class members' access to a free, appropriate education in immediate jeopardy and is tantamount to a change of placement without the procedural safeguards provided by the IDEA. See Cox v. Brown, 498 F. Supp. at 827-30; Fisher v. District of Columbia, 828 F. Supp. at 88-90. There is a strong and very real threat that class members will be expelled from private institutions if the District of Columbia fails to pay its bills in a timely fashion. Compare Cochran v. District of Columbia, 660 F. Supp. 314, 316 (D.D.C. 1987) (no showing that plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction because there was no evidence that school was threatening to expel the student for non-payment).
The Court also finds that, if allowed to continue, the payment practices of the DCPS will lead to private providers' refusal to continue offering services to DCPS students, which will in turn make it impossible for students who have had their placements or related services terminated to obtain the instruction and services to meet their unique needs. The decrease in available services is also hindering the ability to fulfill the needs of students who have been determined by an administrative decision or by agreement with the DCPS to be eligible to receive private placement or related services but have not yet been placed or received services. Finally, the Court finds that the uncertainty over the consequences of the DCPS' actions is exacting a psychological, emotional and physical toll on many of the students in the plaintiff class. Irreparable harm has been demonstrated clearly and dramatically. See Cox v. Brown, 498 F. Supp. at 829.
C. The Public Interest
Defendants acknowledge their statutory obligation to pay for the class members' placements and services, but argue that the District of Columbia's dire financial situation prevents them from meeting that obligation promptly. They urge the Court to recognize that the District of Columbia's cash flow problems affect all District of Columbia services and argue that the Court should not selectively become a collection agency for one type of aggrieved party seeking payment from the District.
Unfortunately for the District, in this and numerous other situations now facing it, difficult financial constraints do not relieve the District of Columbia from its statutory obligations. See Fisher v. District of Columbia, 828 F. Supp. at 89-90; Grace B. v. Lexington School Committee, 762 F. Supp. 416, 420 (D. Mass. 1991). Unless such relief is provided by the City Council or, in this case, the Congress, "the court's role . . . is to enforce existing law, not to recast the statute to ameliorate the District's financial crisis." Lampkin v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 92-910, slip op. at 23 (D.D.C. March 7, 1995) (RCL). The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act requires that the class members' placements be fully funded and that the District of Columbia provide the funding in a timely fashion to ensure that the students' placements or related services are not terminated or interrupted.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court has granted plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and ordered the District of Columbia to make timely payments for private placements and related services, to pay in full, and to assure that students placed in private schools by the DCPS and DCPS students receiving related services from private providers will have their placements or services fully paid on time. The Court is confident that with payment assured by the Court's Order, and recognizing that the Court has the power to hold the defendants in contempt if they do not comply, the private schools and service providers will not interrupt or terminate placements or services, and will continue to meet the needs of DCPS students who require such placements or services. Consistent with this Opinion, the Court entered a Preliminary Injunction on March 17, 1995.
PAUL L. FRIEDMAN
United States District Judge