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District of Columbia v. Bertilaramirez

July 1, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge


Plaintiff, the District of Columbia, brings this suit against C.G-R., a minor, and his parents (collectively, "defendants") under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA" or "the Act"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq.(2005). Plaintiff challenges the determination of a D.C. Public Schools ("DCPS") hearing officer that the IDEA requires plaintiff to provide C.G-R., who is confined to a wheelchair, with transportation between the door of his family's apartment and his school bus.*fn1 Compl. ¶¶ 25-27. Defendants argue that plaintiff has shown no basis on which the Court may disturb the hearing officer's determination ("HOD"), and that, in any case, the IDEA and plaintiff's own municipal code and regulations require plaintiff to provide C.G-R. with transportation from his apartment door to the DCPS bus.

Now pending before the Court is plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, seeking what is effectively a judgment on the Administrative Record (the "Record"). Plaintiffs ask the Court to reverse the portions of the HOD which require it to provide a transportation aide to assist C.GR. Defendants oppose this motion and request that the HOD be affirmed. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion is denied, the decision of the hearing officer is affirmed, and judgment is therefore granted in defendants' favor.


I. Statutory Background

As a state education agency, DCPS is required to provide special education students like C.G-R. with "a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs . . . to all children with disabilities residing in the State." 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(A); 34 C.F.R. § 300.1(a); accord D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5, § 3000.1 (2005). The Act and its attendant regulations also explicitly guarantee provision of "related services," defined as "transportation . . . and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education," including "travel to and from school . . . ." 34 C.F.R. § 300.24(a), (b)(15)(I); D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5, § 3001.1; see 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400(d)(1)(A), 1401(22).

Pursuant to the provision of a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE") and related services, Federal and D.C. Municipal Regulations require that an individualized education program ("IEP"), including a "statement of the special education and related services . . . that will be provided for the child . . . to be educated . . . ," be developed for each student. 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.341(a)(1), 300.347(a)(3) (2005); D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5, §§ 3001, 3002.3(c). The Supreme Court has further defined the role of IEPs, requiring that they be "reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive education benefits." Bd. of Educ. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 206-07 (1982).

The Superintendent of DCPS issued Directive 530.0 in 2000, specifying that special education transportation services be provided according to the requirements of the IDEA and regulations issued thereunder. Admin. R. at 25. With respect to the pick-up and drop-off of students, the Directive orders that: "As determined through the IEP process, students with disabilities shall be picked up and dropped off either at the door of their residence, or at the curbside of their residence." Id. at 24. Additionally, DCPS's Transportation Guide for parents of special education students states that "[i]f your child is not waiting outside when the bus arrives, the attendant will . . . go to the door of your house or apartment, and assist your child as he/she boards the bus." Id. at 40 (emphasis added).

II. Factual Background

C.G-R.'s IEP was last revised on October 30, 2003, and it provided for his receipt of various related services, including transportation. SeeAdmin. R. at 70. However, plaintiff and defendants disagreed (as they continue to) over whether C.G-R.'s IEP required plaintiff to provide a transportation aide to convey C.G-R. to and from defendants' apartment and the school bus. Accordingly, defendants requested an administrative due process hearing, as guaranteed them under the IDEA, seeking to compel DCPS to provide an aide to assist C.G-R.

Following a hearing, the DCPS hearing officer issued a determination on February 6, 2004, requiring plaintiff to provide a transportation aide for C.G-R. to facilitate his access to an FAPE. The hearing officer found that plaintiff's municipal regulations and DCPS's Transportation Guide both allowed for provision of an aide to assist students similar to C.G-R. Id. at 40-41. The HOD stated that because C.G-R.'s parents could not get him outside to the bus, and because DCPS refused to provide an aide to do so, C.G-R. was being denied an FAPE. Id. Because of C.G-R.'s inability to access an FAPE absent a transportation aide, the hearing officer found it "not unreasonable" for DCPS to provide such an aide. Id. Accordingly, DCPS was ordered to modify C.G-R.'s IEP to provide for a dedicated aide to transport him to and from the school bus. Admin. R. at 41. The IEP was never so modified, and an aide was never provided. Id. at 3. Following issuance of the HOD, plaintiff filed a Motion to Reconsider and Rescind the order. Id. at 16-17. The hearing officer once again decided in C.G-R.'s favor, ordering DCPS to adhere to the terms of the earlier HOD, or refer C.G-R. to a private institution that could. Id. at 5-6.

Plaintiff filed the current action for judicial review of the HOD on May 13, 2004. On November 22, 2004, plaintiff filed the Motion for Summary Judgment currently before the Court, which seeks a ruling on the evidence in the Record, in accordance with 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(B); see Heather S. v. Wisconsin, 125 F.3d 1045, 1052 (7th Cir. 1997). Defendants filed an Opposition to plaintiffs' motion on December 22, 2004, and plaintiff filed a reply on January 14, 2005.


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