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Maksym v. Strongsville City School District

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

August 22, 2013

Joanne Maksym, parent of Steven Maksym, Plaintiff,
v.
Strongsville City School District, Defendant.

Memorandum of Opinion and Order

PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

The matter before this Court is an administrative appeal. Appellant appeals the State Level Review Officer's decision to affirm the Impartial Hearing Officer's conclusion that defendant did not deny plaintiff a "free appropriate public education." For the reasons that follow, judgment on the administrative record is GRANTED in favor of defendant.

FACTS

The facts of this case are largely undisputed, although the parties' interpretation of those facts occasionally differs. Plaintiff, Steven Maksym[1], suffers from galactosemia, a rare metabolic disorder that has caused him brain damage, cerebral palsy, and other problems. Plaintiff previously attended the Strongsville City School District ("School District") during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. Plaintiff aged out of the School District after the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

It appears that, beginning in October of 2009, several meetings were held by the Individual Education Plan ("IEP") team at which plaintiff's educational goals were discussed. On October 30, 2009, the IEP team completed a first draft of the transition goals for the upcoming IEP. Although plaintiff's mother ("Parent") was invited, she did not attend the meeting. On November 4 and 11, 2009, the IEP team met with Parent and discussed reducing the amount of phonics instruction and increasing functional life skills instruction to enable plaintiff to transfer into the "adult" world. On or about November 20, 2009, the School District sent Parent a draft IEP. Three meetings were held in December. At one of the meetings, Parent requested that the School District conduct situational assessments. The School District contacted Polaris and asked it to complete a situational assessment at its Community Work Experience program.

Thereafter, on March 2, 2010, the IEP team met to review the assessment and continue development of the IEP plan. On March 5, 2010, Parent complained to the school that the School District was discriminating against plaintiff. In response, on March 12, 2010, the School District provided Parent a PR-01. Parent responded to the PR-01 on March 22, 2010. She indicated that "there were no new issues presented in her March 22nd letter, as they were consistent with prior requests.'" On April 13, 2010, the team agreed that plaintiff would participate in the Polaris program for the last quarter of the year. In addition, at Parent's request, the IEP team agreed to review plaintiff's "transition goals" in September of 2010.

On June 8, 2010, the IEP team met with Parent. The School District presented Parent with a 2010-2011 IEP, which the School District considered to be a draft. At the meeting, Parent refused to sign the IEP. Rather, she left the meeting abruptly stating, "If there is no access to the general curriculum and there is no Board Approved Curriculum to write this IEP, then there is no point in continuing." The remainder of the IEP team signed the IEP, which provided goals in Language Arts, Math, Reading, and Employability Skills. Goal 1 focused on functional writing and speaking skills. The objectives included ensuring that plaintiff could "communicate a message or a note when prompted; using a reference card, he would accurately place information in the proper areas filling out personal data on a form, including his name, address, telephone number, date of birth and name of parents; and doing the same without a reference card. Goal 2 focused on reading and comprehension and Goal 3 focused on functional mathematics, which included things like accurately counting coins and purchasing items with a calculator and determining change. Goals 4 and 5 were revised in September of 2010 to comport with plaintiff's placement at Polaris. These goals focused on multi-step work tasks and work speed.

Prior to 2010-2011, plaintiff received dedicated English and math classes. Part of these classes included 60-minutes per week of one-on-one instruction in both subjects. Plaintiff's schedule changed significantly during this final year. Plaintiff was placed in a "community work experience" program known as Polaris for the first four periods of the day. Three remaining instructional periods existed each day. Two of these periods were for a "transition to work" class ("TTW") that included embedded reading and math skills. The final period, i.e., eighth period, was initially a study hall.

On September 29, 2010, a meeting was held at Parent's request. Plaintiff's mother strongly objected to the eighth period placement and the School District assigned plaintiff to the guidance office to work as an "aide." On November 5, 2010, the IEP team again met to discuss Parent's concerns regarding transportation issues. The IEP team agreed to add district-provided transportation and the IEP was revised to so reflect. The IEP team again met with all service providers on February 28, 2011. Parent again expressed concerns about plaintiff's eighth period assignment and the School District placed plaintiff in an art exploration class for three days each week.

The IEP team met again on June 1, 2011. At this meeting, the IEP team determined that plaintiff was eligible for the extended school year ("ESY") program. The team signed an agreement regarding plaintiff's eligibility. Parent refused to sign because she "agree[d] with the ESY, but [did] not agree with the delivery of services in [his] current IEP."

On July 6, 2011, plaintiff filed a request for Due Process before an Impartial Hearing Officer ("IHO"). A hearing was held over the course of 14 hearing days and 13 witnesses were called to testify. The IHO concluded that plaintiff failed to establish that the School District violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act ("IDEA"). Thereafter, plaintiff appealed the decision to the Ohio Department of Education's State Level Review Officer ("SLRO"). Plaintiff challenged only two conclusions reached by the IHO. Specifically, plaintiff argued that the School District committed a procedural violation of the IDEA by engaging in predetermination. Plaintiff also claimed that he derived no educational benefit from his eighth period placement. The SLRO rejected both arguments and affirmed the findings made by the IHO.

Thereafter, plaintiff filed this appeal, which is now ...


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