-developed, are actually organized by parents of LABBB students, and are not part of an extended day program as they are in Melrose. (White-Lambert) Aside from the brochure referred to above, and limited testimony from Ms. White-Lambert, neither party has introduced evidence reagarding LABB.

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

Based on the evidence in the record, I conclude that Melrose Public Schools’ IEP for the period April 2008 to April 2009 is reasonably calculated to provide Student with FAPE. Parents have not presented sufficient evidence to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the School’s proposed program is inappropriate. Because the School’s program is appropriate, it is not necessary to rule on the appropriateness of the LABBB Program.

Legal Framework
The FAPE Standard

There is no dispute that Student is a school-aged child with a disability who is eligible for special education and related services pursuant to the IDEA, 20 USC § 1400, et seq ., and the Massachusetts special education statute, G.L. c. 71B (“Chapter 766”). Therefore, Student is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) as defined in federal and state law.

The definition of FAPE in Massachusetts has been discussed extensively in prior BSEA decisions and will not be reiterated at length here.2 In sum, an eligible child, like Student, is entitled to a program and services that are tailored to his or her unique needs and that provide significant, meaningful benefit in light of the child’s needs and potential, that is, “‘effective results’ and ‘demonstrable improvement’ in the educational and personal skills identified as special needs.” 34 C.F.R. 300.300(3)(ii); Lenn v. Portland School Committee , 998 F.2d 1083 (1 st Cir. 1993), citing Roland M. v. Concord School Committee , 910 F.2d 983 (1 st Cir. 1990), cert. denied , 499 U.S. 912 (1991) The program need not be perfect, and, in Massachusetts, the program need no longer provide a student with maximum feasible benefit. In other words, as long as the student is making reasonable, meaningful, demonstrable progress in areas identified as special needs, the program and services may past muster. Id.

Finally, any determination of whether a program provides a student with FAPE, especially an older student with severe or pervasive disabilities, should be made in light of the stated purpose of the IDEA, that is, to “ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free, appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. ” 20 USC §1400(d)(1)(A) (Emphasis supplied.) See also 34 CFR §200.1(a).

Here, the parties agree on Student’s general profile as a young adult who has a long-standing diagnosis of autism and mental retardation, and accompanying difficulties with communication, social interaction, and independent living, among other things, but who also is very pleasant, cooperative, hard-working and reliable. Thanks to his own hard work and that of his parents and teachers, Student has developed an impressive array of personal qualities and skills that can help prepare him for adult life. Student shows up for school and work regularly, on time, appropriately dressed and groomed. He completes his assigned tasks correctly, and gets along with supervisors and co-workers. Despite his diagnosis of autism, Student has no behavioral issues that are severe enough to interfere with learning or work in an appropriate setting.

Further, Student is able to read at approximately a second grade level, and can sight read safety words. He can do simple math. He can perform multi-step tasks that he has been explicitly taught. With instruction, he is able to learn new skills and routines quickly. Student has successfully performed basic clerical, retail (e.g., stocking shelves, selling popcorn), and housekeeping tasks, and is learning more complex tasks such as data entry. Although the parties disagree on the effectiveness and quality of Melrose’s S.T.E.P. program, there is no dispute that Student has made progress.

Finally, there is no real dispute on the appropriateness of the goals and objectives of the proposed IEP for April 2008 through April 2009. Rather, the parties’ dispute centers on whether the proposed post-graduate program operated by the Melrose Public Schools offers Student a sufficient number and variety of vocational and community opportunities to constitute FAPE. A subsidiary issue is whether the program, which is new, is sufficiently well-established to offer what it purports to offer, that is, job, community, and recreational opportunities that follow up and expand on those provided within the S.T.E.P. program at Melrose High School.

With respect to the first question, it is entirely understandable that Parents want Student to have the broadest possible array of vocational options to available to explore. However, Parents have presented no evidence showing that Student needs additional vocational placement options (as opposed to expanded opportunities and increasingly complex work within his current placements, which he has been receiving) in order to receive FAPE. The only evaluations on point, conducted by SEEM and MEC, unequivocally concluded that the S.T.E.P. program was appropriate for Student when he was in high school, and while they suggest exposure to additional options, they do not state that these are necessary for FAPE. In any event, there are no evaluations on the record of the proposed program, and, thus, no expert evidence that the proposed program is inadequate or inappropriate.

Regarding the second issue, the Parents correctly point out that as of the hearing date, the post-graduate program was not yet fully established. Melrose had only hired one of the two proposed job coaches, had not yet identified the paraprofessional for the program, and had not established any new job sites, with the possible exception of a position (with no definite job description) in the Mayor’s office. Finally, Parents point out that Ms. Maloney, the lead teacher, does not have extensive experience in teaching or programming for students on the autism spectrum. For these reasons, the post-graduate program amounts to a rehash of the STEP program, and will not afford Student with the opportunity to grow to which he is entitled.

Parents’ concerns are reasonable. There absolutely is no dispute that the program is still being formed, and as of the hearing date, there were no community job placements in addition to the ones already available to Student. Further, development of those placements depends on the actions of third parties over whom neither Parents nor Melrose have any control.

Nevertheless, for reasons stated above, Parents have not shown, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the School’s proposed program—which continues many aspects of his current program– is inappropriate. Parents have presented no evidence that Student should discontinue his current job placements, even if he picks up new placements, especially given that Student’s responsibilities within his current placements have expanded and varied over the past several years, and could continue to do so. Thus, even if Melrose is unable to negotiate satisfactory new job placements in the immediate future, it can provide Student with FAPE by increasing the variety and complexity of tasks he does in the job settings he attends now, just as it has in the past.

Moreover, the two Melrose staff in charge of the post-graduate program have significant experience in program development, and appear to have the skills and abilities to negotiate and put into place at least some of the job and community programming they envision, as well as to ensure that the open positions (for job coach and paraprofessional) are filled.

The Parents have not met their burden of proving the School’s proposed program to be inappropriate; therefore, I need not examine the appropriateness of the LABBB Program for Student.

CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, Melrose’s proposed IEP and placement for April 2008 through April 2009 are appropriate, in that they are reasonably calculated to provide Student with FAPE in the least restrictive environment.

By the Hearing Officer,

__________________________ ________________________

Sara Berman

Dated: June 27, 2008


1

Supported Training and Education Program (S-24)


2

See, for example, Arlington Public Schools , BSEA No. 02-1327 (Crane, 2002)


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