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Special Education Hearing Officer Makes Ruling Regarding Student Evaluations

Special Education Hearing Officer Makes Ruling Regarding Student Evaluations

On June 10, a hearing was held regarding a case between a pre-teen aged student and the Bethlehem Area School District. The student in question resides in the District but is in an IU program located in a different district. The student is eligible for special education under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is regarded as an “individual with a disability.” The hearing was requested by the student’s parents, alleging that the District did not evaluate the student in all areas of suspected disability. 

Issues Presented

There were two issues presented to the Special Education Hearing Officer before the hearing began:

  • Did the District provide the Student with an appropriate evaluation in all areas of suspected disability?
  • If not, must the District fund independent educational evaluations in the areas of neuropsychology, speech/language, assistive technology, occupational therapy including sensory integration, functional behavior analysis and/or physical therapy?

Background Information

The student in question was born outside of the United States mainland and does not speak English as their first language. They received Head Start preschool services outside of the mainland. This included speech/language, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. In 2010, they were classified as having autism. The student came to the mainland U.S. in 2012. 

In the U.S., the child was evaluated in several areas over the course of different years. In 2013 through 2015, the child received Psychological, Speech/Language, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy evaluations. In 2017, they were reevaluated in several different areas. This included Psychological, Speech/Language, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy. During none of the evaluations was a Functional Behavior Analysis or Assistive Technology evaluation conducted. Some, but not all, of these evaluations took place with a bilingual psychologist. 

The student is currently IDEA-eligible due to multiple disabilities, intellectual disability, and speech/language impairment. However, the student is not currently classified as autistic on their record and it is unclear when the diagnosis was dropped.

Ruling

The Special Education Hearing Officer who reviewed this case, Linda Valentini, found that the District did not provide the student with an appropriate reevaluation in all areas of suspected disability in 2017. It is required that the District fund independent evaluations in Speech/Language, Assistive Technology, and Occupational Therapy specifically Sensory Integration. These evaluations were to be conducted with reports sent to the respective parties within 60 days following Officer Valentini’s order. However, the District is was not found responsible for funding independent evaluations in Neuropsychology or Physical Therapy. 

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