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Argued: November 5, 2001

The Delaware Valley School District (District) petitions the Court for review of the May 9, 2001 order of the Special Education Appeals Panel (Appeals Panel). The Appeals Panel affirmed a Special Education Hearing Officer’s decision to require the District to reimburse Robert and Mary G. (Parents) for tuition, boarding and transportation costs for their 13-year-old son Daniel’s placement at the Oakland School, a private school located in Keswick, Virginia, and to require the placement to remain until the District offers Daniel an appropriate program. The hearing officer determined that the District did not offer an appropriate program for the 2000-2001 school year and that the Parents’ unilateral placement was appropriate. The District contends that the hearing officer capriciously disregarded evidence in making her findings of fact, failed to apply the proper standard of law in determining the appropriateness of the Parents’ unilateral placement and failed to issue a reasoned decision.

Daniel suffers from a neurological “decoding disorder” that complicates his education primarily in the areas of reading, language arts and writing. Daniel’s difficulties began at an early age. At three months, he was diagnosed with vision problems, specifically strabismus nystagmus. He was diagnosed as autistic at the age of nineteen months and was enrolled in an early intervention program. The autism diagnosis was eventually dropped, and Daniel entered a regular kindergarten program in the District, but he encountered difficulties there and failed to progress in the curriculum. Daniel attended 1st grade in a school in Virginia, and he was identified by the Virginia school system as eligible for special education as well as speech and vision therapy.

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