Belmont Public Schools – BSEA # 08-3070
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS
In Re: Belmont Public Schools BSEA # 08-3070
This decision is issued pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 USC 1400 et seq .), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 USC 794), the state special education law (MGL c. 71B), the state Administrative Procedure Act (MGL c. 30A), and the regulations promulgated under these statutes.
A hearing was held on December 10 and 18, 2007 in Malden, MA before William Crane, Hearing Officer. Those present for all or part of the proceedings were:
David Gehrenbeck-Shim Parents’ Private Clinical Psychologist
David Dinklage Parents’ Private Neuropsychologist
Robert Crabtree Attorney for Parents and Student
Erin O’Regan Program Aide, Belmont Public Schools
Sheila Walsh Social Worker, Belmont Public Schools
Daniel Coplon-Newfield Behavior Specialist, Belmont Public Schools
Deborah Alexander Headmaster, Chenery Middle School, Belmont PS
Ken Kramer Student Services Director, Belmont Public Schools
Kathleen Yaeger Observing attorney for Belmont Public Schools
Regina Williams Tate Attorney for Belmont Public Schools
Laurie Jordan Court Reporter
The official record of the hearing consists of documents submitted by the Belmont Public Schools (Belmont) and marked as exhibits S-1 through S-20; documents submitted by the Parents and marked as exhibits P-1 through P-13; and approximately two Hearing days of recorded oral testimony and argument, followed by oral closing argument on December 19, 2007. The record closed on that date.
This dispute involves a 5 th grade Student whose behaviors have included several incidents of climbing trees at school and one incident of climbing onto a roof at school, in addition to aggressive behavior towards staff and other students. To address these behaviors, Belmont developed and proposed to implement a behavior intervention plan that would require Student to spend substantial amounts of time at home and in an “Opportunity Room,” rather than attending his mainstream classroom. Pursuant to the behavior intervention plan, Student would spend this time learning replacement strategies to be used in lieu of his potentially dangerous and aggressive behavior, and Student would have to demonstrate that he has learned these strategies prior to being allowed to return to his mainstream classroom. The behavior intervention plan was developed and finalized by Belmont outside of the IEP Team process.
Belmont filed its Hearing Request for the purpose of obtaining a BSEA Order requiring its behavior intervention plan to be implemented as drafted. For reasons explained in this Decision, I have found that Belmont’s proposed plan is unduly restrictive and that a new behavior intervention plan must be developed through the IEP Team process.
The issues to be decided in this case are the following:
1. May Belmont implement its proposed “Positive Behavior Intervention Plan” (exhibit S-4C), which includes its “Behavior Intervention Plan Addendum” (exhibit S-6)?
2. If not, must Belmont convene an IEP Team for the purpose of developing a less restrictive behavior intervention plan for Student?
1. Student, who is ten years old (date of birth 1/10/97), lives with his Parents in Belmont, MA. He is a 5 th grader at Belmont’s Chenery Middle School. Testimony of Mother; exhibit S-1(current IEP).
2. Student has significant academic and personal strengths. He is highly intelligent, with very superior verbal reasoning and verbal knowledge, and high-average non-verbal reasoning abilities. He has solidly-average verbal and visual memory capacities. He has the ability to think deeply and creatively. Overall, Student demonstrates strong academic abilities and does not require specially-designed instruction in order to learn. He enjoys Greek mythology, the theatre, poetry, making movies, and reading. In addition, he has significant interests and abilities, including his athletic prowess, that extend beyond school. Student is empathic and generous towards small children and disadvantaged persons. He has stable and long-term friendships, has a good sense of humor, and can be humorous, engaging, creative, dramatic, and curious. Testimony of Mother, Father, Gehrenbeck-Shim, Coplon-Newfield; exhibits S-1, page 1 of 12; S-13 and P-4, 3 rd page (Parents’ neuropsychological evaluation); S-14, pages 2, 10-11 (Belmont’s psychological evaluation).
3. Student has a long-standing history of behavior regulation difficulties while at school. He is often overwhelmed by intense affect. What would otherwise be mild boredom, frustration, arousal related to a challenge or perceived threat, or even amusement may be experienced by him as much more powerful feelings that activate extreme or poorly regulated behavior. His behaviors can quickly escalate and he can become non-compliant when he perceives that he has been treated unfairly, when he is embarrassed, or when he is anxious about measuring up either to his peers or to adults’ expectations. His behaviors have been characterized as oppositional, defiant, impulsive, disrespectful, disruptive, threatening, and aggressive. He has been diagnosed as having an Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Testimony of Mother, Gehrenbeck-Shim, Dinklage, Coplon-Newfield, Walsh, O’Regan; exhibits S-13 and P-4, 3 rd and 4 th pages; S-14, pages 1-2, 9-10.
4. Although Student does not meet the criteria for an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis, he demonstrates some of the characteristics of ADHD – specifically, he has difficulty sustaining attention and maintaining effort on required tasks, sitting still, and inhibiting impulsive responding, and he has a frequent need for movement. Testimony of Dinklage, Coplon-Newfield, Walsh, O’Regan; exhibit S-14, page 10.
5. It is not disputed by the parties that these behaviors are related to his disabilities. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield.
Current Educational Program
6. Student’s current individualized education program (IEP), which has been fully accepted by Parents, places him in a full-inclusion educational program with added special education services consisting of behavior support and counseling to address Student’s emotional and behavioral weaknesses. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield; exhibit S-1.
7. More specifically, the IEP provides for the following direct special education and related services outside of the general education classroom: counseling services from a licensed social worker fifty minutes, once during each six-day cycle; and behavior support from a behavior specialist “as needed.” Exhibit S-1.
8. The IEP further calls for the following direct services within the general education classroom: behavior support from special education staff “as needed.” Exhibit S-1.
9. Finally, the IEP provides for the following consultation services: consultation to staff by a psychologist or licensed social worker for fifteen minutes each week, and consultation to the family by a licensed social worker for one hour, twice per month. Exhibit S-1.
Student’s Behavior and Belmont’s Responses and Plans
10. In September 2007, Student began attending the Chenery Middle School (Chenery). Chenery has a Behavior Support Program (BSP) that is staffed by Daniel Coplon-Newfield (a licensed school social worker and a licensed clinical social worker) and by Sheila Walsh (a licensed clinical social worker). Mr. Coplon-Newfield is responsible for day-to-day crisis intervention, helps implement behavior plans within the classroom, and is with a student while he or she spends time in the BSP’s “Opportunity Room.” The Opportunity Room is large enough to accommodate many students, and it includes tables and desks. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield.
11. The other BPS staff person (Ms. Walsh) is responsible for providing Student with 1:1 counseling, once each week, as set forth in his IEP. The counseling sessions began with a process of building a relationship between Ms. Walsh and Student, and their relationship has slowly developed. During counseling sessions, Ms. Walsh sometimes processes with Student a behavior incident. Ms. Walsh also assists with crisis management and meets with teachers. Testimony of Walsh.
12. During the previous school year, Mr. Coplon-Newfield was aware that Student was having behavioral difficulties. In anticipation of Student’s attending 5 th grade at Chenery, Mr. Coplon-Newfield attended an IEP Team meeting for Student in the spring of 2007. Mr. Coplon-Newfield then met three times (May 2007, June 2007, and August 2007) with Parents and/or Student in order to assist Student to transition into 5 th grade in the fall of 2007.
13. When Student began attending Chenery in September 2007, Mr. Coplon-Newfield saw Student daily, usually in the hallway, classroom, or lunch area. The goal was to monitor Student and to provide any needed support to him, without providing any obvious adult supervision, so that Student could appear to be participating in school in the same manner as the other 5 th grade students. During this time, the Opportunity Room served as a place where Student could go as needed to take time away from the classroom or other school activities. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield.
14. During September, Student had difficulty, at times, maintaining himself appropriately in the classroom. For example, he would get out of his chair and talk at inappropriate times, he had difficulty staying on task, and he could not easily be re-directed. Student also received an in-school suspension for one day as a result of his pushing and shoving another student on the school playground on September 25, 2007. In order to address these behaviors, Belmont developed and proposed to Parents a behavior plan (Behavior Plan). The Behavior Plan was intended to provide clearer feedback to Student regarding his behaviors within the classroom, with the goal of assisting Student to check himself and get back on task. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield; exhibits S-2B, S-4A.
15. More specifically, Belmont’s Behavior Plan included a “protocol” pursuant to which Student received a “check” when his behavior was disruptive to the classroom community. A second and third “check” were given for continuing disruptive behavior. After receiving a third “check,” Student was asked to leave the classroom and go to the Opportunity Room for the purpose of processing his behavior with a BSP staff member. This was intended to provide Student with greater staff oversight regarding these behaviors. The protocol allowed for Student to return from the Opportunity Room to the classroom after “successfully processing” with a BPS staff member and a “brief re-entry or check-in meeting” with his classroom teacher. Parents accepted this Plan, and it went into effect on October 1, 2007. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield; exhibit S-4A.
16. An amendment to the Behavior Plan noted that Student is most successful when behavior incidents are processed in a relatively short period of time. According to the amendment, when Student cannot process an incident within a “window of opportunity” of approximately fifteen minutes, his behavior becomes increasingly disruptive and unsafe. Strategies included in the amendment are aerobic activities and listening to music, with more significant interventions to be used when Student is unable to regain sufficient self-control “to help reverse the negative spiral.” Exhibit S-4B.
17. During the month of October and continuing into November, Student’s behavior worsened. It was increasingly difficult for Student to be able to remain in the classroom through the end of the period – that is, he more frequently received three “checks” under Belmont’s Behavior Plan, requiring that he leave the classroom and go to the Opportunity Room. While in the Opportunity Room, Student demonstrated increased difficulty processing the behavior incident that led to his leaving the classroom, and more frequently, his behavior escalated during the time spent in the Opportunity Room. As a result, it was taking longer for Student to be able to return to the classroom. Testimony of Mother, Coplon-Newfield, Walsh.
18. During the period from October 3, 2007 to November 13, 2007, Student was involved in five incidents that are documented by incident reports completed by Belmont staff and that were discussed by Belmont staff through testimony. The incidents involved disruptive, aggressive, or risky behavior. The disruptive behaviors included standing on a table in the classroom and attempting to place items into the ceiling tiles and throwing objects in the classroom. The aggressive behaviors included hitting a wall and desk in the classroom, kicking (while he was on the ground), destruction of property in the classroom, and physical aggression towards staff. The risky behaviors involved three separate incidents of climbing trees on school grounds (to a height of about fifteen feet). During one incident Student also climbed onto a pitched roof of a school building (the pitch of the roof was approximately fifteen degrees, and the roof was approximately fifteen feet high). In each case, Student was initially and sometimes repeatedly non-compliant with staff efforts to re-direct or stop his behavior. Each incident lasted from approximately two to four hours. During at least one of these incidents, Ms. Walsh was concerned for her own safety. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield, Walsh; exhibit S-2A.
19. The fifth of these incidents, which occurred on November 13, 2007, was the most serious. It lasted approximately four hours, and included Student’s becoming increasingly agitated and non-compliant, becoming physically aggressive towards staff (pushing into them and threatening to kick and punch them), leaving the school through a window, climbing two trees and then a roof, and repeatedly refusing to come down at the request of staff and Student’s Mother. Student eventually came down after the police (whom Belmont had called to provide assistance) arrived at the school. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield; exhibit S-2A.
20. For the reasons explained by Mr. Coplon-Newfield, the repeated tree- and roof-climbing incidents were potentially dangerous to Student, and Belmont appropriately became concerned for Student’s safety. Mr. Coplon-Newfield testified that when Student feels overwhelmed, he tries to run away, sometimes climbing a tree or roof as a way to escape. During these climbing incidents, Student has been agitated and upset, making it more difficult for him to think rationally or clearly. Student has not been responding appropriately to staff at these times. A climbing incident typically ended when one of Student’s Parents came to school and helped Student come down from the tree or roof. Mr. Coplon-Newfield noted that if Student had slipped and fallen, staff could not have protected him from physical injury. Ms. Walsh also had significant concerns regarding Student’s safety at these times, and Mr. Kramer expressed concerns about meeting Belmont’s responsibility to keep Student safe. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield, Walsh, Kramer; exhibit S-2A.1
21. During November, there were three incidents of staff’s needing to use physical restraint with Student. (One of the restraint incidents was during the November 13, 2007 incident, discussed above.) During each of these incidents, Student was physically aggressive towards staff. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield; exhibit S-3.
22. During October and November, there were regular meetings and on-going conversations between Mr. Coplon-Newfield and Ms. Walsh (the BSP staff), as well as between the BSP staff and Student’s classroom teacher (Mike Williams). Mr. Williams taught Student all content courses except social studies. There was also frequent contact by BSP staff with Parents, often on a daily basis. Mr. Coplon-Newfield also met weekly with his clinical supervisor, Pat Davis. Testimony of Mother, Coplon-Newfield.
23. After the second incident of Student’s climbing a tree on school grounds (on October 19, 2007), Mr. Coplon-Newfield met with Ms. Walsh and Mother for the purpose of preparing a functional behavior assessment (FBA). In preparing the FBA, Mr. Coplon-Newfield relied on his own observations, conversations with Student and Student’s teacher (Mr. Williams), and a log that was used to note Student’s compliance with seven goals while he was in the classroom and at other times during the day. The FBA was intended to determine what was causing Student’s behavior and why it was getting worse. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield; exhibit S-5.
24. The FBA, which was dated November 6, 2007, concluded that Student’s behaviors were a function of his anxiety and frustration in academic and social situations – that is, Student sought, through his behaviors, to avoid those situations that caused him anxiety and frustration. The FBA identified “replacement behaviors” (such as taking a short break, engaging in short aerobic activity, and listening to music) that Student should learn and utilize when he feels anxious or frustrated. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield; exhibit S-5.
25. On November 14, 2007 which was soon after the roof-climbing incident described above, Mr. Coplon-Newfield met with Ms. Davis, Mr. Kramer, Ms. Walsh, and Deborah Alexander (the Chenery Principal), for the purpose of discussing Student, his behavior difficulties, and the FPA. In addition, they discussed a “Positive Behavior Intervention Plan” for Student, dated November 12, 2007 (Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan) for the purpose of implementing the FBA findings. The stated goal of the Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan was to help Student recognize and positively respond to emotional difficulties by learning and using anxiety-reducing strategies prior to acting out in a destructive, disruptive, and aggressive manner. Included as part of the Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan was a “Behavior Intervention Plan Addendum” (Proposed Addendum). The Proposed Plan and Addendum were revised and finalized during the November 14 th meeting. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield; exhibits S-4C, 6.
26. The general idea of the Proposed Addendum was to require Student to meet ten successive goals (one per week) for the purpose of learning and using positive strategies for reducing his anxiety. Over the course of the ten-week (or longer) period, Student would spend an increasing amount of time at school and a decreasing amount of time at home. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield; exhibit S-6.
27. More specifically, during the first week under the Proposed Addendum, Student would remain home for the entire week where he would “develop internal motivation in regards to his successful attendance at school.” Mr. Coplon-Newfield explained that he believed that Student needed to spend this week at home to build his motivation; Student needs to show “us” that he wants to be at school. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield, exhibit S-6.
28. During the second week, Student would be at school only between the hours of 8:00 AM and 9:15 AM. During this time, he would learn at least three “positive/effective anxiety-reducing strategies.” All time not at school would be spent at home. During the third week, Student would be at school only between the hours of 8:00 AM and 10:15 AM. During this time, he would learn to identify and practice at least one such strategy in a low- or no- stress setting. During the fourth week, Student would be at school only between the hours of 8:00 AM and 11:15 AM. During this time, he would learn to identify and practice at least one such strategy in a stressful setting. Each week thereafter, Student would spend one more hour at school so that by the seventh week, he would be spending the entire school day (from 8:00 AM to 2:15 PM) at school although (as described immediately below) he would not regain the opportunity to attend all of his classes until the tenth week. Exhibit S-6.
29. During the second through the fourth weeks, all of Student’s time at school would be spent in the Opportunity Room. While in the Opportunity Room, Student would complete academic tasks assigned to him, as well as work on the weekly behavioral goal. In the fifth week, he would start attending his classes and other school activities (beginning with language arts class as the only class in which he would participate during the fifth week), and the remainder of his time at school would be spent in the Opportunity Room. The amount of time spent in his classes and other school activities would increase each subsequent week, with correspondingly less time spent in the Opportunity Room. By the tenth week, Student would attend all his classes, lunch, and recess, and would also spend time in the Opportunity Room. This would be the last week under the Proposed Addendum. Exhibit S-6.
30. Each week under the Proposed Addendum, he would be expected to meet another goal for the purpose of progressing towards the tenth and ultimate goal of using independently three strategies in different situations he views as stressful and choosing a strategy that is most appropriate for the particular setting. In the “Notes” section, the Proposed Addendum further provides that “[i]f staff determine that [Student] has not achieved the stated goal for each week of the behavior plan, he will repeat the goal and schedule of that week.” As a result, the Proposed Addendum would continue for ten weeks (i.e., fifty school days less any holidays) or longer, depending on Student’s success in attaining each of the ten stated goals. Exhibit S-6.
31. On November 16, 2007, Mr. Coplon-Newfield, Ms. Davis, and Ms. Walsh met with Parents to discuss (1) Student’s current level of functioning at school, (2) the FBA, including what the FBA had revealed as the reasons for Student’s increasing behaviors, and (3) Belmont’s Proposed Behavior Plan and Addendum. It was during the last fifteen minutes of the meeting that Parents were presented, for the first time, with the Proposed Addendum. Belmont advised Parents that there were only two options – that is, Belmont could place Student at an interim alternative educational setting (IAES) for up to forty-five school days or Belmont could implement the Proposed Addendum as written. Testimony of Mother, Coplon-Newfield.
32. Mr. Coplon-Newfield testified that during this meeting with Parents, he explained to the Parents that the Proposed Addendum could not be changed in any way. It is his opinion that the Proposed Addendum must be implemented as written if it is to be successful. In his testimony, Mr. Kramer supported the position that the Proposed Addendum was then and continues to be non-negotiable. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield, Kramer.
33. During the November 16 th meeting, Parents immediately rejected the IAES option and it was not discussed further. Parents expressed concern and skepticism regarding the Proposed Addendum, explaining that they did not understand why Student must spend so much time not attending classes and that the Proposed Addendum would be seen by Student as a punishment, and he would respond negatively. Parents did not agree to implementation of the Proposed Addendum. Testimony of Mother, Coplon-Newfield.
34. When asked whether it would have made any difference if Student’s private therapist, David Gehrenbeck-Shim, had been included in this discussion of the Proposed Addendum, Mr. Coplon-Newfield testified that although Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim might have had relevant comments about the Addendum, this would not have changed the outcome. This is because the Proposed Addendum was not subject to negotiation or change once it had been finalized by Belmont during its November 14 th internal meeting. Ms. Walsh and Mr. Kramer confirmed in their testimony that the Addendum was non-negotiable. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield, Walsh, Kramer.
35. Following the November 16, 2007 meeting, Belmont did not know whether Student would be attending school on the next school day, which was Monday, November 19, 2007. Student came to school on November 19 th , but Belmont could not implement its Proposed Addendum (since Parents had not given their consent) and Belmont believed that the then current Behavior Plan was not effective. Accordingly, Belmont concluded that it needed to develop as soon as possible a new, interim behavior plan in order for Student to attend school. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield.
36. Belmont had previously scheduled a meeting to occur on November 19, 2007, to include Student’s private therapist, David Gehrenbeck-Shim. Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim, Parents, Mr. Coplon-Newfield, and Ms. Walsh met that afternoon. Belmont decided to utilize this meeting not to discuss further its Proposed Addendum (given Parents’ objections to it), but instead to develop an interim behavior plan for Student that could begin the next school day. Parents, however, understood that the meeting would be an opportunity to discuss everything, including the Proposed Addendum. The discussions that occurred during the meeting resulted in an “Interim Behavior Plan” dated November 19, 2007. Belmont began implementing this new Plan the next day November 20, 2007). Testimony of Mother, Coplon-Newfield, exhibit S-17.
37. Belmont did not consider either the November 16 th meeting or the November 19 th meeting to be an IEP Team meeting. For both of these meetings, Belmont utilized the sign-in sheet typically used for IEP Team meetings, as well as a permission statement, signed by Parents, for the regular education teacher not to attend, but Belmont did not provide the notice to Parents that would normally be required prior to an IEP Team meeting. Testimony of Walsh, Mother; exhibit P-10.
38. Belmont intended the Interim Behavior Plan to be utilized until a decision is issued in the instant appeal before the BSEA. By filing its Hearing Request with the BSEA on November 23, 2007, Belmont sought an order from the BSEA allowing implementation of its Proposed Behavior Plan and Addendum. Belmont also filed a complaint, dated November 30, 2007, in Middlesex Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order enjoining Parents from bringing Student to school “until they consent to the behavior intervention plan and behavior assessment necessary to provide him with FAPE.” Testimony of Coplon-Newfield, exhibits S-16, S-17.2
39. The Interim Behavior Plan, which is currently in place, allows Student to attend school on a daily basis for a full day. Prior to the beginning of the school day (from 7:55 AM to 8:15 AM), Student is to be in the Opportunity Room, checking in with either Mr. Coplon-Newfield (as the BSP Behavior Specialist) or Ms. Walsh (as the BSP Program Clinician). During this time, staff review with Student the morning schedule and potential areas of success and failure, determine Student’s “emotional state,” review the replacement behaviors and when they should be used and how, and give Student an opportunity to practice the replacement behaviors. An identical opportunity to check in with BSP staff occurs from 11:15 AM to 11:30 AM. At the end of the school day (from 2:00 PM to 2:10 PM), Student is to check in with BPS staff to review the day and preview the next day. Exhibit S-17.
40. Pursuant to the Interim Behavior Plan, if Student becomes anxious or frustrated during academic class time and is unable to address this through a replacement strategy, with the result that his behavior becomes disruptive, then Student will be given a “check.” After three checks, Student is directed to the Opportunity Room. He is to return to class when the BSP staff determine he is ready to do so. If it is determined that Student’s behavior has become “increasingly aggressive and non-compliant,” Student’s Parents will be called to pick him up. Student would be expected to return to school the next day. Parents and Belmont also agreed orally that Student himself could decide that his behaviors had gotten to the point where he could not return to class, and at that time, Belmont would notify Parents to pick him up. Testimony of Mother; exhibit S-17.
41. During the week that the Interim Behavior Plan was implemented, Student was relatively successful, generally making it through the school day. However, since November 26, 2007, Student has had difficulty making it through full class periods and difficulty making it through a full school day. Student also has had a difficult time “getting back on track” once he has had a behavior episode. More specifically, of the ten school days since November 26 th , Student has left school early on eight days. On five out of these ten days, either Student or staff asked Parents to pick up Student early from school, typically leaving school between 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM. Also, on most days, Student has come to school late. Testimony of Mother, Coplon-Newfield, Walsh.
42. During this ten school day period, Student began exhibiting the kinds of behaviors that were seen previously – for example, going through staff’s folders, taking others’ possessions, running from staff, leaving the classroom via a window, and using a staff chair for banging into walls and furniture in the room. Two incidents were documented (12/3/07 and 12/5/07) during which Student was also reported to have thrown snow balls at staff and punched another student twice in the head during a fight outside of the classroom. Difficulties in the classroom (such as immediately needing to walk after arriving late to school, and pushing another student) have also been documented by Belmont. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield; exhibits S-19A, S-19B, S-20.
43. Since the implementation of the Interim Behavior Plan on November 20, 2007, Student has not engaged in tree-climbing or roof-climbing, and his physical aggression towards staff has not been as severe. Mr. Coplon-Newfield attributed this to the fact that, under the Interim Behavior Plan, Student is allowed (or required) to go home before his behavior escalates to that point. The Interim Plan has allowed Student to be pulled out of his educational environment (and sent home) at an earlier time along the continuum of escalating behavior. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield.
44. Mr. Coplon-Newfield testified that he believed that he and Ms. Walsh were developing a better relationship with Student, and that he was seeing concrete, positive results from this relationship. He further testified that, in his opinion, this development supported the likelihood that he would be able to teach Student the needed replacement skills pursuant to Belmont’s Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum.
It is not disputed that Student is an individual with a disability, falling within the purview of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)3 and the state special education statute.4 The IDEA was enacted “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education [FAPE] that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.”5 FAPE is intended “to open the door of public education to handicapped children.”6
More specifically under Massachusetts and federal special education law, FAPE requires that a student’s individualized education program (IEP) be tailored to address the student’s “unique needs” in a way reasonably calculated to enable the student to make “meaningful” and “effective” educational progress in the “least restrictive environment,” and to “develop [his] individual educational potential.”7 FAPE need not provide the “best” possible educational services for a student8 or maximize a student’s educational potential.9
In the instant dispute, Belmont has the burden of persuasion regarding its requested relief – that is, that it may implement its Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum. Parents have the burden of persuasion regarding their requested relief – that is, that Belmont must re-convene an IEP Team for the purpose of developing another plan to address Student’s behavior and emotional skill development within an inclusion program at the Belmont middle school.10
Implementation of the Behavior Intervention Plan without Team Consideration
I first consider whether Belmont may develop (and whether I may order Belmont to implement) its Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum without involvement of the IEP Team. I note at the outset, and as agreed by the parties, that the instant dispute is not about discipline. Much of the discussion within the IDEA regarding behavior is within the context of discipline, and I do not reference these parts of the IDEA. Rather, this dispute pertains to Belmont’s responsibility to address Student’s behavior issues so that he can access and participate fully in his education for the purpose of receiving FAPE.
Central to any inquiry regarding an IEP Team’s involvement in behavioral issues is § 1414(d)(3)(B)(i) of the IDEA, which states:
I n developing each child’s IEP, the IEP Team, subject to subparagraph (C), shall . . . in the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior . . . .11
The focus of § 1414(d)(3)(B)(i) is on what must be considered by the IEP Team rather than what must be included within the written IEP itself or what must be included within any written behavior plan. Section 1414(d)(3)(B)(i) does not explicitly reference a behavior intervention plan, and the courts have made clear that a written behavior intervention plan will not always be necessary to address appropriately a particular student’s behavior difficulties under this section of the IDEA.12
Added clarification is provided by the US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in a letter written prior to (and in anticipation of) the inclusion of § 1414(d)(3)(B)(i) within the IDEA. The OSEP letter explained that a behavior plan may be included within an IEP, and that pursuant to the anticipated § 1414(d)(3)(B)(i), the IEP Team would be asked to consider behavior strategies, including a behavior management plan, when a student’s behavior impedes his or her or another student’s learning.13 The Seventh Circuit has reached the same conclusion, explaining that § 1414(d)(3)(B)(i) requires the IEP Team to consider whether to implement a behavior intervention plan once it is determined that a student’s behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others.14
A number of courts have further concluded that a school district must develop an appropriate behavior plan through the IEP process and that failure to do so may result in a denial of FAPE.15 The First Circuit has also noted the importance of parents and a school district working together, within the context of IEP Team, to determine how to address a student’s behavioral difficulties that impact upon the student’s learning .16
It is undisputed that Student has significant behavior difficulties that impede his learning and that of other students. See part III. Facts of this Decision (Facts), pars. 3, 4. Belmont’s Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum are a necessary and central part of any “ positive behavioral interventions and supports ” that are the responsibility of the IEP Team to consider under § 1414(d)(3)(B)(i). Stated in another way, unless the IEP Team were to review Belmont’s Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum, it simply would not be possible for the IEP Team to take into consideration what Belmont believes to be the appropriate “behavioral . . . strategies” for Student. For these reasons, I conclude that § 1414(d)(3)(B)(i) requires that the IEP Team consider and determine the appropriateness of Belmont’s Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum.
Belmont’s Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum would change Student’s placement and his special education and related services. As a result, there are two additional reasons why the IEP Team is required to consider Belmont’s Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum and to make a determination as to their appropriateness.
The Addendum proposes to change Student’s educational services from being delivered in a full-inclusion placement to a home-based and substantially-separate educational placement for the first four weeks. Thereafter, Student would continue to be removed from at least some of his regular education classes through the ninth week. These time frames would be extended if Student had not achieved each of the weekly goals under the Proposed Addendum. See Facts, pars. 26-30.
The IDEA requires that Parents be “members of any group that makes decisions on the educational placement of their child.”17 Massachusetts provides greater procedural protection,18 stating within its special education regulations that any placement determination must be made by the IEP Team.19 The regulatory language, regulatory history, and a Massachusetts Department of Education Administrative Advisory make clear that the IEP Team’s placement decision includes a determination of the “specific program setting in which the services will be provided” including the proposed location of the educational program .20 Belmont’s Proposed Addendum would change the location of Student’s services from the mainstream classroom to the home and the Opportunity Room (where Student would be isolated from other students) for significant periods of time.
Also, the Proposed Addendum, if implemented, would effectively amend Student’s current IEP by providing special education and related services different from those set forth within the current, fully-accepted IEP. Belmont staff may not unilaterally change the Student’s special education and related services.21 Thus, implementation of the Proposed Addendum would require prior consideration and decision by the IEP Team. See Facts, pars. 26-30.
For these reasons, I find that the IEP Team must consider and determine the appropriateness of Belmont’s Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum as part of the development of the Plan and Addendum and prior to their implementation. Belmont does not dispute that there has been no IEP Team process relative to these documents. See Facts, par. 37.
By developing and seeking to implement its Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum without IEP Team review, Belmont precludes Parents from the opportunity to participate in educational decision-making for their son, defeats a fundamental purpose of the Team process , and violates Student’s right to FAPE.22
The IDEA seeks to insure the “full participation” of Parents in the resolution of substantive disagreements relative to their son’s special education and related services.23 The Supreme Court has further explained:
The core of the statute, however, is the cooperative process that it establishes between parents and schools. Rowley, supra, at 205-206, 102 S.Ct. 3034 (“Congress placed every bit as much emphasis upon compliance with procedures giving parents and guardians a large measure of participation at every stage of the administrative process, … as it did upon the measurement of the resulting IEP against a substantive standard”). The central vehicle for this collaboration is the IEP process.24
A collaborative process with Parents would not undermine the role of Belmont’s behavioral staff who drafted the Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum and who have invaluable expertise and experience regarding Student’s behavior in school. Rather, the participation of Parents ensures that those persons who know Student best are allowed to contribute in a meaningful way.25
In addition, as the IDEA makes clear, the IEP Team process may help ensure the participation of Student’s regular education teacher (Mr. Williams), who will likely be essential to a thorough discussion of Student’s behavioral difficulties in the classroom.26 Equally important will be the meaningful participation of Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim through the IEP Team process. As Student’s private therapist since first grade, Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim has a unique and valuable perspective regarding Student’s behavior and how it may be addressed in a manner that is both effective and least restrictive. Belmont has allowed Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim an opportunity to help develop Student’s interim behavioral intervention plan but not the Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum that is the subject of the instant appeal. Parents have consistently sought his participation in the resolution of these issues.
Restrictiveness of Belmont’s Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum
I now consider whether the level of restrictiveness found within Belmont’s Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum is appropriate. Through their response to Belmont’s Hearing Request , Parents have sought not only a denial of Belmont’s request for a
BSEA Order allowing it to implement its Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum, but also have sought an Order that Belmont convene the IEP Team to continue the process of developing a positive plan to address Student’s behavior and emotional skill development in the context of an inclusion program at the Chenery Middle School. In order to address Parents’ request, I consider whether the evidence supports the level of restrictiveness found within Belmont’s Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum.
Through its Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum, Belmont has sought to address serious and potentially dangerous behaviors. As discussed earlier in this Decision, Student has repeatedly engaged in risky, aggressive, and otherwise unacceptable behaviors, which have had the potential of causing substantial injury to himself and others. Since the implementation of the Interim Behavior Plan on November 20, 2007, Student’s behaviors have tempered somewhat and have not risen to the level of presenting a substantial risk of injury to self or others. Nevertheless, Student’s behaviors have continued to be disruptive and out of control at times and have continued to cause serious concerns by Belmont staff regarding Student’s current ability to maintain himself appropriately in the mainstream educational environment. All concerned, including most importantly Student himself, need to understand and keep in mind the seriousness and potential dangerousness of Student’s past behaviors, and the possible negative educational implications of these kinds of behaviors continuing in the future. See Facts, pars. 18-21, 41-43,
When addressing these behaviors through special education and related services, Belmont has an obligation under state and federal special education law to do so in the “least restrictive environment.”27 The phrase “least restrictive environment” means that, to the maximum extent appropriate, Student must be educated with other students who do not have a disability, and that “removal . . . from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services, cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”28 Similarly, BSEA Hearing Officers are directed to order an educational placement and services that assure FAPE, with “a presumption . . . to direct such placement to the regular educational environment.”29
As discussed earlier, Belmont’s Addendum proposes to change Student’s educational services from being delivered in a full-inclusion placement to a home-based and substantially-separate educational placement for the first four weeks, with no participation in a mainstream classroom or other school activities during this time period. Thereafter, Student would continue to be removed from at least some of his regular education classes through the ninth week. This time period of full or partial exclusion from mainstream education would be extended in the event that Student did not complete successfully any of the weekly goals to be achieved under the Proposed Addendum. See Facts, pars. 26-30.
Belmont defended the restrictiveness of its Addendum principally through the testimony of Mr. Coplon-Newfield. He explained that at the time that he developed the Proposed Behavior Plan and Addendum, he believed that Belmont’s then current Behavior Plan was not effectively addressing Student’s behavior as Student had become increasingly disruptive and unsafe towards himself and staff. He explained that he had observed Student’s being less motivated to be in school. Also, Student’s connection with him and with Ms. Walsh had become characterized more by discipline and less as a positive relationship. In Mr. Coplon-Newfield’s words, Student was unsuccessfully trying to “swim in the deep end” and needed to pull back completely from the academics and social activities at school where Student was developing anxiety and frustration leading to behavioral difficulties, and spend his time learning to be successful with certain strategies that would, if learned, allow him to transition back successfully into mainstream academic and other school activities. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield.
Mr. Coplon-Newfield and Ms. Walsh testified that, in their opinions, the less restrictive Interim Behavior Plan was not being successful and would not likely be successful because Student is being asked to participate in the classroom and other school activities where he experiences anxiety and frustration, with resulting behavior difficulties that Student is not able to regulate. Student then leaves school in a conflicted emotional state and does not feel positive about school. Mr. Coplon-Newfield testified that it would be better to take Student out of this context entirely for a period of time while he is learning the replacement strategies. Testimony of Coplon-Newfield, Walsh.
At the evidentiary Hearing, there was strong praise from Parents and Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim for the work of Mr. Coplon-Newfield and Ms. Walsh. These Belmont staff have committed themselves to working effectively with Student for the purpose of addressing his behavioral difficulties. Parents, in particular, expressed their appreciation for Mr. Coplon-Newfield’s and Ms. Walsh’s professionalism and understanding of Student. At the same time, however, Parents and their experts were persuasive that Belmont’s Proposed Addendum is unnecessarily restrictive.
There are two over-riding concerns regarding Belmont’s Proposed Addendum to the Behavior Intervention Plan – first, that the Addendum will not likely be effective in addressing Student’s behavioral difficulties and second, that Student is likely to have a severe, negative reaction to the implementation of the Proposed Addendum. Both concerns pertain to the level of restrictiveness of the Proposed Addendum.
Dr. Dinklage and Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim testified that in order for the Addendum to be effective in teaching Student replacement and emotional regulation strategies, the instruction needs to be tied closely in time to Student’s utilization of the learned strategies. Dr. Dinklage explained that Student is sufficiently intelligent to learn these strategies very quickly and this can appropriately occur in the Opportunity Room through instruction from Mr. Coplon-Newfield or Ms. Walsh, so long as the instruction occurs when Student is not in a state of distress. Almost immediately after learning the strategies, Student should be given opportunities to practice them, perhaps with cuing assistance from a program aide. Dr. Dinklage emphasized that progress will not likely be made in isolation from the classroom and school activities, that the successful utilization of these strategies in those settings will be the hard part, and that long-term success may require significant work and time, likely including both successes and regression along the path towards generalization of the strategies. Throughout this process if it is to be successful, achievable units need to be broken down into small parts, and Student needs to feel that his progress is recognized clearly and is rewarded by adults – immediate and frequent recognition and reward will likely be most successful. Dr. Dinklage and Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim also explained that for the learning to be effective, Student needs to see the entire process as a problem-solving endeavor that he, Belmont staff, and his Parents are fully invested in and are working on together, rather than Student’s understanding this process as something being done to him. Testimony of Dinklage,30 Gehrenbeck-Shim.31
Related to these concerns was the testimony of Dr. Dinklage, Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim, and Parents that Student would likely have a strong, negative reaction to implementation of Belmont’s Proposed Addendum. Dr. Dinklage and Mother testified that Student experiences a heightened sense of shame, rejection, and ostracism when he concludes that he has not measured up to the standards set by others, including the standards set by his peers, simply through their own activities or performance. Dr. Dinklage and Mother explained that these emotions are felt by Student in a highly acute manner, causing behavior dis-regulation. Father and Mother further testified that even throughout all of the difficulties related to school, their son has always wanted to go to school, he has always wanted to be in the classroom, and he has always wanted to be with his peers. Mother added that when Student has been precluded from attending school because of a suspension, Student reacts negatively, demonstrating less motivation to succeed in school. She further explained that were the Proposed Addendum to be implemented, with its immediate removal of Student from the classroom and his peers for at least four weeks, Student would likely feel trapped and ostracized, and he would likely over-react in the same way that he over-reacted when suspended from school. Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim added that Student would likely view any protracted removal from his peers as punishment, with the likelihood that the more that he is removed, the more that he will act out and become disengaged. Testimony of Dinklage, Gehrenbeck-Shim, Mother, Father.32
The testimony of Dr. Dinklage, Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim and Parents, as summarized above, was persuasive. On the basis of this evidence, I find that the Addendum’s proposed removal of Student from the mainstream classroom and from his peers for significant periods of time is not likely to be effective for learning replacement and emotion regulation strategies, and that Student’s likely negative reaction to his removal would further diminish the Addendum’s likelihood of success. I find not only that the Addendum is more restrictive than necessary to accomplish its goals, but also that its level of restrictiveness is what is most likely to make it ineffective.
For these reasons, I conclude that when the IEP Team convenes to consider a behavior intervention plan for Student, it must consider a plan that is less restrictive than that reflected within Belmont’s Proposed Addendum.
Belmont’s request for a BSEA Order allowing implementation of its Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum is denied.
Belmont shall convene an IEP Team for the purpose of developing a less restrictive behavior intervention plan for Student .
By the Hearing Officer,
Dated: December 28, 2007
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS
THE BUREAU’S DECISION, INCLUDING RIGHTS OF APPEAL
Effect of the Decision
20 U.S.C. s. 1415(i)(1)(B) requires that a decision of the Bureau of Special Education Appeals be final and subject to no further agency review. Accordingly, the Bureau cannot permit motions to reconsider or to re-open a Bureau decision once it is issued. Bureau decisions are final decisions subject only to judicial review.
Except as set forth below, the final decision of the Bureau must be implemented immediately. Pursuant to M.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 obtain 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”. 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. Honig v. Doe , 484 U.S. 305 (1988); Doe v. Brookline , 722 F.2d 910 (1st Cir. 1983).
A party contending that a Bureau of Special Education Appeals decision is not being implemented may file a motion with the Bureau contending that the decision is not being implemented and setting out the areas of non-compliance. The Hearing Officer may convene a hearing at which the scope of the inquiry shall be limited to the facts on the issue of compliance, facts of such a nature as to excuse performance, and facts bearing on a remedy. Upon a finding of non-compliance, the Hearing Officer may fashion appropriate relief, including referral of the matter to the Legal Office of the Department of Education or other office for appropriate enforcement action. 603 CMR 28.08(6)(b).
Rights of Appeal
Any party aggrieved by a decision of the Bureau of Special Education Appeals may file a complaint in the state 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).
An appeal of a Bureau decision to state superior court or to federal district court must be filed within ninety (90) days from the date of the decision. 20 U.S.C. s. 1415(i)(2)(B).
In order to preserve the confidentiality of the student 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.
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 federal law, upon receipt of a written request from any party, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals will arrange for and provide a certified written transcription of the entire proceedings by a certified court reporter, free of charge.
Parents sought to place these incidents in a different perspective, explaining that Student often climbs higher in a tree near his home and that Student is athletic. Testimony of Mother. For the reasons explained in the text above, I do not find this perspective to be persuasive regarding the inappropriateness and potential dangerousness of Student’s climbing a tree or a roof at school.
On December 12, 2007, the Superior Court denied Belmont’s request for a temporary restraining order.
20 USC 1400 et seq .
MGL c. 71B.
20 USC 1400(d)(1)(A). See also 20 USC 1412(a)(1)(A); MGL c. 71B, ss. 2, 3.
Bd. of Educ. of the Hendrick Hudson Central Sch. Dist. v. Rowley , 458 U.S. 176, 192 (1982).
See In Re: Medfield Public Schools , BSEA # 07-7260, 107 LRP 70912 (SEA MA 2007) (collecting authorities).
E.g., Lt. T.B. ex rel. N.B. v. Warwick Sch. Com., 361 F.3d 80, 83 (1st Cir. 2004).
Rowley , 458 U.S. at 197, n.21 (1982).
Schaffer v. Weast , 546 U.S. 49, 126 S. Ct. 528, 534, 537 (2005) (burden of persuasion in an administrative hearing challenging an IEP is placed upon the party seeking relief).
20 USC1414(d)(3)(B)(i). See also the comparable requirement found within the federal special education regulations. 34 CFR 300.324 (a) (2)(i).
School Bd. of Independent School Dist. No. 11 v. Renollett , 440 F.3d 1007, 1011 (8 th Cir. 2006), Robert B. ex rel. Bruce B. v. West Chester Area School Dist. , 2005 WL 2396968 ( E.D.Pa. 2005).
Letter to Huefner , OSEP, 23 IDELR 1072 , 23 LRP 3439 (August 22, 1995).
In Alex R., ex rel. Beth R. v. Forrestville Valley Community Unit School Dist. No. 221 , 375 F.3d 603, 608, 614-615 (7 th Cir. 2004), the Court explained as follows:
Although it does not use the term “behavioral intervention plan,” 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(3)(B)(i) requires a school district’s IEP team, “in the case of a child whose behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others, [to] consider, when appropriate, strategies, including positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address that behavior.” Id. (emphasis added). Alex’s behavior began to impede his learning during second grade, and at that point § 1414(d)(3)(B)(i) obliged the District’s IEP team at least to consider whether to implement a behavioral intervention plan, a consideration that the IEP team indisputably made. [Emphasis in original.]
Neosho R-V School Dist. v. Clark, 315 F.3d 1022, 1028 (8th Cir. 2003) (finding that a student did not receive FAPE where IEP failed to provide an adequate behavior management program); Penn Trafford School Dist. v. C.F. ex rel. M.F. , 2006 WL 840334 ( W.D.Pa. 2006) (IEP’s failure to provide a behavior management plan was a “serious omission” ); Indiana Area School Dist. v. H.H. ex rel. K.H. , 2005 WL 3970591 ( W.D.Pa. 2005) (court affirmed hearing officer’s finding that by failing to develop a behavior intervention plan through the IEP Team process, school district denied student FAPE); County School Bd. of Henrico County, Vir. v. Palkovics ex rel. Palkovics , 285 F.Supp.2d 701, 709 ( E.D.Va. 2003) (20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(3)(B)(i) did not require the inclusion of a behavior intervention plan in the IEP until Student’s behavior impeded his own learning or the learning of others).
Rome School Committee v. Mrs. B. , 247 F.3d 29, 33, 34 (1 st Cir. 2001).
20 USC 1414(e).
See Mr. I. v. Maine School Administrative District No. 55, 2007 WL 641988 (1 st Cir. 2007) (state may “ calibrate its own educational standards, provided it does not set them below the minimum level prescribed by the [IDEA]”); Town of Burlington v. Department of Education , 736 F.2d 773, 792 (1 st Cir. 1984) (a state is “free to exceed, both substantively and procedurally, the protection and services to be provided to its disabled children”).
603 CMR 28.05(6); 603 CMR 28.06(2); 603 CMR 28.06(2)(d).
603 CMR 28.05(6) (“Team shall determine the appropriate placement to deliver the services on the student’s IEP”); 603 CMR 28.06(2) (“Team shall determine if the student shall be served in an in-district placement or an out-of-district placement and shall determine the specific placement according to the following requirements:”); 603 CMR 28.06(2)(d) (“ In-district placement . The placement decision made by the Team shall indicate the specific program setting in which services will be provided.”); In Re: Boston , BSEA # 04-2506, 10 MSER 311 (MA SEA 2004) (discussing the regulations, regulatory history, and state advisory relative to placement decisions by the IEP Team); Administrative Advisory SPED 2001-5: Updating of IEP Process Guide and IEP Form and Notices , dated June 11, 2001, found at: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/advisories/01_5.html
20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(3) and (4); Knable ex rel. Knable v. Bexley City School Dist. , 238 F.3d 755, 764-767 (6 th Cir. 2001).
20 USCS § 1415(f)(3)(E)(2)(ii); Deal v. Hamilton County Board of Education, 392 F.3d 840 (6 th Cir. 2004) (predetermination by a school district of what must be considered by the IEP Team amounts to denial of FAPE); Roland M. v. Concord Sch. Comm., 910 F.2d 983, 994-95 (1st Cir. 1990) (denial of FAPE when school district “seriously hampered the parents’ opportunity to participate in the formulation process”).
Sch. Comm. of Burlington v. Dep’t of Educ. of Mass., 471 U.S. 359, 368 (1985).
Schaffer v. Weast , 546 U.S. 49,
See, e.g., Amanda J. v. Clark Cty. Sch. Dist , 267 F.3d 877, 891, 892 (9 th Cir. 2001): “Not only will parents fight for what is in their child’s best interests, but because they observe their children in a multitude of different situations, they have a unique perspective of their child’s special needs. . . . Procedural violations that interfere with parental participation in the IEP formulation process undermine the very essence of the IDEA. An IEP which addresses the unique needs of the child cannot be developed if those people who are most familiar with the child’s needs are not involved or fully informed.” In the instant dispute, Parents’ involvement with and knowledge of Student easily fall within this Court’s description of parents in the Amanda J. dispute.
See 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(3)(C) (“regular education teacher of the child, as a member of the IEP Team, shall, to the extent appropriate, participate in the development of the IEP of the child, including the determination of appropriate positive behavioral interventions and supports”).
20 USC 1400(d)(1)(A); 20 USC 1412(a)(1)(A); 20 USC 1412(a)(5)(A); MGL c. 71B, ss. 2, 3.
20 USC 1412(a)(5)(A); MGL c. 71B, ss. 2, 3; 34 CFR 300.114(a)(2(i); 603 CMR 28.06(2)(c). See also Burlington v. Mass. Department of Education , 471 US 359, 369 (1985) (federal statute “contemplates that such education will be provided where possible in regular public schools, with the child participating as much as possible in the same activities as nonhandicapped children”); Rome Sch. Comm. v. Mrs. B., 247 F.3d 29, 33 (1st Cir. 2001) (“ mainstreaming may not be ignored, even to fulfill substantive educational criteria”) , quoting Roland v. Concord School Committee , 910 F.2d 983, 992-993 (1 st Cir. 1990); Board of Education of LaGrange School District No. 105 v. Illinois State Board of Education , 184 F.3d 912, 916 (7 th Cir. 1999) (placement proposal, which did not enable the student to share a classroom with typically developing children, did not satisfy mainstreaming requirement because student’s disability and IEP did not prevent him from benefiting educationally in a more inclusive setting).
MGL c. 71B, s.3.
Dr. Dinklage has conducted two neuropsychological evaluations of Student and has reviewed Student’s recent behavior incidents as well as Belmont’s Proposed Behavior Intervention Plan and Addendum. Although Dr. Dinklage’s most recent evaluation is a year old and although he does not have any recent first hand knowledge of Student at school or at home, Dr. Dinklage’s very significant expertise and experience (including significant work with school districts) together with his clinical understanding of Student allowed him to provide credible and persuasive expert testimony regarding Student’s strengths and weaknesses, and what interventions would likely be helpful or unhelpful in correcting Student’s behaviors. Testimony of Dr. Dinklage; exhibits P-4 (December 2006 evaluation), P-5 (November 2003 evaluation), P-6 (resume).
Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim has been seeing Student regularly in therapy since the 1 st grade and has been in contact with Belmont staff regarding Student and his behavior difficulties. As a clinical psychologist who is Student’s therapist, Dr. Gehrenbeck-Shim provided a unique and valuable perspective through his testimony. Testimony of Gehrenbeck-Shim; exhibit P-8 (resume).
Both Parents provided clear, reliable, balanced, and credible testimony based on their extensive and intimate knowledge of their son. Parents did not testify as expert witnesses with respect to their son’s behavior. However, their testimony provided perceptive and invaluable insights as to what influences their son’s behavior, both positive and negative.