United States District Court, D. Columbia.
RAQUEL HOLMAN, Plaintiff: Douglas Tyrka, TYRKA & ASSOCIATES,
LLC, McLean, VA.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant: Laura George, LEAD ATTORNEY,
OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL/DC, Washington, DC.
M. COLLYER, United States District Judge.
Holman, a special education student who is now over the age
of 18, complains that the District of Columbia Public Schools
(DCPS) denied her a free appropriate public education (FAPE)
in violation of the Individual with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA), as modified by the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. § 1400
et seq. An Independent Hearing Officer found that
DCPS failed to provide Ms. Holman her prescribed specialized
instruction for her last year of high school and that DCPS
excluded Ms. Holman and her guardian from certain meetings
concerning Ms. Holman's education. Despite these
findings, the Hearing Officer refused to order compensatory
education as a remedy because Ms. Holman had graduated from
high school and, therefore, he concluded that DCPS's
actions did not cause her any harm.
Holman now moves for summary judgment and asks the Court to
award her compensatory education. See MSJ [Dkt. 9].
DCPS filed a timely opposition to the motion, to which Ms.
Holman replied. For the reasons that follow, the Court will
grant Ms. Holman's motion for summary judgment and
reverse in part the Hearing Officer's decision as
contrary to the evidence and the law.
general, IDEA " aims to ensure that every child has a
meaningful opportunity to benefit from public
education." Boose v. District of Columbia, 786
F.3d 1054, 1056 (D.C. Cir. 2015). The statute ensures that
" all children with disabilities have available to them
a free appropriate public education 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).
Under IDEA, school systems must promptly identify, locate,
and evaluate every child with disabilities residing in the
district who is in need of special education and related
services. Id. § 1412(a)(3)(A). Once a disabled
child is identified, the child's parents, teachers,
school officials, and other professionals collaborate in an
" IEP team" to develop an individualized education
program (IEP) to meet the child's unique needs. See
id. § § 1412(a)(4), 1414(d)(1)(B).
is a written statement that is reviewed annually and includes
goals and instructional objectives for the student's
education, services to be provided, projections regarding the
dates on which such services are to be offered, and criteria
for evaluating whether instructional objectives are met.
Id. § § 1401(14), 1414(d)(1)(A); see
also Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 311, 108 S.Ct.
592, 98 L.Ed.2d 686 (1988). The IEP team may determine that
in order to benefit from special education, the student
requires " related services" -- i.e.,
non-educational, supportive services such as physical and
occupational therapy and psychological counseling. See
id. § 1414(d)(1)(B); 34 C.F.R. § 300.24(a).
" [T]he IEP must, at a minimum, provide personalized
instruction with sufficient support services to permit the
child to benefit educationally from that instruction . . .
." Reid ex rel. Reid v. District of Columbia,
401 F.3d 516, 519, 365 U.S.App.D.C. 234 (D.C. Cir. 2005).
IDEA also requires that " [a]s soon as possible
following development of the IEP, special education and
related services are made available to the child in
accordance with the child's IEP." Honig,
484 U.S. at 311.
determine whether a FAPE has been provided, courts must
determine whether: (1) the school complied with the
IDEA's procedures; and (2) the IEP developed through
those procedures was reasonably calculated to enable the
student to receive educational benefits. Loren F. v.
Atlanta Indep. Sch. Sys., 349 F.3d 1309, 1312 (11th Cir.
2003). While the District of Columbia is required to provide
a FAPE to disabled students, it is not required to, and does
not guarantee, any particular outcome or any particular level
of academic success. See Bd. of Educ. of
Hendrick Hudson Central Sch. Dist. v. Rowley, 458 U.S.
176, 192, 102 S.Ct. 3034, 73 L.Ed.2d 690 (1982); Dorros
v. District of Columbia, 510 F.Supp.2d 97, 100 (D.D.C.
" violated when a school district deviates
materially from a student's IEP."
Wilson v. District of Columbia, 770 F.Supp.2d 270,
275 (D.D.C. 2011) (emphasis in original) (citations omitted).
" A material failure occurs when there is more than a
minor discrepancy between the services a school provides to a
disabled child and the services required by the child's
IEP." Van Duyn ex rel. Van Duyn v. Baker Sch. Dist.
5J, 502 F.3d 811, 822 (9th Cir. 2007); see also
Turner v. District of Columbia, 952 F.Supp.2d 31, 40
(D.D.C. 2013). Moreover, " the materiality standard
does not require that the child suffer demonstrable
education harm in order to prevail."
Wilson, 770 F.Supp.2d at 275 (emphasis in original)
(quoting Van Duyn, 502 F.3d at 822). Instead, "
it is the proportion of services mandated to those provided
that is the crucial measure for purposes of determining
whether there has been a material failure to implement."
Turner, 952 F.Supp.2d at 41 (citing Wilson,
770 F.Supp.2d at 275).
parent objects to the identification, evaluation, or
educational placement of a disabled child, or whether she is
receiving a FAPE, the parent may seek a due process hearing
before a D.C. Hearing Officer, who issues a determination
known as a Hearing Officer Decision. 20 U.S.C. § §
1415(b)(6), 1415(f)(1)(A). If a party is dissatisfied with
that decision, it may appeal to a D.C. court or federal
district court. See id. § 1415(i)(2)(A). In
terms of a remedy or relief, " [w]here a school system
fails to provide special education or related services, a
student is entitled to compensatory education."
Walker v. District of Columbia, 157 F.Supp.2d 11, 30
(D.D.C. 2001) (citations omitted). Compensatory education
consists of prospective services " reasonably calculated
to provide the educational benefits that likely would have
accrued from special education services the school district
should have supplied in the first place." Reid,
401 F.3d at 524.
Holman was at all relevant times a DCPS student eligible for
special education under IDEA. See Administrative
Record [Dkt. 8] (AR) at 114 (May 30, 2013 IEP Team Meeting).
She attended Dunbar High School in her sophomore (2012-2013)
and junior (2013-2014) years in high school. Id.
Tracy Holman, Ms. Holman's grandmother, was her guardian
and participated in meetings concerning Ms. ...