IM this article to a friend!

April 1, 2003

Stratham board moves on

From: Exeter News Letter, NH - Apr 1, 2003

By Larissa Mulkern

STRATHAM - A two-year legal battle between a local couple and the Stratham School Board is officially over now that the board voted not to appeal a federal court decision that ruled in the parent's favor.

The case involved Beth and Davit Petit, the parents of a hearing impaired 6-year-old son who in 1999 underwent surgery to receive a cochlear implant. When the school district refused to pay travel and other expenses related to the programming of the implant, the Petits pursued the case in the state and federal court. In February, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph DiClerico upheld the state Education Department ruling that the school district was responsible for the costs under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA.)

The board voted not to appeal at its March 26 meeting, making two motions after coming out of a non-public session; the first was not to appeal the case, the second was to pay the Petits' attorneys fees, she said.

The school district paid attorneys' fees for legal work conducted at the state and federal court levels, covered expert fees, and the original request for mileage reimbursement - the total amount of the check was $49,841.52, including the approximate $1,800 in mileage and co-payments for programming the implant that the district had refused to reimburse.

Petit said it was a long battle and she's glad its over.

"It's almost like it hasn't sunk in yet," said Petit. "We're just hoping this is the end of the bumps in the road, and we move on."

She addressed the School Board before it voted, asking members to move on.

"We hope that you are as anxious as we are to see an end to this conflict. We would like to begin building a positive relationship that is based on trust. That cannot happen if litigation continues between us," she said.

In the legal battle, school district attorneys had argued federal law does not cover cochlear implant services because the implant is not an acoustical hearing aid, and is not included in a listing of sample-related services specified in the law.

The federal and lower court decision essentially identifies cochlear implant mapping services as a necessary service even if it isn't specifically listed. The court said since the school district's Individualized Education Plan for the boy is based on his using the cochlear implant to communicate, it must provide services necessary for him to use the device.

Copyright © 2003 Seacoast Online. All rights reserved.