Judge refuses to support mother's claim that Coatesville Area School District violated Americans with Disabilities Act

By Sandra Lane | Aug 16, 2018

PHILADELPHIA – A parent’s petition to compel school administrators to provide better educational services for her son, who has learning disabilities, was denied on July 12 by U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The student, Jack, through his parent, Jennifer S., filed suit on Nov. 18, 2016, against the Coatesville Area School District, alleging violations of federal laws protecting people with disabilities that included the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to court documents. 

The plaintiff was seeking “a compensatory education for the period of January 27, 2016, through May 8, 2017, and an order that the District provide Student with appropriate educational services in the future.”

Jack’s parent Jennifer felt that the school district was not providing Jack with an education appropriate for a student with Jack’s limitations, as outlined in the court documents. The court provided only first names of the plaintiffs to protect the confidentiality of the child, who was a minor.

She said the district failed to provide instruction for study skills and organizational and executive functioning skills. She also complained that Jack was not receiving instruction in a special education classroom as promised and that the District failed to provide appropriate supports for Jack’s well-documented behavioral needs such as attention deficit, according to the court documents.

As a result, parent Jennifer filed a Special Education Due Process Complaint, which was denied by a Pennsylvania special education hearing officer. The parent's next action was to file a complaint with this court.

As stated in the court’s opinion, there were two cross-motions for judgment on the administrative record before the court. Judge Baylson ruled, “After reviewing the record and giving due weight to the findings of the Hearing Officer, this Court will affirm the administrative decision, grant the District’s motion, and deny Parent’s motion.”

The judge listed his reasons for upholding the district’s motion. In his ruling, he stated that Jack had received a free and appropriate public education. The district had proven that there were multiple special education classrooms where Jack went to take tests and to receive instruction from special education teachers

Parent Jennifer had expressed doubt that Jack’s report card grades gave a true picture of his progress and achievements. On the contrary, the district hearing officer said, “The record is more than preponderant that Student made appropriate and meaningful progress during the relevant time.” 

Additionally, the district argued that “there was not even a suggestion that Jack’s grades were not reflective of his true functioning, and, therefore there is absolutely no reason for the Court to de-emphasize the grades or disagree with the Hearing Officer’s reliance on them.” Parent Jennifer also claimed that the district had violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.

In his closing statement, Judge Baylson said, “Having considered the Cross-Motions for Judgment on the Administrative Record of Plaintiff Jack J. through his Parent Jennifer S., and Defendant Coatesville Area School District, and for the reasons explained in the foregoing memorandum, it is hereby ordered that Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record is denied, and Defendant’s Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record is granted. The Complaint is dismissed with prejudice, and the Clerk shall close the case.”

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Coatesville Area Senior High School U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

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