whatever its cost, defendants automatically bear financial responsibility. The only determination the Hearing Officer ever makes is one of adequacy; the financial burden falls depending upon that determination.
Although the parties have misunderstood the Hearing Officer's role, the plaintiffs misconstrue the role of this court when they request it to immediately place Carlotta at the Christ Church program. It is accurate that the plaintiffs were not provided the full and open hearing by the Hearing Officer which they should have received. As such, their appeal to this court for relief was proper. The hearing at this court, however, did not address the issue of whether the Sharpe School was appropriate for Carlotta and, in no way, enlarged the Hearing Officer's proceedings. In that abyss the court cannot make that imperative determination merely on the basis of the reports attached to plaintiffs' pleadings, not even having heard defendants' experts as to how Sharpe contrasts with Christ Church and what benefits Sharpe offers Carlotta which may be deficient in the Christ Church program. There is no need for the court to now usurp the Hearing Officer's role, since a full hearing on appropriateness must still take place, and the Hearing Officer's expertise in such matters given the guidance in this opinion will hopefully provide the most just result for all concerned.
Plaintiffs, however, are in a particularly difficult situation due to the relentless pressures of time: the school year began at the Sharpe School on the day of the hearing before this court, and at the Christ Church School one day later. Even if there is some debate over the appropriateness of Sharpe or Christ Church, there is no question that Carlotta's entering either program a month late would be highly inappropriate, and even further disadvantage this handicapped child. A month lost in the life of a child is forever lost, an "eternity", while which type of education she should have received passes back and forth through examination and evaluation. This is not to say that the decision should be made without careful consideration, but only that deliberation must be quick, precise, and trustingly correct. For that purpose, on an abbreviated schedule, this case will be remanded to the defendants for continued administrative procedures, tailoring those procedures to the exigencies of this situation.
Accordingly, the parties will return to complete the hearing before the Hearing Officer, in the full form as described above, within five days of the date of this order. The only proposal the Hearing Officer may consider is the defendants' proposal of the Sharpe School program. In so doing, however, the Hearing Officer may also evaluate all evidence the plaintiffs wish to present concerning the Sharpe School and Christ Church or any other program which they feel is more appropriate. The Hearing Officer may not be swayed by considerations other than the appropriateness of the Sharpe program (vis-a-vis Christ Church and all other programs available), and in particular may not consider the fact that Christ Church is a privately-owned institution, while Sharpe is public. The only decision which the Hearing Officer may make is whether or not to approve the defendants' Sharpe proposal. Under no circumstances may the Hearing Officer order that Carlotta be placed in Christ Church. The Hearing Officer must submit his decision and findings no later than five days after the date of the hearing.
If the Hearing Officer determines that the Sharpe Health Center is in fact the most appropriate place for Carlotta, and the plaintiffs still wish to contest that placement, then they have their right to an appeal from that determination to this court.
If, on the other hand, the Hearing Officer concludes that the Sharpe proposal is inappropriate, the usual procedure would be for him to return the case to the school district for a new proposal, which must be forthcoming in twenty days. In Carlotta's case, however, the school district has already been granted one extension of time after defendants admitted their untimely failure to make any proposal for Carlotta's placement within the specified time limits.
Should the Hearing Officer conclude that the Sharpe Health Center is not an appropriate placement, it would be disserving, indeed, clearly inappropriate, to return Carlotta's case back to the school district for yet another twenty-day wait. Defendants, therefore, will be given five days in which to make a second recommendation in the event that their Sharpe proposal is found by the Hearing Officer to be inappropriate. As provided by statute, either plaintiffs or defendants may appeal the Hearing Officer's decision concerning the Sharpe proposal.
Should the school district be unable to state an appropriate second proposal within the time specified, or if its proposal is one which plaintiffs feel indicates bad faith in order to avoid placing Carlotta in any particular program or at any private facility, the plaintiffs may seek injunctive relief from this court at such time.
It is, therefore, by the Court, this 23rd day of September, 1981
1. Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction be and it hereby is denied.
2. A declaratory judgment of the rights of plaintiffs Carlotta Davis, William and Amy Davis is granted, as set out in this Opinion.
3. Plaintiffs' prayer for injunctive relief by immediately placing Carlotta Davis at the Christ Church Child Center without further administrative process is denied without prejudice to plaintiffs seeking said relief, if appropriate, following completion of said administrative process, as detailed in this opinion.
The case is remanded to the Hearing Officer for a hearing and determination not inconsistent with this opinion.
Should the parties be unable to reach an agreement concerning attorneys' fees, plaintiffs may seek relief with accompanying detail, verification and points and authorities upon the requested reopening of this case for such purpose.