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KATTAN v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

August 9, 1988

SARAH KATTAN, by her parents and next friends, Susan J. Thomas and Joseph Kattan, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants


Joyce Hens Green, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

JOYCE HENS GREEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 Plaintiff Sarah Kattan, a five-year-old multiply-handicapped child residing in the District of Columbia, is eligible for special education and related services pursuant to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act ("EHA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1461. This action, brought pursuant to EHA, appeals the hearing officer's determination of February 23, 1988 that the Lafayette Noncategorical Pre-School Program ("Lafayette"), a District of Columbia public school program for handicapped children, was an appropriate placement for Sarah for the 1987-88 school year. *fn1" Plaintiffs also seek a permanent injunction:

 (1) directing defendants to place and fund the minor plaintiff at Ivymount School ("Ivymount") and provide her with related services for the 1988-89 school year;

 (2) prohibiting defendants from changing the minor plaintiff's educational placement for a period of two years without the express consent of her parents;

 (3) prohibiting defendants from designating Hearing Officer Lois Hochauser to participate in any administrative hearing concerning the minor plaintiff;

 (4) directing defendants to reimburse plaintiffs for their cost of securing testimony of expert witnesses in connection with the February 8, 1988 session of the administrative hearing; and

 (5) directing defendants to provide and pay for speech and occupational therapy ("OT") for the minor plaintiff pending her placement in a special education program consistent with the terms of her Individualized Educational Program ("IEP"). *fn2"

 I. Factual Background

 On July 16, 1987, Sarah's parents submitted a Confidential Student Services Form to the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") requesting special education for the minor plaintiff. At the time, Sarah's parents had unilaterally placed Sarah at a private pre-school program, the D.C. Jewish Community Center ("DCJCC") Day Care, where she received outside speech and occupational therapy on a weekly basis. Sarah remained at the DCJCC for the 1987-88 school year. On October 26, 1987, DCPS completed an IEP for Sarah that identified her as multiply-disabled with specific deficits in the neuro-motor, sensory integration, speech and communication, socialization, and self-help areas and called for a full-time special education placement with special services. *fn3" On November 24, 1987, DCPS mailed a Notice of Proposed Change in Educational Placement ("Notice") to plaintiffs. The Notice, dated October 30, 1987, proposed placing Sarah at Lafayette.

 On December 9, 1987, plaintiffs requested the first of two due process hearings pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(2), claiming that DCPS's proposed placement was inappropriate and untimely. On January 25, 1988, the hearing was convened and the hearing officer determined that DCPS violated the applicable time period in placing Sarah. The officer did not, however, award plaintiffs their tuition expenses at DCJCC incurred pending the delayed placement. Subsequently, plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration of this determination.

 At the second administrative hearing on February 8, 1988, the hearing officer considered the appropriateness of Lafayette and Sarah's current placement at the DCJCC. After this hearing, Hearing Officer Hochauser determined that Lafayette was appropriate *fn4" and that Sarah's current placement at the DCJCC was inappropriate because it could not meet the minor child's "special education needs and [could] not provide the services described in her IEP." *fn5" In addition, she found that although DCPS had violated the prescribed time frame in placing Sarah, DCPS was not required to fund Sarah's current placement because that placement was inappropriate. However, the hearing officer held DCPS financially responsible for Sarah's outside occupational and speech therapy because both therapies were appropriate and because DCPS had failed to abide by the time restrictions in providing these services. *fn6"

 Plaintiffs now seek judicial review of the hearing officer's determinations. With the commendable cooperation of both parties, and in recognition of the importance of Sarah's needs and the imminence of the 1988-89 school year, this case has proceeded from the outset by expedited briefing and was promptly set for a final hearing on the merits. For the reasons set forth below the Court finds for plaintiffs on the two major issues presented -- that Lafayette was not an appropriate placement for ...


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