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Carson v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 20, 2016

ALICIA CARSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ALAN KAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Alicia Carson seeks to present the Court with additional evidence that was improperly excluded or otherwise unavailable at the due process hearing. (Pl.’s Mot. [9] at 1.) United States District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan referred this matter to the undersigned for a determination of Plaintiff’s Motion to Permit Additional Evidence (“Plaintiff’s Motion”). (See Nov. 10, 2015 Min. Order). For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff’s Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff is the mother of D.C., a minor child who is entitled to receive a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act (collectively, “IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.

         Plaintiff filed an administrative due process complaint on May 22, 2014, and an amended complaint on June 10, 2014, alleging that the District of Columbia Public Schools (“DCPS”) denied D.C. a FAPE by (1) failing to timely evaluate D.C. after Plaintiff made a request on October 25, 2013; (2) failing to meet its Child Find obligations; (3) failing to assess the circumstances warranting an evaluation; (4) failing to have an appropriate Individual Education Program (“IEP”) at the beginning of the school year; and (5) failing to provide an appropriate placement. (Compl. [1] at 5.)

         On June 17, 2014, the parties held a resolution session meeting. (AR 92-95.) At the meeting, DCPS offered to perform a comprehensive psychological evaluation and functional behavior assessment to determine whether D.C. was eligible for special education services. (AR 93.) Plaintiff requested that the following information be provided before the evaluation, otherwise Plaintiff would not provide her consent to evaluate her child:

1. A list of all evaluations to be performed, i.e.-the Woodcock Johnson III, etc.
2. The names of all evaluators and which evaluations they will be conducting;
3. The educational background of all evaluators, including the degree(s) they received and the year(s) in which they received them;
4. All boards and/or agencies in which the individual is currently licensed or certified, the date in which those licenses or certifications were granted or issues, and the license or certification number for each agency and/or board.

(AR 93.) Ms. Zalika Wright, a special education coordinator at D.C.’s high school, stated that she was not privy to the requested information, but suggested Plaintiff contact the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to get the answers. (AR 93.) Ms. Wright also told Plaintiff to send her an email after she found the answers because Ms. Wright would then send her a consent form. (AR 93.)

         The parties also discussed a possible settlement agreement. (AR 94.) Contrary to Plaintiff’s requests, however, DCPS would not offer any attorney’s fees or compensatory education. (AR 94.) As such, the parties did not enter into a settlement agreement or resolve the matter during the resolution period. (See AR 94-95; Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 4 [9-4].)

         On July 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed a notice of her intent to raise procedural errors that occurred during the resolution session. (AR 112.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that DCPS (1) failed to approach the resolution session meeting as an opportunity to resolve all of Plaintiff’s concerns; (2) failed to have someone at the resolution session meeting who could negotiate a settlement agreement “in a meaningful way”; and (3) refused to provide compensatory education. (AR 112-13.)

         On July 23, 2014, the administrative hearing was held. (AR 252-485.) On August 24, 2014, the Hearing Officer’s Determination (“HOD”) was issued and denied all the relief requested by Plaintiff. (AR 15.) Plaintiff now seeks to present the Court with additional evidence in anticipation of her motion to reverse the HOD. (Pl.’s Mot. [9] at 1.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Under the IDEA, a party aggrieved by a hearing officer’s decision may seek review in either state or federal court. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(a)(2)(A). During its review, the district court “shall receive the records of the administrative proceedings . . . [and] shall hear additional evidence at the request of a party[.]” Dist. of Columbia v. Masucci, No. 13-cv-1008 (PLF), 2014 WL 329621, at *1 (D.D.C. Jan. 30, 2014) (quoting 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(C)). Despite the statute’s use of the word “shall, ” the D.C. Circuit has held that district courts have broad discretion to accept or reject additional evidence. Id.; Reid ex. rel. Reid v. Dist. of Columbia, 401 F.3d 516, 521-22 (D.C. Cir. 2005); see also Miller ex rel. S.M. v. Bd. of Educ. of Albuquerque Pub. ...


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