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Hester v. District of Columbia

May 9, 2006

ANTONIO HESTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, Antonio Hester, brings this suit alleging that Defendants, the District of Columbia and Robert C. Rice, Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools, failed to provide him with a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 14, et seq.. This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, [#14], and Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, [#16]. Upon consideration of the Motions, Oppositions, and Replies, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Motion is granted, and Defendants' Motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Antonio Hester, is classified as "Learning Disabled with emotional concerns" and qualifies for a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") under the IDEA. On May 10, 2000, District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") developed an Individual Education Program ("IEP") for him, which required that he receive "group therapy for forty-five minutes once a week; individual therapy thirty minutes once a week; speech therapy thirty minutes twice a week; as well as supplementary aids and transition services." Administrative Record ("AR") at 60; Pl.'s St. of Material Facts at ¶ 2. Hester was then sixteen years old.

On April 19, 2001, Hester pleaded guilty to two charges in Prince George's County, Maryland, and was incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Training Center ("MCTC"). Id. at ¶ 3. He was sentenced to a maximum of ten years, and was first eligible for parole in August 2005.*fn1

On May 31, 2001, while Hester was at MCTC, a due process hearing was held on his behalf to address his claim that he had been denied FAPE. Id. at ¶ 4. Prior to the hearing, the parties notified the Hearing Officer that they had reached an agreement whereby DCPS agreed to provide Hester with compensatory education services for the denial of FAPE leading to the hearing, effective November 1, 2000 "until the day before he starts to receive educational benefit."*fn2 AR at 64.

On June 7, 2001, a Hearing Officer Determination ("HOD") was issued ("2001 Consent Order and HOD"). The 2001 Consent Order and HOD found that the parties' prior agreement was appropriate, and incorporated the precise terms of their agreement into his Order. It further found that Certified Learning Center ("CLC") was an appropriate provider of Hester's educational services during his incarceration in Maryland. Id. at 65. The Hearing Officer ordered DCPS to implement the Special Education Services Plan outlined in his Order.

Pursuant to that plan, CLC was required to implement Hester's 2000-2001 IEP for 90 days; prior to the end of the 90-day period, CLC was to hold an IEP meeting at which appropriate evaluations would be decided upon, among other things. DCPS was given 30 days to perform all necessary evaluations, and within 30 days of the conclusion of the evaluations, a new, appropriate IEP was to be developed for Hester. Id. Finally, the Hearing Officer ordered that the "form and quantity of compensatory education for the period November 2000 to the date that Antonio starts receiving educational benefit through CLC is to be determined by the IEP team." Id. at 64. DCPS did not appeal this Consent Order.

Following the issuance of the 2001 Consent Order and HOD, CLC representatives attempted to gain access to Hester at MCTC in order to provide him with the requisite educational services. Pl.'s St. of Facts at ¶ 9; AR at 4. However, MCTC refused access to CLC and instead indicated that MCTC itself would provide Hester's educational services. Plaintiff, his legal representative, and CLC attempted to have DCPS resolve the situation, but DCPS took the position that "there is nothing [it] can do to, [sic] ensure that Antonio receives his educational services while incarcerated in another State [sic]." Att. 2 to Pls.' Reply.

On July 17, 2001, while Hester was at MCTC, an IEP team from MCTC met and decided to implement Plaintiff's May 2000 IEP on an interim basis until it could reconvene. AR at 84. That MCTC IEP team met again on November 13, 2001, November 13, 2002, and a date in October 2003 to conduct annual reviews and update Hester's IEP. Hester was present at these meetings.

In January 2004, Plaintiff requested a due process hearing to challenge DCPS's failure to provide him with FAPE as required by the 2001 Consent Order and HOD. On March 31, 2004, the Hearing Officer*fn3 issued an HOD in favor of Defendants.*fn4 The Hearing Officer did not address the central issue of whether DCPS failed to comply with the 2001 Consent Order and HOD. Instead, the Hearing Officer accepted Defendants' argument that Hester, after having been incarcerated in Maryland for over three years, was a resident of Maryland, and not the District of Columbia. As such, the Hearing Officer determined that he was unable to order MCTC to do anything with respect to the educational services due Hester. He further concluded that Hester had been provided educational benefit by the MCTC authorities. Plaintiff filed a Motion to Reconsider, which was denied by the Hearing Officer's Determination issued on July 19, 2004. Plaintiff seeks review of these decisions.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment will be granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with any affidavits or declarations, show 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. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The nonmoving party then must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324 (internal quotations omitted). See Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. ...


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