United States District Court, D. Columbia.
J.W., Plaintiff: Steve Nabors, MORAN & ASSOCIATES,
Washington, DC USA; Carolyn W. Houck, LAW OFFICE OF CAROLYN
HOUCK, St. Michaels, MD USA.
Jorie Wimbish, Plaintiff: Carolyn W. Houck, LEAD ATTORNEY,
LAW OFFICE OF CAROLYN HOUCK, St. Michaels, MD USA; Steve
Nabors, LEAD ATTORNEY, MORAN & ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC
District of Columbia, A Municipal Corporation, Defendant:
Tasha Monique Hardy, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY
GENERAL/DC, Washington, DC USA.
G. Sullivan, United States District Judge.
September 1, 2015, Plaintiff Jorie Wimbish, on behalf of her
minor daughter, J.W., filed a Motion for Preliminary
Injunction, Docket No. 3, seeking to invoke the "
stay-put" provision of the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (" IDEA" ), 20 U.S.C. § 1415(j),
to require the District of Columbia (" the
District" ) to fund J.W.'s placement at a private
school during the pendency of all administrative and judicial
proceedings in Plaintiffs' underlying IDEA case.
Following a hearing on Plaintiffs' motion on October 8,
2015, the Court granted the motion, and requested
supplemental briefing on the issue of whether the District
would be required to fund 50% or 100% of Plaintiffs' cost
of attendance at the private school. October 9, 2015 Minute
Order. This Memorandum Opinion accompanies the Court's
October 8, 2015 oral ruling and October 9, 2015 Minute Order,
and resolves the outstanding issue regarding the
District's funding obligation. For the following reasons,
Plaintiffs' motion to require the District of Columbia to
fund J.W.'s placement at Stuart Hall is GRANTED. The
District shall fund 100% of Plaintiffs' cost of
attendance at Stuart Hall, retroactive to the commencement of
the 2015-2016 school year and continuously thereafter through
the completion of all administrative and judicial proceedings
in this matter, unless the parties otherwise agree.
a 14-year-old student whose parents reside in the District of
Columbia. Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Prelim. Inj. ("
Pls.' Mem." ), Docket No. 3-1 at 1; Def.'s Mem.
Opp. Mot. Prelim. Inj. (" Def.'s Mem. Opp." ),
Docket No. 9 at 2. Sometime in 2007 or 2008, J.W. was deemed
eligible for special education services under the IDEA as a
student with a disability under the classification "
Other Health Impairment (ADHD)" . Pls.' Mem. at 1;
Def.'s Mem. Opp. at 2. From 2008 to 2014, D.C. Public
Schools (" DCPS" ) funded J.W.'s placement at
Kingsbury Day School (" Kingsbury" ), a full-time
special education day school. Pls.' Mem. at 2; Def.'s
Mem. Opp. at 2. Early in the 2013-2014 school year, Ms.
Wimbish and DCPS agreed that Kingsbury was too restrictive a
placement for J.W. and that she should transfer to a
less-restrictive environment. Pls.' Mem. at 1; Def.'s
Mem. Opp. at 2.
June 2014 Individualized Education Program (" IEP"
of 2014, prior to the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year,
Ms. Wimbish and representatives from DCPS met to develop an
updated individualized education program (" IEP" )
for J.W. Pls.' Mem. Ex. 1, Docket No. 3-3 (" March
HOD" ) at 8. The IEP states that J.W. experiences
anxiety which causes disruptions to her school day. See
generally Pls.' Mem. Ex. 3, Docket No. 3-5 ("
2014 IEP" ). The IEP recommended 30 hours per week of
specialized instruction outside the general education
environment and various classroom accommodations including
preferential seating and small group testing. Id. at
13. Following the June 2014 meeting, there was some dispute
between the parties as to the finality of the IEP developed
that day. In July 2014, DCPS reached out to Ms. Wimbish to
schedule another IEP meeting to revise or rewrite the June
IEP. March HOD at 9. Ms. Wimbish believed that the June IEP
was final and refused to meet with DCPS again. Id.
January 5, 2015 Due Process Complaint
January 5, 2015, Ms. Wimbish filed a " due process
complaint" with DCPS' Office of Dispute Resolution
alleging that DCPS failed to develop an appropriate IEP for
J.W. for the 2014-2015 school year and failed to propose an
adequate school placement. See generally Id. Ms.
Wimbish, with the encouragement of DCPS officials, had
enrolled J.W. at Stuart Hall, a private boarding school in
Staunton, VA for the 2014-2015 school year. Id. at
9. The administrative complaint sought reimbursement from
DCPS for J.W.'s cost of attendance. Id.
decision issued by an Independent Hearing Officer ("
Hearing Officer Determination" or " HOD" ),
dated March 29, 2015, the Hearing Officer found that DCPS had
denied J.W. a free appropriate public education ("
FAPE" ) for the 2014-2015 school year and ordered DCPS
to fund 50% of Plaintiffs' tuition expenses at Stuart
Hall for that year. Id. at 22. As the Hearing
[T]he District may be required to pay for educational
services obtained for a student by a student's parent if
the services offered by the District are inadequate or
inappropriate (" first criterion" )[,] the
services selected by the parent are appropriate ("
second criterion" ), and equitable considerations
support the parent's claim (" third criterion"
), even if the private school in which the parents have
placed the child is unapproved.
Id. at 12 (citing School Committee of the Town
of Burlington v. Dep't of Educ., Mass., 471 U.S.
359, 105 S.Ct. 1996, 85 L.Ed.2d 385 (1985); Florence Cnty
Sch. Dist. Four et al. v. Carter by Carter, 510 U.S. 7,
114 S.Ct. 361, 126 L.Ed.2d 284 (1993)).
first criterion, the Hearing Officer determined that the
District's proposed placement was inappropriate or
inadequate, resulting in a denial of a FAPE for J.W. for the
2014-2015 school year. Id. at 14-16. First, the
Hearing Officer found that the June 2014 IEP " clearly
provides the Student with an inappropriately restrictive
program" in contravention of the IDEA's requirement
that children be placed in the " least restrictive
environment" appropriate for their disability.
Id. at 13-15 (citing 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(5);
N.T. v. Dist. of Columbia, 839 F.Supp.2d 29, 34-35
(D.D.C. 2012)). In the alternative, the Hearing Officer held
that, if the June 2014 IEP was merely a " draft"
IEP, as DCPS had argued, then J.W. had " no IEP at all