Toolbox Tuesday!!

A district in Pennsylvania pulled a student with a learning disability out of his mainstream placement and placed him in a private school that operated a “partial hospitalization program.”  The student attended that program for one year.  Then the parent requested a special education due process hearing, alleging that the district failed to comply with the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) mandate.

The hearing officer ruled in favor of the district and the federal district court affirmed, but the opinion provides little analysis.  What’s noteworthy about the case for Toolbox purposes is how a single concern over safety of one particular student led the district to take strong action. 

The Toolbox is our firm’s one-day training program designed to address the legal issues surrounding services to students with disabilities who engage in troublesome behaviors. One of the ten “tools” (Tool #3) is an Educational Change of Placement Without Parent Consent.  That is what happened here, and it was entirely motivated by one boy’s obsession with one girl. 

There had been a few incidents between the students, and the district had addressed both students in an effort to ensure safety.  But it came to a boiling point when the student revealed his thinking to the principal:

During that interview, Principal Kattan asked [the student] how he would feel if, hypothetically, the female student became involved in a romantic relationship with another person.   [The student] responded that he would light the person on fire with gasoline and matches, and that he would do the same to a future spouse should the female student marry in the future.


The court upheld the IEP Team’s decision to move the boy to a more restrictive setting.  The court applied the 3rd Circuit’s LRE test, which is slightly different from the Daniel R.R. test we use in the 5th Circuit.  The court held that the student’s mental health needs required a more restrictive setting. 

When using Tool #3, the school has to convince the hearing officer of three facts: 1) the current arrangement is not working; 2) we have worked hard to make it work; and 3) we have something better to offer.  The court in this case was satisfied that the more restrictive setting was the right one. The case is J.S. v. Keystone Oaks School District, decided by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on March 31, 2020.  We found it on Special Ed Connection at 76 IDELR 125. 


Tomorrow: Boring but important.