A hearing was requested by Appellants in an e-mail sent to the Department of Education. The issues included whether Damian should be permitted to attend the high school prom at Mason City High School and whether his placement should be changed from the alternative educational setting back to the high school for the remainder of the 2003-2004 school year. Damian recently turned 18 years old and he is a student with disabilities. His participation in extracurricular activities, which applies to prom attendance, is specifically addressed as part of his IEP.
The initial assignment to Damian's alternative placement was confirmed in a special education due ;process hearing on November 11, 2002. The most recent staffing was held on February 19, 2004. Appellants expressed concerned that Damian be educated in the least restrictive environment where he would have access to classes he wanted to take. At the heart of much of the discussions was the question of the danger Damian poses to other students in attending the high school prom and in returning to Mason City High School. When asked by the administrative law judge as to whether there were other students at the high school with a similar diagnosis, the associate principal at the high school indicated that there were and that these students were permitted to attend prom.
In relation to whether Damian be allowed to return to the high school, one of the major reasons given for him not being allowed to return was the lack of therapeutic progress in his program in relation to his behavioral needs. The supervisor of special education services in the District was concerned that Damian had refused counseling as offered in the IEP and there is a pattern of nonattendance.
From Damian and his parents point of view, Damian has shown significant progress and does not pose a threat. A significant issue in Damian's situation was the question of whether the school provided sufficient support in planning for his transition needs following high school completion. Testimony did clarify that Damian is on track to graduate and the plans supporting his transition to postsecondary opportunities would be a priority.
In a ruling dated April 26, 2004, the ALJ ruled that Damian should be permitted to attend prom. The ALJ expressed that the school had not established a compelling reason as to why Damian could not be accommodated. To change Damian's placement back to the high school with less than one month left in the school year would not provide benefits that would compensate for the possible loss in program gains.