Facts: The student was eligible for special education as a student with a learning disability in the areas of basic reading, reading comprehension, written expression, mathematics calculation, mathematics problem solving, and a speech impairment. The student engaged in a disciplinary incident that resulted in out of school suspension and a recommendation for placement in the district’s disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP). A manifestation determination review was conducted and the Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) Committee determined that the student’s behavior was not a manifestation of the student’s learning disabilities or speech impairment. The student was then placed at the DAEP. The mother appealed the discipline and the district granted the appeal, in part. The student returned to campus and was placed in in-school suspension. Sometime later, the student was involved in an incident, which the parent claimed constituted bullying. The parent filed a request for a due process hearing claiming that the student was (1) improperly disciplined and (2) subjected to bullying that resulted in a denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
Holding: The hearing officer found in favor of the district on each of the student’s claims. The hearing officer noted that the student carried the burden of proof to establish a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The student, however, failed to prove that the disciplinary conduct was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to the student’s disability. Nor was the conduct the direct result of the district’s failure to implement the student’s individualized education plan (IEP). Contrary to the student’s contentions, the district was not required to hold an ARD meeting prior to assessing the student’s punishment. In addition, the evidence was insufficient to establish a pattern of educational placement removals in violation of the IDEA. Finally, the hearing officer determined that the student was not subjected to bullying that resulted in a denial of FAPE. The hearing officer, therefore, ruled in favor of the district on each of the student’s claims.