A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit against Central York School District in which parents alleged their child didn’t receive an adequate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, finding the suit was time-barred under the discovery rule.
Chief U.S. District Judge Christopher C. Conner of the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted the school district’s motion for summary judgment on the lawsuit filed by the parents, identified in the opinion as Beth and Kevin P.
Beth and Kevin’s son, Brady P., was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), requiring him to be put on an individual education plan. According to Conner’s opinion, Brady has difficulty with verbal expression and language processing.
The parents transferred Brady out of York Central when he was in fourth grade, citing his behavioral problems and unhappiness at school as the reasons. He was subsequently enrolled in a cyber charter school, where he was given a new IEP.
Brady’s mother claimed her child was unable to read or understand the textbook. Brady was evaluated and determined eligible for special education because of an autism diagnosis and speech impairment.
The parents later filed a complaint against York Central, alleging Brady was not afforded a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in terms of learning social skills, communication, and being given occupational therapy. They also claimed the school district failed to properly evaluate Brady’s disabilities. A hearing officer determined that the parents “knew or should have known” about the school district’s alleged failure to evaluate Brady’s disabilities three years before filing their complaint.
The parents contested the decision, arguing that the hearing officer did not apply the correct date to when the statute of limitations began to run. But Conner upheld the hearing officer’s ruling that the parents complaint was filed outside of the statute.
“Parents misapprehend application of the discovery rule to the claims sub judice. The discovery rule concerns the moment in time when a reasonably diligent plaintiff discovers facts that provide notice of an existing or ongoing injury,” Conner said. “Parents were not required to ‘predict’ that Brady would not improve from the Wilson instruction provided to him after the March 5, 2013 meeting. Dr. Ingram clearly stated that Brady was already at serious risk of never becoming a competent reader and writer despite the specialized education he received from the school district from kindergarten through third grade. At that time, reasonably diligent parents, such as plaintiffs herein, were on notice of possible existing injury to their child which may have also been ongoing.”
Daniel M. Fennick of Anderson, Converse and Fennick represents the parents and did not respond to a request for comment.
Brooke E.D. Say of Stock and Leader represents the school district.
“The District is delighted that Judge Conner has further stressed the discovery rule’s focus on identifying facts showing a clear action/inaction by a district sufficient to alert a reasonable parent that the child would not be appropriately accommodated, instead of imposing a heightened ‘knowledge’ standard,” she said in an email. “Further, the decision recognizes that it is not inconsistent for a parent to attempt to work with a district, while simultaneously exercising due diligence to investigate potential concerns with the district’s provision of a FAPE.”