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Cooper v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

December 30, 2014

EDWINA COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant

Page 33

For EDWINA COOPER, Plaintiff: Domiento Cornelius Hill, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF DOMIENTO C.R. HILL, Upper Marlboro, MD.

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

Page 34

MEMORANDUM OPINION

(December 30, 2014) [Dkt, ##14, 15]

RICHARD J. LEON, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Edwina Cooper--as parent and next friend of her son, R.C.--(" plaintiff" ) commenced this action against the District of Columbia (" defendant" ) pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (" IDEA" ), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., on January 27, 2014, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief that the District of Columbia Public Schools (" DCPS" ) violated the IDEA and denied R.C. access to a free appropriate public education, as well as related attorney's fees and costs. See Compl. [Dkt. #11. Now before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. See Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. [Dkt. #14]; Def.'s Cross Mot. Summ. J. [Dkt. #15. Upon consideration of the parties' pleadings, relevant law, and the entire record in this case, the Court GRANTS defendant's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.

BACKGROUND

The IDEA guarantees children with disabilities the right to a free appropriate public education (" FAPE" ). 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(A). Parents who believe their

Page 35

child's rights under the IDEA have been violated may file an administrative due process complaint and are entitled to an impartial due process hearing. Id. § 1415(f). Any party aggrieved by the outcome of the administrative hearing may file a civil action in a district court of the United States. Id. § 1415(i)(2)(A).

R.C. is a disabled student entitled to special education under the IDEA. He received his last comprehensive psycho-educational and clinical evaluation in April 2010. Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts (" Pl.'s Facts" ) ¶ 4 [Dkt. #14-1]; Administrative Record (" AR" ) at 36. This evaluation diagnosed R.C. with several cognitive disabilities, including a full scale I.Q. of 81. See Pl.'s Facts ¶ 5; AR at 40-41. Based on R.C.'s plethora of attentional and executive difficulties, the evaluator recommended that R.C. receive access to various assistive technologies and special classroom accommodations. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 7; AR at 52-54. R.C. was deemed eligible for special education on February 8, 2011. AR at 243.

R.C. attended Kingsbury Day School (" Kingsbury" ) between 2010 and 2013, where he was educated in a " full time out of [general education] setting." AR at 132. A multidisciplinary team (" MDT" ) convened on October 25, 2012 to review R.C.'s Individualized Education Program (" IEP" ). Pl.'s Facts ¶ 9; AR at 217. During this meeting, DCPS considered transitioning R.C. from Kingsbury to a less restrictive environment (" LRE" ) in a general education setting in order to facilitate R.C.'s educational goals. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 9; AR at 222-223. Although plaintiff, who attended the meeting, " seem[ed] receptive" to the possibility of a LRE, the MDT did not reach a decision. AR at 222. Between January and March 2013, Alan Shih (" Shih" ), a DCPS Progress Monitor, observed R.C. in a classroom setting to evaluate the appropriateness of such a transition. AR at 227-230; 232-235. R.C.'s MDT/IEP team then reconvened on March 19, 2013 to discuss R.C.'s transition at further length. Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 14-15, AR at 238-239. Plaintiff was once again in attendance. AR at 238-239. During the meeting, Shih opined that R.C. would benefit from instruction in a general education setting. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 17; AR at 238-239. The MDT/IEP team once again deferred making any decisions about R.C.'s placement and focused instead on formulating his IEP, which required 29.75 hours of weekly specialized instruction, as well as 90 minutes of behavioral support services and 45 minutes of occupational therapy each week. AR at 243-255.

The MDT met on May 23, 2013 to continue discussions about moving R.C. to a general education environment. AR at 271-272. No decision was made, and the group reconvened on or around June 4, 2013. Pl.'s Facts ΒΆ 28; AR at 272; 276. During this meeting, DCPS informed plaintiff that R.C. would transition to Eastern Senior High School (" Eastern" ), a public general-education setting. AR at 273-274. Plaintiff objected, averring that DCPS had unilaterally decided to modify R.C.'s placement. AR at 274. Shortly thereafter, on June 5, 2013, R.C.'s IEP was amended, reducing his weekly specialized instruction hours from 29.75 to 24.25, but maintaining R.C.'s 90 minutes of weekly behavioral support and 45 minutes of weekly occupational ...


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