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Handleman v. Board of Education of Penfield Central School Dist.

October 19, 2007

MARGARET HANDLEMAN, PARENT OF A DISABLED STUDENT, MAYA HANDLEMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF PENFIELD CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Margaret Handelman, parent of a disabled student and acting on her own behalf and as representative of her minor child Maya Handelman ("plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to the Individuals in Education with Disabilities Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1401 et seq. against defendant the Board of Education of Penfield Central School District (the "District"), seeking review of an administrative decision, which was reversed by the State Review Officer of the New York State Education Department, that allowed plaintiff to be reimbursed for an independent evaluation as well as tuition reimbursement for plaintiff's placement of her daughter in a private school.

By motion dated March 30, 2007, plaintiff moves for permission to supplement the administrative record created in response to an impartial hearing request and a subsequent appeal to the New York Office of State Review. Defendant opposes plaintiff's motion to supplement the record arguing that there are no special circumstances in this case warranting the Court's hearing or receiving additional evidence.

For the reasons set forth above, I deny the plaintiff's motion to Supplement the Administrative Record.

BACKGROUND

Maya Handelman ("Maya") has been diagnosed with a number of disorders including attachment disorder, dysthymic disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder. She is currently a tenth grade student with a disability, classified as emotionally disturbed.

Maya's mother, the plaintiff herein, resides in the Penfield Central School District. Maya attended classes at the District's Bay Trail Middle School until November 3, 2005. In the beginning of the 2005 school year, Maya refused to engage in her schoolwork and, as of the fifth week of school, was not passing. However, according to plaintiff, the staff did not recommend changes to deal with Maya's failures and lack of motivation. Maya's history,*fn1 together with her failures in October 2005 and the District staff's inability to recommend any changes, prompted plaintiff to find help elsewhere. Initially, plaintiff met with Maya's social worker, Jane Richards-Hyde, at Bay Trail Middle School. Ms. Richards-Hyde directed plaintiff to consult with George Posner, Ph.D., an educational consultant.

In October 2005, plaintiff met with Dr. Posner to discuss Maya's needs. Based upon Dr. Posner's recommendation and agreed to by Ms. Richards-Hyde, plaintiff decided that Maya would attend a program called Second Nature Entrada ("Second Nature"). Maya stayed at Second Nature from November 4, 2005 until February 2006. While at Second Nature, Matthew Hoag, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, performed a comprehensive assessment of Maya's cognitive, academic achievement and social and emotional activities. As a result of his tests, Dr. Hoag recommended that Maya be transferred to a therapeutic residential school. Maya's primary therapist at Second Nature, Dr. Paul Goddard, also suggested a residential program. Accordingly, Maya transferred from Second Nature to Logan River Academy ("Logan River"), a therapeutic boarding school in Logan, Utah on or about February 10, 2006.

Plaintiff attended two meetings of the Committee on Special Education ("CSE") in the fall of 2005 for Maya's annual review. The first meeting was a sub-committee meeting on October 20, 2005, wherein plaintiff requested that the CSE consider placing Maya in a residential program. The second meeting, which involved the full committee, occurred on November 21, 2005. Rather than recommend residential placement, the CSE recommended day treatment, and accordingly, issued an Individualized Education Plan ("IEP").

By letter dated January 13, 2006, plaintiff requested an impartial hearing in response to CSE's recommendation raising a number of issues including procedural and substantive violations under the IDEA and the New York State Education Law Article 89. With respect to the procedural violations, plaintiff alleged, among other things, the District's failure to include a representative from Monroe County at the CSE meetings and the failure to evaluate Maya. As to substantive issues, plaintiff alleged that Maya's IEP, developed at a CSE meeting on November 21, 2005, inadequately described Maya's present levels of performance, failed to include relevant goals and objectives and offered an inappropriate program and placement. As required, plaintiff provided a solution that included a request for reimbursement of Dr. Hoag's comprehensive evaluation and for tuition and related expenses for her unilateral placement of Maya at a therapeutic boarding school.

An Impartial Hearing Officer ("IHO") rendered a decision on June 26, 2006 and determined that plaintiff was entitled to reimbursement for Dr. Hoag's evaluation and for Maya's unilateral placement at Logan River. The District filed a petition for review to the Office of State Review ("OSR") on July 31, 2006. On September 18, 2006, the State Review Officer ("SRO") issued a decision reversing the IHO except with his finding that the District failed to offer a free appropriate public education. Further, the SRO concluded that the District had sufficiently evaluated Maya, that it had not made available an appropriate program and placement, that services at Logan River were appropriate to meet Maya's need but that it did not satisfy the least restrictive environment ("LRE") requirement. Plaintiff filed her Complaint on January 10, 2007.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard For Receiving ...


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