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MOSS v. SMITH

July 13, 1992

DAOUD MOSS, by his grandmother and next friend, JALIL MUTAKABBIR, and JALIL MUTAKABBIR, Plaintiffs,
v.
FRANKLIN L. SMITH, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY S. HARRIS

 Before the Court is plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO). Upon consideration of the motion, and the oral arguments presented to the Court on July 10, 1992, in support thereof and in opposition thereto, the Court sua sponte dismisses the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

 Facts

 Plaintiff Jalil Mutakabbir brings this action on behalf of her grandson, Daoud Moss, against Franklin Smith in his capacity as Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and the District of Columbia (D.C.). Plaintiff Moss is an eleven year-old "Seriously Emotionally Disturbed and Learning Disabled" student. For the 1991-92 school year Moss was enrolled at the School for Contemporary Education (SCE), where he was funded by the DCPS pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). See 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.. Currently, SCE has a contract dispute with the DCPS over the amount of funds the DCPS owes SCE for Moss and the other DCPS students who attended SCE during the 1991-92 school year. Consequently, SCE has notified the DCPS that, absent assurances from the DCPS that a certain sum will be paid to SCE for the 1992-93 school year, SCE will not reserve spaces for the DCPS students. Plaintiffs, believing SCE to be the only appropriate placement for Moss and fearing the loss of his space at the school, filed this action. Plaintiffs seek a TRO "requiring DCPS to issue a written letter of agreement to SCE regarding the SCE 1992-93 rates for tuition and related services in the amount of $ 28,696.00 at [SCE] for Daoud Moss for the 1992-93 school year forthwith." Complaint, at 9.

 Discussion

 The Statutory Framework

 The IDEA requires in part that D.C. provide a "free appropriate public education" to all children with disabilities. 20 U.S.C § 1412. In addition, the IDEA "establishes an elaborate procedural mechanism to protect the rights of handicapped children." Smith v. Robinson, 468 U.S. 992, 104 S. Ct. 3457, 3467-68, 82 L. Ed. 2d 746 (1984). These procedures are set forth at 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b). Section 1415(b) provides in part that parents or guardians must be provided "an opportunity to present complaints with respect to any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free appropriate public education to such child." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(1)(E). *fn1" When a guardian makes a complaint, she is entitled to a due process hearing before either the state or local educational agency. See id. § 1415(b)(2). If the hearing is held before the local educational agency, she is entitled to appeal the decision to the state educational agency. See id. § 1415(c). At these hearings, the guardian may be accompanied by both counsel and experts, present evidence and cross-examine witnesses, as well as obtain a record of the hearing and written findings and decisions of the hearing officer. If aggrieved by the findings and decision of the hearing officer, the guardian may file suit in federal court pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2). See id. § 1415(e)(2).

 Subject Matter Jurisdiction

 Exhaustion

 Plaintiffs base federal jurisdiction of this action on § 1415(e)(2). This section provides in part that:

 any party aggrieved by the findings and decision made under subsection (b) of this section who does not have the right to an appeal under subsection (c) of this section, and any party aggrieved by the findings and decision under subsection (c) of this section, shall have the right to bring a civil action with respect to the complaint presented pursuant to this section . . . in a district court of the United States without regard to the amount in controversy.

 Id. § 1415(e)(2).

 This language makes it clear that Congress intended plaintiffs to exhaust the administrative remedies under the IDEA before bringing suit in federal court. See Smith v. Robinson, 104 S. Ct. at 3468 (noting that allowing an equal protection claim without requiring exhaustion under the predecessor statute to the IDEA "not only would . . . render superfluous most of the detailed procedural protections outlined in the statute, but, more important, it would also run counter to Congress' view than the needs of handicapped children are best accommodated by having the parents and the local education agency work together to formulate an individualized plan for each handicapped child's education"). Here, plaintiffs have not exhausted the administrative process: they have made no complaint to the DCPS nor have they' requested a due process hearing. *fn2"

 Therefore, plaintiffs may bring this suit only upon a showing that exhaustion of the administrative remedies would be futile or inadequate. Cox v. Jenkins, 278 App. D.C. 312, 878 F.2d 414, 418-19 (D.C. Cir. 1989) (citing Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 108 S. Ct. 592, 606, 98 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1988)). Plaintiffs have failed to make such a showing. Plaintiffs contend that "without the TRO, [Moss] will in all likelihood be denied a free appropriate education during the 1992-93 school year." Plaintiffs' Memorandum, at 1. Plaintiffs' statement is based on the assumption that the "DCPS has no placement for him within the public schools." Id. However, at oral argument, defendants informed the Court that the DCPS has a place for Moss at the Rose School for the 1992-93 ...


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