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Chanda Alston et al v. District of Columbia et al

March 21, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document Nos.: 82, 84



The plaintiffs, a student with disabilities ("C.A.") and her mother, Chanda Alston, commenced this action against the District of Columbia ("the District") and various District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") officials, alleging violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq., the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794. On March 30, 2010, the court issued a ruling granting in part and denying in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment and denying the plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment. The only claims to survive this ruling were the plaintiffs' ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims concerning a month-long period in the summer of 2005 during which the plaintiff was allegedly denied a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE"), as required by the IDEA.

This matter is now before the court on the parties' cross-motions to alter or amend the court's March 30, 2010 ruling. In their motion, the defendants ask the court to grant them summary judgment on the plaintiffs' surviving claims.*fn1 The plaintiffs, in turn, ask the court to amend the portions of its earlier March 30, 2010 ruling granting the defendants summary judgment on the plaintiffs' claims that the defendants had violated the ADA and Rehabilitation Act by failing to provide C.A. an appropriate residential placement in 2006. Because the plaintiffs have not raised a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether C.A.'s disability was the sole or motivating factor for the denial of benefits that occurred in the summer of 2005, the court grants the defendants' motion to alter or amend and enters summary judgment for the defendants on these claims. Furthermore, because the plaintiffs have presented no persuasive evidence or argument that the court erred in granting summary judgment to the defendants on the plaintiffs' claims concerning C.A.'s 2006 residential placement, the court denies their cross-motion to alter or amend.


C.A. was born to Chanda Alston in 1992. Defs.' Statement of Material Facts ¶¶ 1, 2. In 1998, C.A. was identified as disabled for purposes of the IDEA and has been on an Individualized Education Plan ("IEP") since that time. Id. ¶ 4. Over the last thirteen years, the plaintiffs and the defendants have litigated numerous disputes surrounding C.A.'s receipt of a FAPE. Mem. Op. (Mar. 30, 2010) at 2-7. The court briefly recounts below the events pertinent to the motions presently before the court.*fn2

Prior to the summer of 2005, C.A.'s IEP called for her placement in an instructional day program at Cabin John Middle School ("Cabin John") in Montgomery County, Maryland. Id. ¶

6. The defendants, however, did not authorize payment for C.A. to attend Cabin John before the school year started on August 29, 2005. Id. ¶ 10. As a result, C.A. was excluded from attending classes at Cabin John at the beginning of the school year ("the Summer 2005 Exclusion"). Id. ¶

9.The plaintiffs filed a due process complaint on September 13, 2005, alleging that the defendants' failure to pay for Cabin John deprived C.A. of a FAPE. See Mem. Op. (Mar. 30, 2010) at 4. The defendants eventually authorized payment, allowing C.A. to start classes at Cabin John on September 28, 2005.*fn3 Defs.' Statement of Material Facts ¶ 14. The parties ultimately settled the plaintiffs' IDEA claims, and on November 22, 2005, a hearing officer issued a hearing officer determination ("HOD") memorializing that settlement agreement.*fn4 Id. ¶ 16.

In addition to the placement at Cabin John, C.A.'s IEP called for her placement in a residential program at the Grafton School ("Grafton"), a private residential facility in Rockville, Maryland. Id. ¶ 5. Grafton announced in late 2005 that it would be closing, and ultimately closed its doors in February 2006. Mem. Op. (Mar. 30, 2010) at 4. Months after the closure,

DCPS still had not arranged for a new residential placement for C.A. ("the 2006 Exclusion"), which prompted her mother to pursue various administrative and legal remedies. See id. at 4-5. Ultimately, the plaintiffs applied to have C.A. enroll at Woods Services, a residential facility in Pennsylvania, and C.A. enrolled there in November 2006. Id. at 5.

The plaintiffs filed a complaint in this court on March 22, 2007, asserting claims against multiple individual and municipal defendants under the IDEA, the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and provisions of the D.C. Code. See generally Compl. These claims concerned events spanning from 2001 to 2007, including the Summer 2005 Exclusion and the 2006 Exclusion. The court resolved many of these claims in rulings issued in June 2008 and March 2009. See generally Mem. Op. (Jun. 19, 2008); Mem. Op. (Mar. 20, 2009).

In August 2009, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the plaintiffs' remaining claims. See generally Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. First, the defendants argued that insofar as the plaintiffs' remaining claims were premised on events that had occurred before September 2005, those claims were barred by various procedural limitations such as res judicata and failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See id. at 9-13. Second, the defendants asserted that based on the evidence in the record, no reasonable jury could find for the plaintiffs on their remaining claims. See id. at 13-15. In their cross-motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs argued that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on their discrimination and ...

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