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In re C.S.

August 1, 2002

IN RE C.S.


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Family Division (J-579-99) (Hon. Natalia Combs Greene, Trial Judge)

Before Schwelb, Reid, and Washington, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Associate Judge Washington

Concurring opinion by Associate Judge Reid

Washington, Associate Judge: In this juvenile delinquency case, *fn1 C.S. asserts that because the trial court entered a disposition *fn2 on August 30, 2000, prior to the completion of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), *fn3 the determination of the trial court should be vacated. Specifically, C.S. argues that an IEP was required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); *fn4 the spirit of the juvenile justice laws; *fn5 and the trial court's order, making the disposition of C.S.'s case improper prior to the completion of an IEP. Because none of these reasons compel the trial court to consider an IEP before entering a disposition, there is no basis for this court to set aside the disposition order and accordingly, we affirm.

Facts

At the age of fifteen, C.S. was arrested on March 19, 1999, at Hamilton Alternative School, with a large butcher knife in her handbag. C.S. brought the butcher knife to school to threaten a classmate. C.S. plead responsible for possessing a prohibited weapon. See D.C. Code § 22-3214(b) (1994). As a result, C.S. was placed on probation for one year. C.S. then violated the conditions of her probation and her probation was revoked on April 24, 2000. According to the record, C.S.'s probation was revoked because she failed to keep scheduled appointments with her probation officer; failed to maintain satisfactory attendance at school; did not adhere to her court ordered curfew; continued to use illegal drugs; and neglected to take her medication.

On April 25, 2000, the trial court ordered both a psychiatric evaluation and a psychological evaluation be performed on C.S., and the results were provided to the trial court. On July 11, 2000, the trial court ordered the treatment team working with C.S. to submit a treatment plan, recommending a proper disposition for C.S., and any other results by July 26, 2000. The trial court, in the same order, asked that an IEP be completed. A treatment plan was supplied to the trial court but it did not include an IEP. On August 30, 2000, the disposition judge entered an order, without an IEP, committing C.S. to the custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS) until she reached the age of 21, and directing that she be placed at Woodside Hospital. *fn6

The trial court selected Woodside Hospital as C.S.'s residential placement because C.S.'s needs are many fold. C.S. has a protein deficiency, and she has developed a blood clot and is required to take blood thinning medication. This presents the risk of C.S. being more susceptible to serious harm if injured on the one hand, and at serious risk for sending a clot to her lung, brain, or heart if she does not take the medicine as prescribed, on the other hand. In addition, C.S. has threatened suicide on more than one occasion and has attempted to run away. On the occasions that C.S. has run away, C.S., claims to have stayed with older men. C.S. has a history of sexual promiscuity. Moreover, with C.S. carrying knives, the trial court rationally believed that C.S. not only put herself at risk of harm but also put others at risk as well. In fact, C.S., in a discussion with a staff member at Woodside Hospital, disclosed a past incident where she threatened a peer with a firearm due to a disagreement about a boy.

Analysis

C.S. first asserts that the trial court ignored federal law by failing to ensure that her statutory rights under IDEA were recognized and protected during her disposition. C.S. contends that because the trial court did not follow the steps delineated by the IDEA, it is not possible that she will receive the appropriate educational benefits at her residential placement. We disagree.

Contrary to the assertions by C.S., the IDEA , a federal program, does not purport to dictate to States how they must run their juvenile justice system. The IDEA is an education statute that provides funding to States "to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate education" that emphasizes their unique needs. 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (d) (1997). The IDEA is administered in the District of Columbia by the District of Columbia Public School System (DCPS). See D.C. Code § 31-1861(a) (1999). *fn7 DCPS is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all children with disabilities in the District of Columbia "receive a free appropriate education in accordance with IDEA." Petties v. District of Columbia, 894 F.Supp. 465, 466 (D.C. Cir. 1995); see 20 U.S.C. § 1412 (a) (1997). The regulations discussing state eligibility under IDEA explain that DCPS is required to ensure that an IEP is developed for each child with a disability. See id. at § 1412 (4) (1997). However, nothing in the IDEA requires that an IEP be created or reviewed prior to entering a disposition in a juvenile delinquency case. See In re J.J., 431 A.2d 587, 593 n.16 (D.C. 1981).

The sole judicial remedy provided for by the IDEA is a civil suit, which may only be brought subsequent to an administrative hearing before the local education board. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415 (1995); see also In re J.A.G., 443 A.2d 13, 17 (D.C. 1982). Congress intended that those with claims under the IDEA "pursue those claims through the carefully tailored administrative and judicial mechanism set out in the statute." Bonar v. Ambach, 771 F.2d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1985). Accordingly, the proper course of action for an aggrieved parent or child under IDEA is to bring an action against the state educational agency. See id. at § 1415 (1997).

Similar to the IDEA, our Juvenile delinquency laws do not require that an IEP be completed before a juvenile disposition order is entered. See D.C. Code §§ 16-2301 et seq. (Repl. 1997). Our juvenile justice laws merely require that "the Division [shall] direct that a pre-disposition study and report to the Division be made by the director of Social Services or a qualified agency designated by the Division concerning the child." D.C. Code § 16-2319 (1995); see Super. Ct. Juv. R. 32 (b); see also In re M.C.S., 555 A.2d 463, 464 (D.C. 1989).

In this case, a pre-disposition report was ordered and considered by the trial court before the disposition order was entered. C.S. does not challenge the contents of the report nor cite to any infirmity in the preparation of the report that would require that the disposition be vacated. *fn8 Accordingly, we discern no error in the procedure followed by the trial court and conclude that the trial judge's decision to enter a ...


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