United States District Court, District of Columbia
P. Mehta United States District Judge
Theresa James, acting on behalf of her minor granddaughter,
V.J., brought this action alleging that Defendant District of
Columbia violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA). At an administrative hearing, a Hearing Officer
ruled that Defendant fulfilled its obligations under the Act.
Plaintiff now challenges that ruling, asserting that
Defendant: (1) failed to implement V.J.’s
individualized education program until at least March 14,
2013; (2) failed to conduct a required comprehensive
psychological evaluation of V.J.; and (3) failed to conduct a
required speech-language evaluation of V.J. Defendant
counters that its actions were appropriate under the IDEA and
that Plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof to show a
the court are Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment
and Defendant’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.
After considering the parties’ submissions and the
relevant law, the court concludes that Defendant violated the
IDEA by failing to implement V.J.’s individualized
education program and by failing to provide V.J. with a
comprehensive psychological evaluation. The court remands
this matter to the Hearing Officer to fashion an appropriate
remedy. As for Plaintiff’s contention that V.J. was
denied a speech-language evaluation, because the record does
not contain sufficient findings of fact to decide that
question, the court will remand it to the Hearing Officer for
further fact-finding. Accordingly, the court grants
Plaintiff’s Motion in part and denies it in part;
denies Defendant’s Cross-Motion; and remands the case
back to the Hearing Officer for further proceedings
consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.
times relevant to this action, Plaintiff’s
granddaughter, V.J., was a student either in the District of
Columbia Public School (“DCPS”) system or in a
charter school for which DCPS was the overseeing local
government agency. V.J. is intellectually disabled, making it
difficult for her to learn with other students her age or
participate in a normal classroom setting. See,
e.g., Administrative Record, ECF No. 10 [hereinafter
AR], at 53-54 (V.J. has “[s]ignificant deficits”
in math and writing skills that “impact [her] ability
to perform at grade level” and “interfere with
her ability to participate in grade level class
work.”). As far back as 2007, when V.J. was just nine
years old, she received a Speech and Language Evaluation
which determined that she had a “severe disorder in
overall language skills” and “will experience
difficulty in class with language comprehension and
expression tasks.” AR at 12-13. Three years later, V.J.
underwent more tests which found that she “demonstrated
very low visual motor integration skills that are equivalent
to a child who is 6 - years, 3 - months old . ” AR at 2
3 - 24. Other evaluations found V.J. to be significantly
behind her peers in development markers like verbal
comprehension (3rd percentile); perceptual
reasoning (1st percentile); working memory
(4th percentile); and processing speed (0.1
percentile). AR at 30-31.
The February 2012 and February 2013 IEPs
attended the Richard Wright Public Charter School
(“Richard Wright”) for the 2011-2012 and
2012-2013 school years, when she was in the eighth and ninth
grades, respectively. Def.’s Cross-Mot. for Summ. J.
and Opp’n to Pl.’s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF. No. 12
[hereinafter Def.’s Mot.], at 4. On February 22, 2012,
DCPS convened a meeting to review V.J.’s individualized
education program (“IEP”) and to set her annual
goals for the upcoming school year. Id.; see
also AR at 52. The IEP that resulted from the meeting
(the “February 2012 IEP”) provided that,
beginning on February 23, 2012, V.J. should receive 23 hours
per week of “Specialized Education” from special
education teachers outside of the general education
classroom, 60 minutes per week of occupational therapy
outside of the classroom, and 3 hours per week of reading
instruction in a general education setting. AR at 57-58.
February 2012 IEP was in effect for almost a full year. On
February 5, 2013, while V.J. was still a student at Richard
Wright, an IEP team met to review and revise the February
2012 IEP. Id. at 69. The resulting IEP (the
“February 2013 IEP”) found that V.J. had an
“[i]ntellectual disability, ” functioned
“at or near a 1st grade level” in math, could
“read very basic words, ” and “ha[d]
significant difficulty expressing herself effectively in
independent writing.” Id. at 70-73. The
February 2013 IEP required that V.J.’s specialized
instruction be increased to 26.5 hours outside the general
education setting per week. Id. at 78. In addition,
V.J.’s IEP team determined that she required the
assistance of a “dedicated aide” to help with her
educational goals. Id.
Plaintiff’s Request for a Comprehensive Psychological
IEP meeting held on February 5, 2013, Plaintiff requested
that the school conduct evaluations of V.J., including a
comprehensive psychological evaluation. Id. at 66.
V.J.’s school agreed to conduct the psychological
evaluation, and in late February 2013, an employee of Richard
Wright emailed Plaintiff a “consent to evaluate
form” and confirmed in the email that “we are all
in agreement on a comprehensive psychological
evaluation” of V.J. Id. at 98.
Plaintiff’s counsel confirmed a few days later that
Plaintiff “agree[d] to a comprehensive psychological
evaluation” but expressed concern that the consent form
sent by Richard Wright did not specify which evaluations were
to be administered. Id.
March 5, 2013, Richard Wright apparently changed course and
informed Plaintiff that no evaluations of V.J. would be
conducted “outside of the triennial testing
period” until a “Student Evaluation Planning
meeting” could be held where data would be evaluated to
confirm the need for testing. Id. at 100. Also on
March 5, 2013, a DCPS employee conducted a classroom
observation of V.J. at Richard Wright. Id. at 102.
The resulting written report described V.J.’s troubles
focusing in class and completing her school work, observed
that the temporary dedicated aide assigned to her was not
effective, and recommended that the aide be removed.
Id. at 102-07. It also noted that the Richard Wright
staff had said that “they are unable to fully implement
this IEP” for V.J. Id. at 106-07.
days later, on March 14, 2013, Richard Wright informed
Plaintiff in writing of DCPS’ recommendation that V.J.
leave Richard Wright and enroll at “her neighborhood
school . . . in the ID classroom” because her
“IEP can be fully implemented there.”
Id. at 113. That notice stated that, because Richard
Wright “is a full inclusion school, they are unable to
fully implement [V.J.’s] current IEP.”
Id. Plaintiff’s counsel objected to the
recommendation to move V.J. from Richard Wright to another
school and invoked “the parent’s stay-put
protections, ” keeping V.J. enrolled at Richard Wright
through the end of the school year. Id. at 115.
Testing and Assessment of V.J. in 2013
attended St. Coletta Public Charter School (“St.
Coletta”) for the 2013-2014 school year. Pl.’s
Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 11 [hereinafter Pl.’s Mot.],
at 4. On October 31, 2013, Plaintiff signed a consent form to
have V.J. evaluated to determine whether she “[wa]s
eligible or continue[d] to be eligible for special education
and to determine educational needs.” AR at 172.
Although Plaintiff signed the consent in late October 2013,
assessments and evaluations of V.J. occurred both before and
after, including: a Vocational Assessment Report on September
18, 2013, Def.’s Mot. at 6; AR at 129; a TEACCH
Transition Assessment Profile (“TTAP”) on October
2, 2013, AR at 133; a Psychological Triennial Reevaluation on
October 23, 2013, id. at 145; and an Occupational
Therapy Evaluation Report on December 11, 2013, id.
particular importance to this lawsuit is the Psychological
Triennial Reevaluation. Id. at 145. The document is
described in its header as a “Summary of Existing
Data” and lists, among other things: the sources of
information reviewed; a description of V.J.’s
educational profile; and the author’s recommendations
for V.J.’s future. Id. at 145-47. The
Triennial Reevaluation stated that V.J.’s “last
psychological assessment was completed in January of
2011” and reviewed the results of that assessment.
Id. at 146. Notably, the Triennial Reevaluation did
not reflect any new testing or evaluation of V.J.
same day that the Psychological Triennial Reevaluation
occurred, DCPS convened another meeting to review
V.J.’s existing IEP and revise it if necessary.
Id. at 148. Notes from the meeting taken by a
representative of St. Coletta state that V.J.’s
“[l]ast psychological evaluation was completed in
2010” and, despite certain scores “in the
extremely low range [, ] . . . [n]o updated evaluation is
recommended at this time.” Id. at 142. The IEP
team did recommend, however, that the time spent by V.J. in
specialized education outside of the general education
classroom should be increased to 29 hours per week, noting
that the “[s]everity of disability and
frequency/intensity of services require that student be
removed from general education classroom to receive services
as prescribed on the current IEP.” Id. at 157.
For the first time, the IEP also determined that V.J. should
be enrolled in a program aimed at allowing her to acquire a
high school certificate-rather than a high school diploma-by
the age of 21. Id. at 167.
IEP meeting was held on January 14, 2014, at which the
participants concluded that V.J. continued to meet the
criteria of “a student with an Intellectual Disability
as defined in IDEA” and should continue receiving
“special education services at the current rate.”
Id. at 184.
8, 2014, Plaintiff filed an administrative due process
complaint with DCPS’ Office of Dispute Resolution.
Id. at 207. The complaint alleged that DCPS failed
to (1) provide assessments of V.J. upon request of a parent
or, in the alternative, (2) comprehensively reevaluate V.J.
in all areas of suspected disability and/or upon parental
request; and (3) implement V.J.’s IEP. Id.
Plaintiff requested relief in the form of (1) a declaration
that DCPS denied V.J. a free and appropriate public education
(“FAPE”) due to its failure to provide
assessments; (2) an order that DCPS fund the requested
evaluations, convene an IEP meeting to review the
evaluations, and then review and revise V.J.’s IEP, as
well as pay reasonable attorney’s fees; and (3) an
order that V.J. receive appropriate compensatory education.
Id. at 210. In its response to Plaintiff’s
administrative complaint, DCPS denied that it failed to
provide V.J. with a FAPE, denied that it failed to implement
V.J.’s IEP, and asserted that it completed all required
assessments of V.J. Id. at 225-26.
administrative due process hearing occurred on August 19,
2014. Id. at 318. At the hearing, four witnesses
testified: Dr. Natasha Nelson, an expert in clinical
psychology and vocational assessments; Nancy Gregerson, the
Center Director at Lindamood-Bell, a program that provides
services to children and adults with learning disabilities;
Plaintiff; and V.J. Id. at 4; Def.’s Mot. at
8-9. Dr. Nelson explained that a comprehensive psychological
evaluation entails, among other things, (1) interviews with
the student, her parents and teachers, and (2) a battery of
tests and evaluations designed to measure the subject’s
IQ, her achievements in reading, math, writing, and oral
language skills, and her “social-emotional
functioning” and “personality functioning.”
Id. at 371, 374-75 (testifying that a comprehensive