The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROSEMARY COLLYER, District Judge
Ida Cummings is the grandmother of M.H., a twenty-year-old
resident of the District of Columbia who is learning-disabled and
emotionally disturbed. Compl. at 2. M.H. is eligible to receive
special education services, pursuant to the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1412. Id. Ms.
Cummings filed the instant complaint on August 19, 2004, on
behalf of M.H., complaining that the District of Columbia Public
School System ("DCPS") has failed to provide a "free appropriate
public education," see 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1)(A), to M.H. The
District of Columbia now moves to dismiss or, in the alternative,
for summary judgment, which Ms. Cummings opposes.
Under IDEA, disabled students are entitled to a free
appropriate public education ("FAPE"). See id. A team
consisting of the parents and teachers of the disabled student,
and other educational specialists as needed, meets and confers to
develop an individualized education program ("IEP") for each
student. The IEP is a written statement that includes goals and
instructional objectives for the student's education, services to be provided,
projections regarding the dates on which such services are
offered, and criteria for evaluating whether instructional
objectives are met. See 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(A)(I); see
also 20 U.S.C. § 1401(14). "In other words, the IEP is the legal
instrument that lays out what services the public education
agency must deliver to the student in order to provide that
student with a FAPE." Defendants' Memorandum in Support of
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, or in the
Alternative, for Summary Judgment ("Defs.' Mem.") at 1. The IEP
team also decides where to place the student. See
20 U.S.C. §§ 1412(a)(5)(A) and 1414(d) and (f). Additionally, the IEP team may
determine that the student requires non-educational, supportive
services to benefit from special education. See
34 C.F.R. § 300.24(a). These are known as "related services."*fn1
In March 2003, M.H. was attending school at the Leary School, a
private school in Maryland with special education services paid
for by the District of Columbia pursuant to IDEA. See Defs.' Ex. 1, March 19, 2003 IEP.*fn2 An IEP team
meeting was held on March 19, 2003, at the Leary School to
consider M.H.'s education. Id. The IEP team determined that
M.H. was in need of several evaluations and developed a revised
IEP. Id. at 3. M.H. refused to sign the IEP because she wanted
to attend a school close to her son's daycare facility. See id.
at 1. The team agreed to reconvene. See id. at 3.
On May 29, 2003, a multi-disciplinary team ("MDT") meeting was
held at the Leary School to discuss M.H.'s IEP and to address her
non-attendance since March 19. See Defs.' Ex. 2, MDT Meeting
Notes. While M.H. was still registered at the Leary School, she
had poor attendance due to daycare problems with her son. See
id. DCPS proposed that M.H. be placed at M.M. Washington Center,
a full-time special education program within the DCPS system to
enable her to be closer to her son's daycare facility. See id.
Through her attorney, on May 30, 2003, M.H. filed a request for
a due-process hearing with the DCPS Student Hearing Office,
alleging that DCPS had failed to complete testing, had failed to
develop an appropriate IEP, and had failed to provide an
appropriate placement. See Defs.' Ex. 3, May 30, 2003 Hearing
Request. The requested hearing was held on July 1, 2003, and a
Hearing Officer's Decision ("HOD") was issued on July 29, 2003.
See Defs.' Ex. 4, July 29, 2003 HOD. The hearing officer
ordered DCPS to conduct various assessments, to convene a
multidisciplinary team meeting once the evaluations were
completed, and to place M.H. in an appropriate facility. See
id. In addition, the hearing officer found that M.H. had missed
at least 166 days of school during the 2002-2003 school year
because of her inability to secure convenient daycare services for her son. See id. at 4. He also found that she had
refused to sign her IEP because she wanted to be placed in a
school that would facilitate daycare services for her son. M.H.
contended that DCPS was obligated to provide such services, as
"related services." See id. The hearing officer found that
daycare services for M.H.'s child were not "related services" to
M.H.'s education under IDEA and were not the responsibility of
DCPS. Specifically, he stated:
As a general matter, services that enable a disabled
child to remain in school during the day provide the
student with "meaningful access to education that
Congress envisioned." Daycare services for a
student's child do not fit the requirement of
assisting the child to benefit from special education
or to enable the child to remain in school during the
day. . . . Daycare services for Petitioner's child do
not enhance Petitioner's skills or her physical or
Defs.' Ex. 4 at 5.
M.H.'s attorney filed another request on March 10, 2004 for a
hearing, alleging that DCPS had failed to complete the requested
evaluations, had failed to develop an IEP based on those
evaluations, and had failed to make an appropriate placement.
See Defs.' Ex. 5, April 14, 2004, Settlement on the Record, at
1-2. A hearing was convened on April 5, 2004, and the parties
reached a settlement that was entered into the record by the
hearing officer on April 14, 2004. Id.
DCPS then completed the necessary evaluations and convened an
IEP meeting on April 28, 2004. See Defs.' Ex. 6, April 28,
2004, IEP. At that meeting, the IEP team decided that M.M.
Washington Center continued to be an appropriate placement for
M.H. See id. M.H. and her attorney did not sign the IEP and
M.H. refused to attend M.M. Washington Center. See id.
On August 19, 2004, M.H.'s attorney filed another request for a
due-process hearing at the DCPS Student Hearing Office. See
Defs.' Ex. 7, Aug. 19, 2004 Hearing Request. On that same date,
she filed a complaint and motion for a preliminary injunction
with this Court. A hearing convened on September 21, 2004 and the hearing officer issued his
decision on September 28, 2004. See Defs.' Ex. 8, Sept. 28,
2004 HOD. The hearing officer found that DCPS had provided M.H.
with an educational program but that she did not avail herself of
that program. See id. He specifically found that M.M.
Washington Center was an appropriate placement for M.H. Id. He
concluded that "if a student does not attend and does not
register, DCPS cannot be expected to implement the student's
IEP." Id. M.H. did not appeal that decision.
Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows that no
genuine issue exists as to any material fact and the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). Summary judgment is not a "disfavored legal shortcut[;]"
rather, it is a reasoned and careful way to resolve cases fairly
and expeditiously. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327
(1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact
exists, the court must view all facts and reasonable inferences
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574,
587 (1986); Tao v. Freeh, 27 F.3d 635, 638 (D.C. Cir. 1994).
Only factual disputes that are capable ...