United States District Court, D. Columbia.
For Latisha Boyd, PARENT AND NEXT FRIEND OF D.T., D. T., Plaintiffs: Robert W. Jones, JAMES E. BROWN & ASSOCIATES, PLLC, Washington, DC.
Hon. Royce C. Lamberth, U.S. District Judge.
Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment by D.T., a minor and ninth grade student, represented by her mother and next friend, plaintiff Ms. Latisha Boyd, to recover approximately $14,000 in attorney's fees under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (" IDEA" ), 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B). The defendant. Integrated Design & Electronic Academy Public Charter School (" IDEA PCS" ), has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on the attorney's fees issue. The fees stemmed from administrative proceedings between plaintiff Boyd and defendant IDEA PCS over whether D.T. was receiving appropriate supplemental special education in accordance with the IDEA statute. The result of the underlying administrative action was a consent order reflecting a settlement agreement between the parties to dismiss the complaint against IDEA PCS in exchange for IDEA PCS complying with much of Ms. Boyd's requested relief. IDEA PCS' refusal to pay attorney's fees upon receipt of an invoice resulted in the present litigation.
Both parties have moved for summary judgment on the issue of attorney's fees, and, for the reasons detailed herein, defendant IDEA PCS' cross-motion for summary judgment will be GRANTED, and plaintiff Boyd's motion for summary judgment will be DENIED.
A. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (" IDEA" ) was originally passed
by Congress in 1970 and has been frequently amended since. See generally 20 U.S.C. § § 1400-66. IDEA's purpose is to ensure that " all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education" (" FAPE" ), § 1400(d)(1)(A), and thus it provides both parents and schools rights and remedies to accomplish its mandate, see § § 1400-15. IDEA is designed to promote a collaborative environment between parents of disabled children and their school districts. See § 1414. To comply with that goal, school districts must create an " individualized education program" (" IEP" ) for each disabled child, with the student's parents, teachers, and counselors working together to determine what is best for the child. § 1414(d). Students must be evaluated every three years for continued eligibility under the IDEA, § 1414(a)(2)(B)(ii), and the school must draft comprehensive plans for long-term improvement as part of these evaluations, § § 1414(d)(1)(A), 1414(b). Parents are entitled to request new evaluations or updates to IEP's for their child. § 1414(a)(2)(A)(ii). Should parents believe their child's IEP is not adequate, they may file a complaint for an " impartial due process hearing." § 1415(f). If a parent is a " prevailing party" in the hearing action, they may request that " reasonable attorneys' fees" be paid by the school district. § 1415(i)(3)(B).
B. Facts of this Case
Since at least 2009, D.T. has been identified as a child with special education needs, and, accordingly, has benefited from an IEP pursuant to the IDEA statute. See Def.'s Ex. 6. D.T. began attending IDEA PCS in August, 2012 for ninth grade, Admin. R. at 5, and her IEP was updated with parental approval on October 5th, 2012, Def.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 7. As per IDEA's triennial evaluation requirement, 20 U.S.C. § 1414(a)(2)(B)(ii), a reevaluation was conducted on November 8, 2012 with both the attendance, consent, and approval of the plaintiff, Def.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 8; Def.'s Ex. 6; Admin. R. at 33. Although plaintiff Boyd asserts the evaluations were inappropriate, Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Def.'s Cross-Mot. Summ. J. 10, ¶ 2-3, ECF No. 15, plaintiffs' citation to Plaintiff's Exhibit 1 contains no evidence of any fact in support of the claim that Ms. Boyd disagreed with any evaluation, Pl.'s Ex. 1, nor upon the Court's review of the complete record did the Court discover any non-conclusory evidence supporting that claim. Even if plaintiff Boyd's unsupported allegations were to be credited, Ms. Boyd's disapproval was never communicated to IDEA PCS. Early in 2013, plaintiff Boyd drafted a letter detailing her requests for additional evaluations for D.T., Pl.'s Ex. 4, but it is undisputed that the defendant never received this letter due to Ms. Boyd's counsel's mistake in faxing it. Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Def.'s Cross-Mot. Summ. J. ¶ 4, ECF No. 15. The first notice IDEA PCS had of Ms. Boyd's grievances was on February 13, 2013 upon the filing of the administrative complaint with the State Enforcement and Investigation Division. Admin. R. at 3-5.
As per the IDEA requirement § 1415(f)(1)(B), the parties met for a resolution session on February 26, 2013, after which IDEA PCS offered in writing the following benefits to the plaintiffs as part of a settlement agreement:
(1) IDEA PCS will fund an updated comprehensive psychological evaluation with a cognitive, academic, and clinical component;
(2) In addition, IDEA PCS will conduct for the student a Functional Behavioral Assessment (" FBA" ) and prepare a Behavior Intervention Plan (" BIP" ) within 60 days of the withdrawal of the complaint, barring
any unforeseeable circumstances or delays due to the inability of the contracted evaluator to complete the assessment ...