The opinion of the court was delivered by: EMMET SULLIVAN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs are disabled children who are eligible for special education
and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (2003). Defendants are the District of
Columbia; the Superintendent of District of Columbia Public Schools; the
Assistant Superintendent of District of Columbia Public Schools, Anne
Gay; and the Director of Policy and Planning for District of Columbia
Public Schools, Judith Smith, Esq. Pending before the Court are the
parties' cross motions for summary judgment. The central issue is whether
defendants (collectively "DCPS") have complied with the IDEA;
specifically, whether DCPS has provided plaintiffs with a "free
appropriate public education that emphasizes special
education and related services designed to meet [plaintiffs'] unique
needs." 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (d)(1)(a); see also Petties v. District of
Columbia, 238 F. Supp.2d 114, 116 (D.D.C. 2002).
The plaintiff-students are currently enrolled at the McLean School, a
non-public school serving children with learning disabilities, and their
continued placement at McLean is not currently at issue.*fn1 Rather,
plaintiffs argue that they are due reimbursement from DCPS for the cost
of educating five students at McLean, costs plaintiffs have thus-far paid
out of their own pockets.*fn2 Plaintiffs allege that defendants
the educational services at issue, but in February of 2002 "abruptly
ceased funding" plaintiffs' education, and that DCPS also advised McLean
and plaintiffs' parents that it would seek return of previous funding for
plaintiffs' education at McLean in 2001-2002. Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J. at
4. Plaintiffs thus seek reimbursement in the amount of $31, 367.50,*fn3
as well as an order that DCPS cannot reclaim any payments made for the
2001-2002 school year. Defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment
counters that Plaintiffs Bodnar, Shirk, and Spilsbury are not entitled to
reimbursement for tutoring expenses, and that Plaintiff Bodnar is not
entitled to reimbursement for psychological therapy.
Upon careful consideration of the motions, the responses and replies
thereto, the oral arguments of counsel, as well as the governing
statutory and case law, and for the following reasons,
it is by the Court hereby ORDERED that plaintiffs' motion for summary
judgment is GRANTED; and it is FURTHER ORDERED that defendants' motion
for summary judgment is DENIED.
This case is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary
judgment. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 56, summary
judgment should be granted only if the moving party has shown that there
are no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986); Waterhouse v. District of
Columbia, 298 F.3d 989, 991 (D.C. Cir. 2002). Likewise, in ruling on
cross-motions for summary judgment, the court shall grant summary
judgment only if one of the moving parties is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law upon material facts that are not genuinely disputed. See
Rhoads v. McFerran, 517 F.2d 66, 67 (2d Cir. 1975).
The central issue before the Court is whether defendants have fulfilled
their obligation under the IDEA, as well as this Court's Order granting
injunctive relief, to provide a free public education to plaintiffs. The
Court must determine
whether plaintiffs are entitled to reimbursement for personal money spent
on the students' education, and whether DCPS is entitled to reimbursement
for what it now claims were mistaken payments for plaintiffs' education
for the 2001-2002 school year.
The IDEA'S purpose is to ensure that all children with disabilities are
able to receive a free public education that is tailored to meet their
specialized needs. To make certain that disabled children can truly access
the educational services they require, the IDEA provides that a disabled
child's parents, teachers, and other professionals annually confer and
establish a written "individualized education program"("IEP") for each
child. See 20 U.S.C. § 1401(11); 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d) (requiring
that each IEP include a statement of needs, services, learning aids, and
programs that should be made available to the student). After an IEP is
developed, the school system is required to "provide an appropriate
placement that meets those needs and, if appropriate public placement is
unavailable, the school system must provide an appropriate private
placement or make available educational-related services provided by
private organizations to supplement a private placement." Petties, 238 F.
Supp.2d at 116.
If the school system proposes to fundamentally change a child's
educational placement during this process, parents are entitled to
challenge that change through an appeal process. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f).
During the pendency of such an appeal, the IDEA provides that the child
will "stay-put" that is, maintain her "current educational
placement" until any appeal or ongoing litigation is resolved.
20 U.S.C. § 1415(j).
B. Plaintiffs' "Current Educational Placement"
To resolve whether DCPS is required to fund the plaintiffs' McLean
education, the Court must first determine whether McLean was each
plaintiff's current educational placement, and thus the proper place for
plaintiffs to remain during their appeal of the 2001-02 IEPs. The parties
disagree on the issue of proper placement, in large part due to a dispute
as to which IEPs-the 2000-01 IEPs or the 2001-02 IEPs-set forth
plaintiffs' current educational placements. Plaintiffs posit that the
2000-01 IEPs control, whereas defendants argue that the 2001-02 IEPs (the
IEPs challenged by plaintiffs) dictate the plaintiffs' current
The 2001-02 IEPs proposed fundamental changes in plaintiffs'
educational programs, namely removal from the McLean School.
Plaintiffs made use of IDEA'S procedural safeguards, challenged the
implementation of the 2001-02 IEPs, and were awarded stay-put protection
by this Court's March 8, 2002 Order. See supra note 1. Thus, because the
students attended McLean prior to the development of the 2001-02 IEPs,
plaintiffs continued to be enrolled at McLean School and to receive the
educational services provided for in their previous (2000-01) IEPs.
However, DCPS refused to fund these services, arguing that the 2001-02
IEPs the challenged IEPs dictate the students' placements
and required educational services. In essence, defendants argue that the
2001-02 IEPs were developed prior to the commencement of the 2001-2002
school year, and thus control which educational services need to be
provided during that school year. Since the 2001-02 IEPs proposed to