The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 18, 2014

Mom files 2nd lawsuit vs. WR over special ed

— TURBOTVILLE — Another civil lawsuit has been filed against the Warrior Run School District by a parent who alleges a second child has been denied special education services and was discriminated against in the process.

Barbara Perrin filed the suit in U.S. Middle District Court on Monday, claiming the district wrongfully denied her child special education and an Individualized Educational Program in a discriminatory fashion by employing an out-of-state hearing officer who determined the student was not eligible for the services following an evaluation.

It’s the second time Perrin has sued Warrior Run.

The first lawsuit filed in 2012 involved her daughter, a student-athlete who was denied special education services after suffering two concussions that allegedly caused her grades to drop and other issues.

Both suits are pending in federal court, said Perrin’s attorney, Phillip Drumheiser, of Carlisle.

Monday’s suit involves Perrin’s son and alleges that Warrior Run denied his eligibility for special education services more than a year ago. In November, Perrin requested a due process hearing and the Office for Dispute Resolution, which is responsible for selecting, training and assigning special education hearing officers, assigned hearing officer James Gerl.

Gerl held two hearings before issuing a decision on March 17 denying Perrin’s request for services.

Drumheiser said that assignment of Gerl, who lives in West Virginia, instead of one of six full-time, Pennsylvania-based hearing officers, is discriminatory.

He said the Office for Dispute Resolution has adopted a policy that students living in the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, including Warrior Run, must have all special education hearings assigned to Gerl.

“Students in the CSIU are being denied access to a pool of officers who work together and are creating a body of decisions,” Drumheiser said, adding that Gerl’s decisions have been consistent in denying students access to special education services.

“We don’t know what standards he’s applying.”

Lynn Cromley, the CSIU’s chief administrative officer, defends the long-time practice.

Because the six Pennsylvania-based special education hearing officers are employees of the CSIU, she said, bringing in out-of-state officers to hear cases involving Pennsylvania students within the CSIU helps avoid the perception of a conflict.

“It’s for objectivity and to avoid the potential or perception of a conflict of interest,” Cromley said. “All of the (out-of-state) hearing officers are highly qualified and knowledgeable about the law.”


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