United States District Court, D. Columbia
August 22, 2005.
EUGENE SIMMS, Parent and Next Friend of C.S., a Minor, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD LEON, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION (August 19, 2005) [# 9, # 10]
Before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. The plaintiff, Eugene Simms, challenges a hearing
officer's decision that District of Columbia Public Schools
("DCPS"): (1) properly placed his daughter, "C.S.", at
Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School, and (2) developed a Compensatory
Education Plan consistent with a February 2003 Hearing Officer's
Decision ("HOD"). After due consideration of the pleadings and
the record herein, the Court GRANTS summary judgment in favor of
the the defendant.
Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the
record demonstrate that "there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). The party
seeking summary judgment may support its motion by "identifying
those portions of `the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of
a genuine issue of material fact." See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P.
56(c)). In opposing summary judgment, the "nonmoving party [must]
go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the
`depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file,' designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c),
(e)). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact is
in dispute, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed,
and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
The IDEA guarantees children with disabilities the right to a
free appropriate public education ("FAPE").
20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(A). In designing an appropriate education for students
with disabilities, the child's parents, teachers, school
officials, and other professionals collaborate to develop an
individualized education program ("IEP") to meet the child's
unique needs. 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(B). While the District of
Columbia is required to provide C.S. with a public education, it
does not "guarantee any particular level of education." Bd. of
Educ. of Hendrick Hudson Central Sch. Dist. v. Rowley,
458 U.S. 176, 192 (1982). If the parent objects "to the identification,
evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free
appropriate public education to such child," he may seek an
impartial due process hearing. 20 U.S.C. §§ 1415(b)(6),
1415(f)(1). If the parent is dissatisfied with the outcome of
that hearing, he may appeal the decision to a state court or a
district court of the United States. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(A).
In evaluating a hearing officer's decision, this Court must
review the record of the administrative proceedings and give due
weight to the hearing officer's decision. Rowley,
458 U.S. at 206. The party challenging the administrative decision "bears the
burden of persuading the Court that the hearing officer was
wrong." Kerkham v. McKenzie, 862 F.2d 884, 887 (D.C. Cir.
1988). Thus, the Court must determine: (1) whether DCPS has
complied with the procedural requirements of the IDEA when
scheduling the compensatory education services and placing C.S.
at Ludlow-Taylor; and (2) whether these decisions were reasonably
designed to enable C.S. to receive educational benefits.
Rowley, 458 U.S. at 206-07. As to both issues, the Court, for
the following reasons, finds for the defendant.
I. Placement at Ludlow-Taylor
Mr. Simms argues that DCPS's proposal to place C.S. at
Ludlow-Taylor was inappropriate because DCPS failed to comply
with the procedural requirements of IDEA when it refused to
consider the schools he suggested. The Court finds that DCPS
complied with the procedural requirements of the IDEA. First,
although a parent must be involved in determining his child's placement, the fact that a
parent can "draft a better program than a state office does not
alone, entitle them to prevail under the Act." Kerkham,
862 F.2d at 886. Second, despite Mr. Simms contention to the
contrary, the Court is not convinced that DCPS refused to discuss
Mr. Simms's suggested schools. Instead, the Court finds that DCPS
suggested that Mr. Simms familiarize himself with the
Ludlow-Taylor program before he objected to the placement. Mr.
Simms did not consent to the placement. R. at 37-38. Instead, in
accordance with the Act, Mr. Simms sought an impartial due
process hearing to challenge DCPS's proposed placement. Id. at
110-13. That hearing was held on September 10, 2003. Accordingly,
the procedural requirements of the IDEA were satisfied.
The Court also finds that the proposed placement at
Ludlow-Taylor was reasonably designed to enable C.S. to receive
educational benefits. During the hearing, Phaedra Smith, a DCPS
Special Education Specialist, testified that Ludlow-Taylor was an
appropriate placement. Id. at 8. Mr. Simms was also given the
opportunity to provide evidence to contradict this testimony and
to identify an alternatively appropriate school. Id. at 9. He
did not do so. Id. Moreover, there is nothing in the record
before this Court to establish that the placement at
Ludlow-Taylor would not enable C.S. to receive the educational
benefits intended under the IDEA. Accordingly, this Court finds
that the placement at Ludlow-Taylor was appropriate. II. Compensatory Education Services
Finally, on February 12, 2003, a hearing officer determined
that DCPS failed to provide C.S. with a FAPE and required DCPS to
convene a MDT/IEP meeting. R. at 23. In addition, the hearing
officer determined that a compensatory education award was to be
provided to C.S. from November 8, 2000 through an appropriate
placement. Id. "This award of compensatory education is
separate and apart from special education services appearing on
an IEP and is to be determined in amount, form and delivery at
the coming MDT/IEP meeting." Id. (emphasis added). The hearing
officer also provided that the award was to be reviewed at the
annual IEP review and if the MDT/IEP team decided "that the
student [was] not benefiting from the compensatory services or
[was] no longer in need of the compensatory services, this award
is to abate." Id.
In this action, Mr. Simms challenges DCPS's decision to
schedule only a part of the hours C.S. was entitled to receive.
DCPS provided Mr. Simms with a Compensatory Education Plan that
scheduled hours for the summers of 2003 and 2004. Id. at 86.
Mr. Simms refused to agree to the plan because it did not
schedule all of the hours C.S. was entitled to receive. Id.
DCPS informed Mr. Simms that once the Compensatory Education Plan
commenced "the MDT can come back to the table and determine if
additional time is needed." Id. The record demonstrates that
the award of compensatory hours was a maximum number of hours to
be awarded, if they were needed. Moreover, "because the child
[was] not attending a program it [was] unknown whether providing
additional specialized instruction would make a profound impact."
Id. at 5. The Court finds that this suggested procedure was not only consistent with
the procedures of the IDEA, but was also reasonably designed to
provide C.S. with beneficial educational services.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants defendant's motion
for summary judgment and denies plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment. An order consistent with this decision accompanies this
© 1992-2005 VersusLaw Inc.