Wednesday, August 5, 2009

AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGER WINS CASE AGAINST LOWER MERION SCHOOLS: She is to be compensated for the loss of years of meaningful education

After listening to testimony over eight days, an administrative hearing officer ruled that the Lower Merion School District denied its 17-year old African American high school student, C.H., a free and appropriate public education, June 2009. C.H. is a student with learning disabilities in mathematics, reading and writing. She aspires to attend college. Her compensation includes, but is not limited to, intensive instruction from Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes in Bryn Mawr.

The hearing officer’s opinion outlines a litany of basic failures on the part of the district to understand C.H.’s current level of educational attainment or to set measurable goals to improve. As a result, the remedial courses offered to C.H. were not tied to her actual needs. For example, while the district knew about C.H.’s learning disability in math, it failed to ascertain what skills she had attained or provide any goals for her improvement. According to the hearing officer, the district official’s explanation for this omission of math goals was “not logical”; there is a basic need, the hearing officer observed, for a baseline evaluation and then goals to measure progress from that baseline. The hearing officer similarly characterized as “sparse” the goals for reading and writing, observing that none of them was measurable. “Had the [Individualized Education Plans] been more precisely focused through reading, mathematics and written expression goals that were sufficiently broken down, and crafted with specific baselines and outcomes that were measurable, the actual remedial teaching might have occurred in such a way as to demonstrate meaningful progress. Unfortunately, this was not the case and C.H. was therefore denied [an education.]”