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J.S. v. RAMAPO CENT. SCHOOL DIST.

September 21, 2001

J.S. & M.S., INDIVIDUALLY AND J.S., A MINOR BY HIS MOTHER AND LEGAL GUARDIAN, M.S., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RAMAPO CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcmahon, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiffs and defendant cross-move for summary judgment.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Jeffrey is an eighteen year old with a learning disability. His learning disability became apparent as early as the second grade, when he was classified by the District as a child with special academic needs.

Jeffrey's ninth grade individualized education program ("IEP") revealed a fifth grade reading ability, severe language deficits and comprehensive problems. Mrs. S sought services from the District to address her son's needs. The District maintained that Jeffrey did not qualify for remedial reading because his ability was not low enough — and that he could and would meet the standards of a New York State Regent's Diploma.

The District issued another IEP in 1998 ("1998 IEP"). The 1998 IEP attempted to address Jeffrey's academic needs by placing him in a resource room for 180 minutes weekly, and providing him speech and languages services two times per week for 30 minute periods in both individual and small group instruction. According to plaintiffs, the 1998 IEP was insufficient. As a result, Mrs. S. hired a psychotherapist, Dr. Starishevsky, and a tutor, Lynn Giacomarra, to help her son.

Jeffrey's report card for the 1998-99 academic year (his tenth grade) reflected that Jeffrey had failed every subject during the fourth quarter, and a failing final yearly grade average in all subjects except "resource room." In a May 12, 1999 annual review, the District conducted a speech and language evaluation, an educational evaluation, a classroom observation evaluation, and a psychological evaluation.

In June 1999, the District's Committee on Special Education ("CSE") met and considered Jeffrey's educational needs relating to his need to repeat the tenth grade. CSE developed an IEP dated June 22, 1999 (the "1999 IEP") that recommended that Jeffrey's interests might be best served by his attending a special education program in Rockland County. However, according to plaintiffs, the CSE informed Mrs. S that it was unclear whether alternative programs in Rockland County could accommodate Jeffrey. Despite a promise to make the arrangements to enable Mrs. S to look at the programs that might be available, the District never got back to her until long after the decision had to be made as to where Jeffrey would attend school in the 1999-2000 school year.

Mrs. S then hired a special education consultant, Marilyn Arons. Arons reviewed Jeffrey's academic history, his educational test results, and the evaluations of his performance and learning disabilities. Arons also met with Jeffrey to evaluate his academic challenges, and to develop an appropriate plan to reverse his failing performance.

Arons proposed to Lee Kapleau, chairperson of the District's CSE, that Jeffrey be placed at The Pine Ridge School in Vermont ("Pine Ridge"), which was on the emergency approved placement list for New York State schools. Kapleau told Arons that if Mrs. S planned to dispute the recommended 1999 IEP, then she was free to request a due process hearing.

Mrs. S enrolled Jeffrey at Pine Ridge for the 1999-2000 school year.

The due process hearing was held on January 24, 2000, February 24, 2000, and February 28, 2000, during which Lee Kapleau testified as the only witness. At all times during the hearings, Ms. Arons served ...


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