United States District Court, D. Columbia.
G.B. et al., Plaintiffs,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant
For G. B., by her next friends and parents, JOSEPH BROWN, JENNIFER BROWN, Plaintiffs: Steve Nabors, LEAD ATTORNEY, MORAN & ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC.
For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant: Laura George, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL/DC, Washington, DC.
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiffs Joseph Brown and Jennifer Brown filed suit as the parents and next friends of their minor daughter, G.B., against the District of Columbia (" the District" ). G.B. has been identified as eligible for special education and related services pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (" IDEA" ), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. This suit invokes the IDEA's " stay-put" provision and seeks to force the District to fund G.B.'s placement in a non-public educational program while the challenge to G.B.'s December 8, 2014, Individualized Education Program (" IEP" ) is under review by an administrative hearing officer. Concurrently with the Complaint, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (" TRO" ) and a Motion for Preliminary Injunction. During a telephonic conference call with the Court, the parties agreed to a briefing schedule for Plaintiffs' TRO request. Minute Order (Jan. 8, 2015). Plaintiffs' Motion for a TRO is now fully briefed. After considering the parties' briefs, the accompanying exhibits, and the applicable authorities, the Court finds that Plaintiffs are entitled to a " stay-put" injunction. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order is GRANTED. As the grounds for Plaintiffs' request for a Preliminary Injunction are identical to the grounds for Plaintiffs' TRO request, the Court also GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction, ECF No. , during the pendency of the administrative challenge.
A. Statutory Framework
The IDEA was enacted to " ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education [" FAPE" ] that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living." 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(A). Once a child is identified as disabled, the school district within which the child resides must convene a meeting of a multi-disciplinary team to develop an individualized education program (" IEP" ) for the student. See § 1414. " The IEP is in brief a comprehensive statement of the educational needs of a handicapped child and the specially designed instruction and related services to be employed to meet those needs." Leonard v. McKenzie, 869 F.2d 1558, 1560 n.1, 276 U.S.App.D.C. 239 (D.C. Cir. 1989) (quoting Sch. Comm. of the Town of Burlington v. Dept. of Educ., 471 U.S. 359, 368, 105 S.Ct. 1996, 85 L.Ed.2d 385 (1985)). As such, it represents the " modus operandi " of the IDEA. Id. The IEP must be formulated in accordance with the terms of the IDEA and " should be reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and advance from grade to grade." Bd. of Educ. of Hendrick Hudson Cent. Sch. Dist. v.
Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 204, 102 S.Ct. 3034, 73 L.Ed.2d 690 (1982). Once the IEP is developed, the school system must provide an appropriate educational placement that comports with the IEP. Alston v. District of Columbia, 439 F.Supp.2d 86, 90 (D.D.C. 2006). " If no suitable public school is available, the school system must pay the costs of sending the child to an appropriate private school." Reid ex rel. Reid v. District of Columbia, 401 F.3d 516, 519, 365 U.S.App.D.C. 234 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (citation and internal editing omitted).
If the parent of a child receiving services pursuant to the IDEA believes his or her child's IEP or school placement is inadequate, the parent may file a " due process complaint." E.g., 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(7)(A). The IDEA further provides that
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, or, if applying for initial admission to a public school, shall, with the consent of the parents, be placed in the public school program until all such proceedings have been completed.
Id. § 1415(j). Known as the " stay-put provision," this section mandates that once a parent files a due process complaint, " the child shall remain in the interim alternative educational setting pending the decision of the hearing officer . . . unless the parent and the State or local educational agency agree otherwise." Id. § 1415(k)(4); accord 34 C.F.R. § 300.518(a). The purpose of this provision is to prohibit " school officials from removing a child from the regular public school classroom over the parents' objection pending completion of the review proceedings." Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 327, 108 S.Ct. 592, 98 L.Ed.2d 686 (1988).
B. Factual Background
The following facts are not disputed by the parties. G.B. is a thirteen year-old resident of the District of Columbia who has been identified as a student with disabilities who is entitled to receive special education and related services. Compl. ¶ ¶ 68, 69, 72. On October 16, 2013, the District developed an IEP designed to provide G.B. with thirty-one hours of special education instruction outside of the general education setting and one hour of behavioral support services outside of the general education setting for a total of thirty-two hours of services. Def.'s Opp'n at 1; Compl. ¶ 73. On December 13, 2013, the District reconvened the IEP team and developed another IEP that again provided for thirty-one hours of special education instruction and one hour of behavioral support services outside of the general education setting. Def.'s Opp'n at 1; Compl. ¶ 74. Both IEPs " anticipated that [G.B.] would receive ...