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Fullmore v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

May 9, 2014

UNIQUE FULLMORE, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant

For Unique Fullmore, Plaintiff: Douglas Tyrka, LEAD ATTORNEY, TYRKA & ASSOCIATES, LLC, Mclean , VA.

For District of Columbia, Defendant: Veronica A. Porter, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington , DC.

Page 175

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge.

Alleging that District of Columbia Public Schools (" DCPS" ) denied her minor child D.F. a free appropriate public education

Page 176

(" FAPE" ) in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. (2000) (" IDEA" ), Plaintiff Unique Fullmore initiated this action for injunctive and declaratory relief against the District of Columbia. Following this Court's referral of the case to Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, the parties cross-moved for summary judgment. Magistrate Judge Robinson concluded that the case was moot and recommended denying Fullmore's motion for summary judgment and granting DCPS's cross motion. Rejecting in part the magistrate judge's recommendation, this Court concludes that the case is not moot but finds insufficient basis in the record to decide whether D.F. is entitled to compensatory education. The Court accordingly denies both parties' motions for summary judgment.

I. Background

At the time of the events at issue in this case, D.F. was a 12-year-old special education student enrolled at Ron Brown Middle School. Compl. ¶ ¶ 7, 9. On August 7, 2012, Fullmore, D.F.'s mother, requested that D.F. receive a comprehensive special education reevaluation, including a psychiatric evaluation. Id. ¶ 11. The parties held an Individualized Educational Program (" IEP" ) meeting, after which DCPS arranged for D.F.'s functional behavior assessment and psychological examination. AR at 62-63. Following this evaluation, DCPS indicated that D.F.'s disability classification would remain " emotionally disabled" and that he would continue at Ron Brown. Id. at 82. Fullmore informed DCPS on October 10, 2012 that she disagreed with DCPS's psychological evaluation and requested an independent psychiatric evaluation. Id. at 83. Two days later, Fullmore filed an administrative complaint alleging that DCPS failed to comprehensively and appropriately reevaluate D.F. in all areas of suspected disability, thereby denying D.F. a FAPE. Id. at 84. As relief, Fullmore requested that DCPS fund an independent psychiatric evaluation, convene an IEP meeting within ten days of receiving the evaluation to review and revise D.F.'s IEP, and discuss at that meeting appropriate compensatory education for D.F. Id. at 87. On October 15 and 23, 2012, DCPS sent letters to Fullmore authorizing her to receive independent psychological and psychiatric evaluations. Id. at 91, 118. Two months later, Fullmore obtained an independent psychiatric evaluation of D.F. Id. at 214.

At the December 20, 2012 administrative hearing, the hearing officer dismissed Fullmore's complaint. Id. at 257. Noting that Fullmore's claims only " addressed an alleged failure of DCPS to conduct or authorize a psychiatric evaluation for [D.F.,]" for which the " appropriate remedy would have been . . . to order a psychiatric evaluation be completed," and that DCPS had already provided such relief prior to the hearing, the hearing officer concluded that " the instant matter present[ed] no controversy for me to review." Id. at 16. The officer further observed that Fullmore had failed to satisfy " the minimal pleading standards of setting forth a description of the problem and a proposed resolution in relation to a claim for compensatory education." Id. at 7-8. The hearing officer clarified that the dismissal " does not apply to claims of denial of . . . compensatory education resulting from the delay in the completion of the psychiatric evaluation should Petitioner choose to raise such claims in the future." Id. at 15.

Fullmore commenced this action in March 2013. Her complaint alleges that DCPS violated the IDEA by failing to comprehensively and appropriately reevaluate D.F. in order to ascertain all areas of suspected disability. Compl. 24-50. The

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complaint seeks the following forms of relief: (1) a declaration that DCPS " violated the IDEA and denied D.F. a free appropriate public education" ; (2) an injunction " ordering DCPS to convene an IEP team meeting within 10 days to discuss and determine appropriate compensatory education, and to devise a compensatory education plan to compensate D.F. for DCPS' failures" ; and (3) " in the alternative, [an injunction] ordering DCPS to fund an independent evaluation at market rate to determine appropriate compensatory education, and then allow . . . Fullmore to come before the Court or an administrative Hearing Officer to present facts and evidence sufficient for the tribunal to fashion an appropriate compensatory award." Id. ¶ 1.

The Court referred this case to Magistrate Judge Robinson for full case management excluding trial. After the parties cross-moved for summary judgment, Magistrate Judge Robinson issued a Report and Recommendation concluding that " [b]ecause the relief sought by Plaintiff in her administrative complaint was confined to a request that a psychiatric evaluation of D.F. be authorized," " DCPS's authorization of a psychiatric evaluation of D.F." renders the case moot. Report & Recommendation at 11-12. The magistrate judge declined to determine whether D.F. is entitled to a compensatory education award based on the verified statements ...


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