*fn6,The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge,MELODIA PHILLIPS O/B/O T.P., A MINOR, PLAINTIFF, v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS." />

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Phillips v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 25, 2013

MELODIA PHILLIPS o/b/o T.P., a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For MELODIA PHILLIPS, parent and next friend of T.P., Plaintiff: Robert W. Jones, Roxanne Denise Neloms, LEAD ATTORNEYS, JAMES E. BROWN & ASSOCIATES, PLLC, Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, A Municipal Corporation, Defendant: Laura George, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL, Washington, DC; Veronica A. Porter, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Public Interest Division, Washington, DC.

For MICHELLE RHEE, (Officially) Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools, Defendant: Laura George, Richard Allan Latterell, LEAD ATTORNEYS, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL, Washington, DC; Veronica A. Porter, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Public Interest Division, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

REGGIE B. WALTON, United States District Judge.

Melodia Phillips, the plaintiff in this case, brings this action on behalf of her son, T.P., seeking compensatory education for him under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (the " IDEA" ), 20 U.S.C. § § 1400-1491 (2006). See First Amended Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, Injunctive and Other Relief ¶ ¶ 46-55. Currently before the Court are the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and the defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment. Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, [1] the Court concludes for the following reasons that it must deny the plaintiff's motion and grant the defendants' cross-motion.

I. BACKGROUND

This is the latest chapter in a protracted effort by the plaintiff to ensure that her son, T.P., receives an adequate education in the wake of his 2004 diagnosis of having juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Pl.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 1-12. At this advanced stage of the litigation, the following facts are already established and accepted by both parties: T.P. has a medical condition that entitles him to a " free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet [his] unique needs and prepare [him] for further education, employment, and independent living" (" FAPE" ) under the IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(A). See Defs.' Mem. at 13; Pl.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 4, 8, 10. The defendants denied T.P. a FAPE from August, 2004 to March, 2006. Defs.' Mem. at 13;

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Pl.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 4-8. T.P. now has access to a FAPE, at the defendants' expense, through his education at the Katherine Thomas School, a special education school, and has had access to those services since his enrollment there in 2006. Pl.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 1, 8; A.R. at 1076. The only remaining question in this case is whether T.P is entitled to " compensatory education" for harm caused by the previous denial of services. [2]

In a prior opinion, this Court held that the plaintiff had thus far " failed to present evidence that would allow the Hearing Officer or the Court to properly craft a compensatory award that comports with the IDEA" and consequently remanded the case to the Hearing Officer for further development of the factual record. Phillips ex rel. T.P. v. Dist. of Columbia,736 F.Supp.2d 240, 250 (D.D.C. 2010). To that end, the Hearing Officer convened a hearing on November 16, 2010. A.R. at 1064. The plaintiff called three witnesses from the Katherine Thomas School to testify about T.P.'s condition: the school's education director, an occupational therapist, and a speech-language pathologist. Id. The witnesses testified that T.P. continues to struggle with his disability at the special education school, see A.R., Transcript of November 16, 2010 Hearing (" November 16, 2010 Hr'g Tr." ) at 46-185, and indicated that it was possible, but not certain, that his struggles stem from the original denial of a FAPE, id. at 133 (testimony of occupational therapist) (" [L]ack of movement in younger years can certainly be a piece leading to that kind of deficit" ); id. at 153-58 (testimony of occupational therapist) (concluding that T.P. " lost a lot of range of motion and skills" during the 18 months without occupational therapy, but explaining that " it's very difficult to know how [T.P.] would have responded [to earlier treatment,] or if what I'm saying now is a result of that lack of services or just a result of the disability" ); id. at 172-73 (testimony of speech-language pathologist) (" I can't make any statements about [how T.P. would have responded to earlier treatment]. All I can say is that children usually do make progress with early intervention services." ). ...


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