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Maynard v. District of Columbia

April 5, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Court Judge


Plaintiff Jackeline Maynard seeks review of an administrative decision denying her request for reimbursement of the costs of her minor son's attendance at the Accotink Academy ("Accotink"), a private school located in Springfield, Virginia. Plaintiff argues that she is entitled to tuition reimbursement because the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") denied her son a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq., by failing to develop an Individualized Education Program ("IEP") for her son prior to the first day of school in August 2008. Pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motions, the responses and replies thereto, the applicable law, the administrative record, the arguments made by counsel during the motions hearings held on March 3, 2010 and March 9, 2010, and for the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that the hearing officer's denial of plaintiff's reimbursement request should be AFFIRMED. Accordingly, defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is DENIED.


A. G.M.'s Attendance at Accotink & Enrollment in DCPS

Plaintiff is the mother of G.M., a 15-year old boy who is eligible for special education services under the IDEA as both learning disabled and other health impaired. Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts ("SMF") ¶ 1. Achievement testing in September 2007 indicated that G.M. was functioning at a third grade level in most academic subjects. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 2. G.M. requires specialized academic instruction, as well as speech and language therapy, and psychological counseling. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 3.

Until the 2006-2007 school year, G.M. attended public schools in the District of Columbia. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 4. In the Fall of 2007, however, displeased with G.M.'s academic progress, Ms. Maynard enrolled G.M. at Accotink, a private school for children with learning disabilities. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 5. On October 16, 2007, after conducting a 30-day review of G.M., Accotink revised G.M.'s IEP (the "Accotink IEP"). See generally Administrative Record ("AR") 52-63.*fn1 The Accotink IEP indicates that G.M. is to receive 30 hours of special education and related services per week, including 27 hours of specialized instruction and one hour of psychosocial services. See Def.'s SMF ¶ 5. It also includes annual goals and short-term objectives in each following areas: Psychosocial-Group Therapy, Communication/Semantics, Communication/Phonemic Awareness, Communication/Auditory Processing, and Classroom Behavior.

Upon completion of the 2007-2008 school year at Accotink, Ms. Maynard decided to enroll G.M. at H.D. Woodson Senior High School ("Woodson") "as money to continue at Accotink was not available." Pl.'s SMF ¶ 8; see also Def.'s SMF ¶ 7. Accordingly, on July 11, 2008, Ms. Maynard registered G.M. as a special education student at Woodson, and provided the registrar, Sharonda Wilson, with a copy of G.M.'s Accotink IEP. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 10. Plaintiff testified that she requested a prompt meeting with the special education coordinator to ensure that an IEP would be developed for G.M. before the start of the school year. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 11. She was advised at this meeting that the special education coordinator was on vacation and was not immediately available, but that she would be contacted by the special education coordinator to schedule a meeting. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 12;

Def.'s SMF ¶ 11. After completing G.M.'s enrollment on July 16, 2008, Ms. Maynard testified that over the next two weeks, she made two additional trips to Woodson to inquire about an IEP meeting for G.M., and was informed on both occasions that "everyone was on vacation." Pl.'s SMF ¶¶ 15-16.*fn2

Having received no response to her request for an IEP meeting, on August 2, 2008, plaintiff sent a letter to DCPS providing ten days notice of her intent to unilaterally enroll G.M at Accotink and to request that DCPS pay for G.M.'s tuition there (the "10-Day Notice Letter").*fn3 Def.'s SMF ¶ 12. Ms. Maynard's letter states, in relevant part:

I recently registered my son, [G.M.], with DC Public Schools. He is a special education student. I presented a copy of his most recent IEP at the time of registration and requested a prompt meeting to develop an IEP, including placement, for the upcoming school year. DCPS stated that it was not able to schedule a meeting at that time, and could not give me even an estimate of when such a meeting might be held.

Without a current IEP including an appropriate placement, [G.M.] cannot receive a free and appropriate education, as is his right under the law. [G.M.] has been accepted at the Accotink School in Springfield, Virginia, which is capable of meeting his needs.

Accordingly, notice is hereby formally given that I intend to enroll [G.M.] at the Accotink School ten (10) business days' after the date of this notice and to request DC Public Schools to fund the cost of his attendance there.

AR 81. Plaintiff's 10-Day Notice Letter was subsequently returned to her "UTF" (unable-to-forward). Accordingly, on August 15, 2008, Ms. Maynard hand-delivered copies of the 10-Day Notice Letter to Woodson's registrar and to DCPS headquarters. Def.'s SMF ¶ 17. Upon receipt, Woodson's registrar, Ms. Wilson, gave the letter to Ms. Philips, Woodson's special education director. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 22. Plaintiff received no response from either Woodson or DCPS regarding her letter. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 18.

Despite having notified Woodson and DCPS that she planned to enroll G.M. at Accotink, plaintiff accompanied G.M. to Woodson on August 25, 2008 -- the first day of school. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 26. Upon arrival, plaintiff was told that G.M. was not in the school's computer. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 26. After waiting approximately two hours and receiving no assistance, plaintiff left Woodson in order to take her other children to school. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 29. Plaintiff then attempted to enroll G.M. at Coolidge High School -- another DCPS school where her other son was enrolled -- but was informed that G.M.'s grade was full. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 29. Plaintiff did not return to Woodson and attempt to re-enroll G.M. there, nor did she have any further contact with DCPS regarding G.M. Def.'s SMF ...

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