United States District Court, District of Columbia
P. Mehta, United States District Judge
matter brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Act
(“IDEA”), the Hearing Officer determined that
Defendant District of Columbia denied Plaintiff Juanishia
Lee's son, J.K., a Free Appropriate Public Education
(“FAPE”) for the 2014-2015 school year. Admin.
R., Part I, ECF No. 9, Ex. 1, ECF No. 9-1 [hereinafter ECF
No. 9-1], at 18-21. The Hearing Officer, however, declined to
award J.K. any compensatory education because Plaintiff
“did not offer any evidence at the due process hearing
of ‘the type and quantum of compensatory education'
needed to place [J.K.] ‘in the same position he would
have occupied but for the [ ] violations of the
IDEA.'” Id. at 24-25.
briefing cross-motions for summary judgment, the parties now
agree that this matter should be remanded to the Hearing
Officer to fashion an appropriate award of compensatory
education. See Compl., ECF No. 1, at 7 (seeking as a
remedy a remand to award compensatory education); Pl.'s
Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 11, Mem. in Supp., ECF No. 11-1,
at 1-2; Def.'s Cross-Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 13, at
8-9 (not objecting to a remand). Despite this fundamental
agreement, the parties nevertheless differ on how the Hearing
Officer should proceed on remand. Plaintiff emphasizes that
the “burden to craft an appropriate compensatory
education award falls on the hearing officer, ”
Pl.'s Reply, ECF No. 14, at 4, while Defendant insists
that Plaintiff must come forward with “sufficient
evidence to support an award of compensatory education,
” which she previously failed to do, Def.'s Reply,
ECF No. 16.
court finds the parties' disagreement perplexing, when
case law provides clear markers for how to proceed on remand.
The objective of an award of compensatory education is
“to put a student . . . in the position he would be in
absent the FAPE denial.” B.D. v. District of
Columbia, 817 F.3d 792, 798 (D.C. Cir. 2016).
Compensating for such past violations requires a hearing
officer to “rely on individualized assessments”
after a “fact-specific” inquiry. Reid ex rel.
Reid v. District of Columbia, 401 F.3d 516, 524 (D.C.
focus on the student's individualized needs means that a
hearing officer cannot deny a compensatory education award
simply because she is left wanting for more evidence.
“Once a plaintiff has established that she is entitled
to an award, simply refusing to grant one clashes with
Reid, which sought to eliminate
‘cookie-cutter' awards in favor of a
‘qualitative focus on individual needs' of disabled
students.” Stanton ex rel. K.T. v. District of
Columbia, 680 F.Supp.2d 201, 207 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting
Reid, 401 F.3d at 524, 527). “Choosing instead
to award plaintiff nothing does not represent the
‘qualitative focus' on [the student's]
‘individual needs' that Reid
requires.” Id. (applying Reid, 401
F.3d 516). In short, a hearing officer “cannot simply
‘reject[ ] any award of compensatory education
services[.]'” Id. (quoting Brown v.
District of Columbia, 568 F.Supp.2d 44, 54 (D.D.C.
hearing officer who finds that she needs more information to
make the required individualized assessment has at least two
options. She can provide the parties additional time to
supplement the record. See id.Or, as the Court
of Appeals emphasized in B.D., she can order
additional assessments as needed. See 817 F.3d at
800 (stating that “the district court or Hearing
Officer should not hesitate to order” further
assessments as needed). At bottom, the hearing officer must
ascertain what information she needs to make the
individualized assessment required under Reid and
B.D., and she possesses “broad
discretion” under the IDEA's remedial provisions to
obtain such information and to craft appropriate relief.
See Reid, 401 F.3d at 523.
this matter is remanded to the Office of Dispute Resolution
in the District of Columbia's Office of the State
Superintendent of Education for further proceedings
consistent with this Memorandum Opinion. A separate Order
accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
 All page citations are to the original
pagination of the Administrative Record.
 In this case, the Hearing Officer
concluded that the relevant regulations precluded him from
reopening the hearing to take additional evidence. ECF No.
9-1, at 25. The Hearing Officer instead denied the
compensatory award “without prejudice to the
parent's right to institute a new proceeding to seek
compensatory education.” Id. Plaintiff has not
challenged that determination. Nor is it clear on this record
why Plaintiff did not take up the ...