Blythe and Ralph Mahar Public Schools – BSEA # 06-1342
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
Bureau of Special Education Appeals
In Re: Blythe1 & Ralph C. Mahar Public Schools
Ruling on the School’s Motion to Join the Department of Mental Retardation and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
On September 26, 2005, the Parents filed a hearing request at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals. The Parents sought rescission of the high school diploma awarded by Ralph C. Mahar Public Schools to Blythe in June 2005. They also sought a finding that the School owed Blythe compensatory special education services due to its failure to provide appropriate transitional services to Blythe during her period of eligibility for special education services. For several months thereafter the School and the Parents attempted to resolve their disagreement without direct BSEA intervention. On April 25, 2006, the School requested Joinder of two state agencies that provide services to adults with disabilities: The Department of Mental Retardation and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Both state agencies oppose joinder. The Parent does not oppose joinder, but continues to seek rescission of the Student’s diploma. A hearing on the School’s Motion to Join was held by conference telephone call on June 15, 2006. Representatives of all affected entities participated.
The predicate facts are not in dispute:
1. Blythe, age 19, received special education services through Orange Public Schools/Ralph C. Mahar Public Schools beginning at approximately age 6 through June 2005, when she received a high school diploma. She carries diagnoses of intellectual impairment and anxiety disorder. She lives with her parents who exercise guardianship through a Probate Court appointment.
2. Blythe’s last accepted IEP covered the period September 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005. It included goals and services in language arts, organizational skills and transitional counseling. The parties agree that Blythe has limited independent vocational and functional skills. After a brief team meeting in May 2005, Blythe’s parents signed a document entitled “Discharge from Special Education Services effective June 3, 2005”. They contend they were not told, and did not understand, that by signing this document and accepting Blythe’s high school diploma, Blythe’s eligibility for special education services would be terminated. They further assert that they were never told by the school, and that they did not know, that Blythe could be eligible for special education services until the age of 22.
3. On August 19, 2005, Blythe’s parents wrote to the School, requesting that Blythe’s diploma be “revoked or suspended”. They also indicated that at the time the diploma was issued they did not understand the legal and procedural consequences of accepting the diploma. They enclosed the paper diploma stating that they were “returning” it and requested a Team meeting.
4. Blythe was found eligible to receive services through the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (hereinafter the “MRC”) in June 2003, after a Chapter 688 referral. She is not, at this time, receiving any direct services through the MRC.
5. Blythe was found eligible for adult services through the Department of Mental Retardation (hereinafter the “DMR”) in May 2005. She is not currently receiving any vocational or habilitatitve services through DMR.
BSEA Rule 1J permits a BSEA hearing officer to join another public agency to an IDEA action involving a student and her/his local school district when complete relief cannot be fashioned in the absence of the proposed party agency. See also 603 CMR 28.08(3) and 34 CFR 300.42; In Re: Plymouth Public Schools , 12 MSER 33 (2006).
In this matter the relief requested by the Student, rescission of a high school diploma, would lie entirely with the responsible school district. Neither the DMR nor the MRC has any connection to the school district’s determination in June 2005 that Blythe had met all appropriate local, state and IDEA standards for graduation. Indeed the DMR and the MRC cannot determine what type or level of adult services are currently appropriate for Blythe without knowing whether she is or will be receiving ongoing educational support through the public school. Their participation in a hearing would not assist me in deciding whether the issuance of a high school a diploma to Blythe in June 2005, was substantively and/or procedurally flawed, and whether the parents’ initial acceptance of that diploma should be set aside. Therefore I find there is no basis under BSEA Rule 1J for the involuntary joinder of the DMR and the MRC to this appeal. See : In Re: Chicopee Public Schools , 12 MSER 108 (2006).
1. The Motion of the Ralph C. Mahar Public Schools to Join the Department of Mental Retardation is DENIED .
2. The Motion of the Ralph C. Mahar Public Schools to Join the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission is DENIED .
3. The parties shall submit written status updates, including a minimum of five mutually agreeable dates for hearing, no later than July 28, 2006.
Lindsay Byrne, Hearing Officer
“Blythe” is a pseudonym chosen by the Hearing Officer to protect the privacy of the Student in publicly available documents.