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IDEA Public Charter School v. District of Columbia

June 21, 2005

IDEA PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1401 et. seq. ("IDEA") and Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 300 on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment ("Pl. Mot."). Defendant filed an opposition to plaintiff's motion for summary judgment ("Def. Mot."). Plaintiff then filed a reply to defendant's opposition to plaintiff's motion for summary judgment ("Pl. Opp'n"). Upon consideration of the filings, the entire record herein and the relevant law, the Court will deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, and dismiss the case with prejudice.

I. Procedural Posture

In accordance with section 1415(f) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), plaintiff initiated an impartial due process hearing before a hearing officer, which was held on January 9, 2004. The Hearing Officer ("HO") in this case rendered a decision and order on February 2, 2004. See Hearing Officer's Determination. Plaintiff then filed a timely complaint in this Court on March 24, 2004. See Plaintiff's Complaint ("Compl."). Plaintiff named both the District of Columbia and Vivian Moore, parent of the child involved, as defendants in the suit. On April 26, 2004, Vivian Moore filed a Motion to Dismiss as to defendant Moore. See Defendant Moore's Motion to Dismiss. On May 21, 2004 this Court granted the Motion to Dismiss as to defendant Moore. See Court's May 21 Order. The case then proceeded with the District of Columbia as the sole defendant. Defendant filed an answer to plaintiff's complaint on June 4, 2004. See Defendant's Answer.

II. Background

Plaintiff is a District of Columbia Public Charter School ("Charter School") which is its own Local Educational Agency ("LEA") created by the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS"). (Hearing Officer's Determination ("HO Det.") at 1). Defendant is the District of Columbia, which, as one of its governmental functions, operates the District of Columbia Public School System. (Compl. ¶ 4).

On May 22, 2003, the parent of thirteen year-old Victor signed a consent for evaluation form for special education services at Ron Brown Middle School. (HO Det. at 1). The purpose of requesting the evaluation was to determine whether Victor qualified for a special education as provided for under IDEA. DCPS failed to complete an evaluation of the student for special education services within the statutory period. (Id.) The student subsequently transferred to the Charter School for the 2003-2004 academic school year. (Id.) Upon learning of the request for evaluations, the Charter School completed the required evaluations itself. (Id.) The evaluations performed by Charter School consisted of a psycho-educational and clinical psychological, in the amount of $1,150.00. (Id.)

On December 3, 2003, the Charter School requested an impartial due process hearing for the cost of conducting the evaluations. (Compl. ¶ 8). The due process hearing was held on January 9, 2004. (Id. at ¶ 9). Hearing Officer H. St. Clair ordered a brief filed by the Counsel for the Charter School on the issue of the applicability of Due Process for controversies between LEAs under 34 C.F.R. § 300.507 when present denial of a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE") is not alleged. (HO Det. at 1). After briefs were received, Hearing Officer St. Clair determined that 34 C.F.R. § 300.507 did not confer subject matter jurisdiction over this matter. (Id. at 1). In making his decision, the hearing officer determined that the purposes of Part B of IDEA are set out at 34 C.F.R. § 300.1, and nowhere among them is protection for an LEA contemplated. (Id. at 2). Additionally, because section 300.507 is set out under "Due Process Procedures for Children and Parents" which is under Subpart E, "Procedural Safeguards," the application of this section was intended for the protection of children and parents only, not an LEA. (Id.) The Hearing Officer then determined that the regulation does extend to an LEA filing for a due process hearing against a parent when there is an allegation of present denial of FAPE. (Id. at 2). The Hearing Officer also determined that since reimbursement is only authorized under 34 C.F.R. § 300.403 for parents to recover the costs of a child's education, reimbursement as requested here is nowhere permitted under the regulations. (Id.)

Plaintiff contends Hearing Officer St. Clair erred on two points. (Compl. ¶ 17). Plaintiff first alleges that St. Clair erred in finding that the subject matter in this case is not within the jurisdiction conferred by 34 C.F.R. § 300.507(a)(1). (Id.) Plaintiff further contends that St. Clair erred in finding that no where under Part B of IDEA are the rights of an LEA protected and that under Subpart E only children and parents were meant to be protected. (Id.)

Relying on 34 C.F.R. § 300.507(a)(1), plaintiff asserts that the Hearing Officer did, in fact, have jurisdiction to order DCPS to reimburse Charter School for the costs of the independent evaluation in light of the regulation which allows "[a] parent or a public agency [to] initiate a hearing on any of the matters described in sec. 300.503(a)(1) and (2) (relating to the identification, evaluation or educational placement of a child with a disability, or the provision of FAPE to the child.)" (Id. quoting 34 C.F.R. § 300.507(a)(1)). As a result, plaintiff contends that Charter School's claim for reimbursement for the costs of the evaluation is a matter related to the evaluation and identification of the student. (Id.)

Plaintiff seeks summary judgment ordering the February 24, 2004 decision of the Hearing Officer be vacated; ordering DCPS to reimburse Charter School for the cost of conducting the independent psycho-educational and clinical psychological evaluations; ordering DCPS to reimburse Charter School for the costs of conducting the independent speech/language evaluation once it is completed; and ordering an award of attorney's fees and costs to the plaintiff. (Pl. Mot. at 7). Defendant opposes plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Hearing Officer St. Clair's determinations were proper. (Def. Mot. at 8). Defendant seeks an order denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and ordering the plaintiff's complaint dismissed with prejudice. (Id.)

III. Applicable Law

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) when no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). As with Rule 12(b)(6) motions for dismissal, facts and inferences drawn from those facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). Summary judgment may still be granted, however, if evidence favoring the non-moving party is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). Once the moving party files a proper summary judgment motion, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 ...


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