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Douglas v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

November 14, 2013

JAYSHAWN DOUGLAS, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant

For JAYSHAWN DOUGLAS, Plaintiff: Steve Nabors, LEAD ATTORNEY, MORAN AND ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC; Charles Anthony Moran, LAW OFFICES OF CHARLES A. MORAN, Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant: Laura George, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL, Washington, DC.

OPINION

PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on the plaintiff's motions for a temporary restraining

Page 2

order and for a preliminary injunction. Plaintiff Jayshawn Douglas seeks a court order directing the defendant, the District of Columbia, to enroll Mr. Douglas at Dunbar Senior High School, pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(j). The Court heard oral argument on plaintiff's motions on November 13, 2013. After reviewing the parties' arguments as set forth in their papers and at oral argument, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction and will deny as moot his motion for a temporary restraining order. [1]

As an initial matter, the Court notes that Mr. Douglas' motions are properly before the Court. Although a plaintiff generally must exhaust his administrative remedies before bringing a civil action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (" IDEA" ), there is no exhaustion requirement for seeking injunctive relief pursuant to the IDEA'S " stay-put" provision, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(j). See F.S. ex rel. Snyderman v. Dist. of Columbia, Civ. Action No. 06-923, 2007 WL 1114136, at *5 (D.D.C. Apr. 13, 2007); Alston v. Dist. of Columbia, 439 F.Supp.2d 86, 91 (D.D.C. 2006); see also Murphy v. Arlington Cent. School Dist. Bd. of Educ., 297 F.3d 195, 199 (2d Cir. 2002).

The stay-put provision of the IDEA provides, in relevant part:

Except as provided in subsection (k)(4), during the pendency of any proceedings conducted pursuant to this section, unless the State or local educational agency and the parents otherwise agree, the child shall remain in the then-current educational placement of the child[.]

20 U.S.C. § 1415(j). This subsection provides that when a disabled student challenges a change in his " educational placement," the agency must maintain the student in his current educational placement " through both administrative and judicial proceedings, including an appeal from an administrative decision following a due process hearing." Dist. of Columbia v. Vinyard, 901 F.Supp.2d 77, 83 (D.D.C. 2012) (citing 34 C.F.R. § 300.518(a)).

Courts have interpreted the stay-put provision as an automatic injunction, akin to the automatic stay in bankruptcy proceedings; therefore, the traditional four-part test for a preliminary injunction does not apply. See Dist. of Columbia v. Vinyard, 901 F.Supp.2d at 83 (collecting cases); Alston v. Dist. of Columbia, 439 F.Supp.2d at 91; see also Casey K. ex rel. Norman K. v. St. Anne Cmty. High Sch. Dist., 400 F.3d 508, 511 (7th Cir. 2005) (comparing stay-put injunction to an automatic stay in bankruptcy case). To invoke the stay-put, a student or his parent need only show that the school system " proposes a 'fundamental change in, or elimination of, a basic element of the [then-current educational placement].'" Dist. of Columbia v. Vinyard, 901 F.Supp.2d at 83 (alteration

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in original) (quoting Lunceford v. Dist. of Columbia Bd. of Educ., 745 F.2d 1577, 1582, 241 U.S.App. D.C. 1 (D.C. Cir. 1984)). The question before the Court, then, is whether a fundamental change in educational placement has occurred or is proposed. As Judge Kollar-Kotelly recently observed, " [t]he IDEA does not define the term 'then-current educational placement,' but the courts have explained that a child's educational placement 'falls somewhere between the physical school attended by a child and the abstract goals of a child's IEP.'" Johnson v. Dist. of Columbia, 839 F.Supp.2d 173, 176-77 (D.D.C. ...


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