McAndrews Law Office Wins Federal Court Decision For Tuition Reimbursement
By Dennis C. McAndrews
McAndrews Law Offices recently prevailed in another case in Federal District Court. In L.G. v. West Chester Area School District, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania reversed a decision by a Pennsylvania Special Education Hearing Officer which granted only limited tuition reimbursement due to the District’s failure to offer an appropriate educational program to the child. The federal court expanded the tuition reimbursement to the complete time period allowed under the statute of limitations.
The Court found that under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act the District’s obligation to identify the student as a child with a disability, and to provide an appropriate program, extended back well into the child’s educational past, and that the District improperly ignored significant evidence of the child’s disability and need for specialized interventions. Despite clear warning signs of the child’s disability, including behavioral issues, depression, and attendance problems, the District failed to identify the student, thus entitling the parents to tuition reimbursement for a program at the King George School.
The District Court also found that the School District violated IDEA, albeit at a later date, by failing to 1) identify the child, and 2) provide an appropriate Individualized Education Program. Because IDEA specifically delineates particular categories of disabilities, unlike Section 504 which includes any disability which substantially impacts learning or other major life activities, the District’s obligation to identify the child arose at an earlier date under Section 504. The remedy of tuition reimbursement was found to be available under both statutes.