Change of Current Educational Placement
In a recent Pennsylvania case, R.B. v. Mastery Charter School, although the procedural history is a bit messy, the district court ruled in favor of the parent on the issue of pendency where the school had decided, without the parent's consent, to disenroll the child from school due to her frequent absences. The child in this case was a teenage girl with Down's syndrome and a number of other cognitive and physical disabilities, and her frequent absences were related to these physical disabilities. The school believed that she was hurting their "attendance figures" and eliminated her from the program.
The district court, in the course of ruling for the parent, clarified the difference between a change in a child's educational placement (which triggers the stay-put provision) vs. a change in the location of the program (which does not trigger stay-put). A change in placement means a fundamental change in the program that signifcantly affects the child's leanring experience as opposed to some other inconsequential modification. The court, reasonably, decided that unilaterally disenrolling a child from your school is a change in the child's program/placement because the child was totally removed from the school and completely deprived of services, and the school did nothing to identify an alternate placement. The child, therefore, had a right to continue at the public school and the court ordered the school to reinstate R.B.'s school enrollment until the legal proceedings are concluded.
NOTE: In some sitiuations where it doesn't significantly affect the child's program, a school may change the location of the student's program without triggering stay-put. But here, the school did nothing to find R.B. another location and basically just left the family out to dry, violating its responsibility under the law. In this case it may not have made a difference anyway because there was support for the fact that the child needed to attend this particular school due to its proximity to her home and her doctor.