115C-109.9. Review by review officer; appeals.

(a) Any party aggrieved by the findings and decision of a hearing officer under G.S. 115C-109.6 or G.S. 115C-109.8 may appeal the findings and decision within 30 days after receipt of notice of the decision by filing a written notice of appeal with the person designated by the State Board under G.S. 107.2(b)(9) to receive notices. The State Board, through the Exceptional Children Division, shall appoint a Review Officer from a pool of review officers approved by the State Board of Education. The Review Officer shall conduct an impartial review of the findings and decision appealed under this section. The Review Officer conducting this review shall make an independent decision upon completion of the review. The decision of the Review Officer becomes final unless an aggrieved party brings a civil action under subsection (d) of this section. A copy of the decision shall be served upon each party, and a copy shall be furnished to the attorneys of record and the Office of Administrative Hearings. The written notice shall contain a statement informing the parties of the right to file a civil action and the 30-day limitation period for filing a civil action under subsection (d) of this section.

(b) A Review Officer shall be an educator or other professional who is knowledgeable about special education and who possesses other qualifications as may be established by the State Board of Education. No person may be appointed as a Review Officer if that person is an employee of the State Board of Education, the Department of Public Instruction, or the local educational agency that has been involved in the education or care of the child whose parents have filed the petition.

(c) The State Board may enforce the final decision of the administrative law judge under G.S. 115C-109.6, if not appealed under this section, or the final decision of the Review Officer, by ordering a local educational agency:

(1) To provide a child with appropriate education;

(2) To place a child in a private school that is approved to provide special education and that can provide the child an appropriate education; or

(3) To reimburse parents for reasonable private school placement costs in accordance with this Article and IDEA when it is determined that the local educational agency did not offer or provide the child with appropriate education and the private school in which the parent placed the child was an approved school and did provide the child an appropriate education.

(d) Any party that does not have the right to appeal under this Part and any party who is aggrieved by the decision of the Review Officer under this section may institute a civil action in State court within 30 days after receipt of the notice of the decision or in federal court as provided in 20 U.S.C. 1415.

(e) Except as provided under IDEA, upon the filing of a petition under G.S. 115C-109.6 and during the pendency of any proceedings under this Part, the child must remain in the child's then-current educational placement or, if applying for initial admission to a public school, the child must be placed in the public school. Notwithstanding this subsection, the parties may agree in writing to a different educational placement for the child during the pendency of any proceedings under this Part. (2006-69, s. 2.)