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Student v. Pflugerville ISD, Dkt. No. 017-SE-0915 (Hearing Officer Lucius Bunton, Feb. 19, 2016).

Facts:  The student had a history of developmental delays in communication, socialization, motor skills, and emotional maturity.  The student was eligible for special education and related services for an emotional disturbance, specific learning disabilities, and a speech impairment.  His individualized education program (IEP) included goals in behavior, speech fluency and pragmatics, math, reading, and counseling.  Data showed that the student was successful in the student’s educational placement when the student lived at home.   However, the parents did not agree and they moved the student to a series of residential facilities.  The parents later requested a due process hearing seeking reimbursement from Pflugerville ISD for the costs of the private placement, because the student resided within the District’s boundaries.

Holding:  The hearing officer determined that the District was not required to pay for the student’s residential placement.  The evidence presented at the hearing did not prove that the placement for which the parents sought reimbursement was an appropriate placement primarily because the treatment facility served a medical purpose, rather than an educational purpose.  The parents’ intent in their unilateral placement decision was for therapeutic medical treatment.  The parents did not allow the student to attend school in the District, which would have allowed an Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) Committee to consider an appropriate placement for the student.   According to the hearing officer, the District properly evaluated the student and designed a placement, but the parents did not allow the District to actually serve the student.  Instead, they unilaterally placed the student in the residential facility.  According to the hearing officer, the parents failed to prove that the residential facility was appropriate and failed to provide evidence justifying reimbursement for the private facility or private evaluations.

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