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Gregory-Rivas v. Dist. of Columbia

September 8, 2008

ANGELO GREGORY-RIVAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Angelo Gregory-Rivas ("Rivas"), a high school graduate of a District of Columbia Public School, brings this action against the District of Columbia and the superintendent of the District of Columbia Public School system (collectively "DCPS"), under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq. Rivas challenges a hearing officer's determination that he was not entitled to compensatory education and asserts that the hearing officer neglected to address whether DCPS committed a procedural violation of IDEA. Presently before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment [## 8, 11]. Upon consideration of the motions, the oppositions thereto, and the record of this case, the court concludes that Rivas' motion for summary judgment must be denied and that DCPS' cross-motion for summary judgment must be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Statutory Framework

Congress enacted IDEA to "ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education." 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(A). IDEA requires states to "ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected." Id. § 1400(d)(1)(B). To receive funding under IDEA, states and the District of Columbia must ensure that "[a]ll children with disabilities residing in the State . . . regardless of the severity of their disability, and who are in need of special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated." 34 C.F.R. § 300.111(a)(1)(i). IDEA's free appropriate public education ("FAPE") provision entitles each disabled student to an individualized education program ("IEP") and educational services tailored to the unique needs of each disabled child. See 20 U.S.C. §1414(d)(2)(A) ("At the beginning of each school year, each [state] shall have in effect, for each child with a disability in [its] jurisdiction, an individualized education program."); 34 C.F.R. § 300.323(a).

Parents who disagree with the school's provision of a FAPE to their child may request an administrative hearing before an impartial hearing officer. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f)(1)(a). The hearing officer's determination may be challenged in federal district court by an "aggrieved party." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2).

B. Factual Background

Angelo Gregory-Rivas graduated from Wilson Senior High School in June 2005. For at least three years before his graduation, he was identified as a special education student. Rivas contends that during his last two years at Wilson, he was denied access to a FAPE and not afforded the protections to which he was entitled as a student with a disability.

Rivas submitted a total of three requests for administrative due process hearings on DCPS' failure to comply with IDEA. Each time, Rivas sought to have his IEP updated and sought compensatory education to redress DCPS' alleged failure to provide him with a FAPE. DCPS twice entered into settlement agreements with Rivas. Therefore, the administrative due process hearings originally sought by Rivas were not held. According to Rivas, however, DCPS did not honor the terms of either settlement agreement. Thus, because DCPS allegedly continued to deny him access to a FAPE, Rivas filed a third request for an administrative due process hearing. This time, the parties did not settle and proceeded to an administrative due process hearing in August 2005 before Hearing Officer Coles B. Ruff, Jr. ("HO Ruff").

HO Ruff concluded that DCPS had violated the terms of the second settlement agreement, entered into with Rivas in February 2005, by failing to discuss compensatory education at the multidisciplinary team ("MDT") meeting. HO Ruff ruled that Rivas' right to compensatory education services was not terminated by his graduation from high school, A.R. at 44*fn1 , and ordered DCPS to convene a MDT meeting within thirty days "to discuss and determine the amount of compensatory education the student is due and develop a compensatory education plan." Id. at 45.

DCPS failed to hold the MDT meeting within 30 days as had been ordered by HO Ruff and Rivas promptly responded by filing a fourth request for an administrative due process hearing. In this request, Rivas alleged that DCPS: (1) failed to comply with HO Ruff's order to convene a MDT meeting within thirty days; and (2) failed to provide Rivas with the compensatory education to which he was entitled. A due process hearing was scheduled for December 1, 2005. One day before the hearing, on November 30, 2005, a MDT meeting was convened and the MDT concluded that Rivas was not entitled to compensatory education. A.R. at 139.

The next day, on December 1, Hearing Officer Terry Banks ("HO Banks") dismissed Rivas' complaint. HO Banks determined that HO Ruff's determination did not mandate that Rivas receive compensatory education services but instead only mandated that the MDT meet to "'discuss and determine the amount of compensatory education the student is due,' leaving open the possibility that none was due." A.R. at 4. HO Banks also found that Rivas had not made the showing necessary to justify an award of compensatory education. Id. at 5-6. HO Banks did not address the issue of whether DCPS had violated IDEA by failing to hold a MDT meeting within 30 days of HO Ruff's decision as ordered.

Dissatisfied with this result, Rivas filed suit ...


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