United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ANDOLPH D. MOSS United States District Judge.
case raises a novel issue of statutory interpretation:
Whether the National Capital Revitalization and Self
Government Improvement Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-33,
§ 11201, 111 Stat. 251, 734 (1997) (codified at D.C.
Code § 24-101) [hereinafter “Revitalization
Act”]- which commits the “felon population
sentenced pursuant to the [D.C.] Official code” to
“the custody, care, subsistence, education, treatment
and training” of the federal Bureau of Prisons,
id. § 11202(b)-impliedly repeals the District
of Columbia's obligations to provide a free appropriate
public education (“FAPE”) to those individuals,
as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Act
(“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.
Plaintiff Stephon Brown was convicted of a felony under the
D.C. Code and incarcerated, pursuant to the Revitalization
Act, in a federal correctional facility for sixteen months.
During that time, both the federal Bureau of Prisons
(“BOP”) and the District of Columbia (the
“District”) denied responsibility for providing
him a FAPE. Plaintiff brought suit against the BOP and the
District after his release, alleging that their actions
violated the IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.
§ 701 et seq.
Court referred this matter to Magistrate Judge G. Michael
Harvey for a report and recommendation. Minute Order (Mar. 6,
2017). Both Defendants then moved to dismiss the
case. Dkt. 14; Dkt. 16. Presently before the
Court is Magistrate Judge Harvey's Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”) granting the
“BOP's motion in its entirety and granting in part
and denying in part the District's motion.” Dkt. 25
at 2. Plaintiff and the District both filed (1) timely
objections to Magistrate Judge Harvey's R&R,
see Dkt. 26; Dkt. 27; (2) responses to each
other's objections, see Dkt. 29; Dkt. 31; and
(3) replies thereto, see Dkt. 32; Dkt. 33. The BOP
also filed a response to the District's objections.
See Dkt. 30 at 1 (responding to the District's
claim that “the Federal government was responsible for
Mr. Brown's education while he was in their
consideration of the above submissions, the Court
ADOPTS in part and MODIFIES
in part Magistrate Judge Harvey's thoughtful and thorough
R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the Court agrees
with the Magistrate Judge's recommended disposition of
the case and writes separately to explain where the
Court's analysis diverges from the R&R's
reasoning. Accordingly, the BOP's motion to dismiss is
GRANTED in its entirety, and the
District's motion to dismiss is GRANTED
in part and DENIED in part.
relevant facts underlying Plaintiff's IDEA and
Rehabilitation Act claims are recounted in greater detail in
the “Background” section of the R&R. See
Id. at 2-9. In short, Plaintiff, a “lifelong
resident” of the District, has been “eligible for
special education and related services” since
elementary school. Dkt. 25 at 5. In December 2014, when
Plaintiff was eighteen, he was “arrested for a felony
violation of the [D.C.] Code” and “sentenced to
twenty-four months' incarceration on the local charge,
” which he served, pursuant to the Revitalization Act,
at the “Hazelton Federal Correction Institution”
in West Virginia. Id. Critical to this case,
“Plaintiff never received any special education
services, nor was he enrolled in any high school program
during his incarceration.” Id.
September 2016, two months prior to his release,
“Plaintiff filed a Due Process Complaint against the
District of Columbia Public Schools (‘DCPS'), the
District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of
Education (‘OSSE'), and [the] BOP, ” claiming
“that he had been denied a FAPE during the [2015-16 and
2016-17] . . . school years, while in the custody of [the]
BOP, ” in violation of the IDEA. Id. at 6. The
Hearing Officer dismissed “Plaintiff's
administrative complaint . . . as to [the] BOP” on the
ground that the IDEA only applied to state agencies.
Id. at 6, 8. The officer also granted
“judgment as a matter of law . . . as to claims against
DCPS and OSSE” on the ground that “the IDEA does
not place responsibility on State or local education agencies
to provide a FAPE for individuals with disabilities
incarcerated in federal correctional facilities.”
Id. at 8.
his release, Plaintiff initiated this action to set aside the
Hearing Officer Determination. Dkt. 1 at 14 (Compl. Prayer).
This Court referred the case, pursuant to Local Civil Rules
72.2 and 72.3, to Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey. Minute
Order (Mar. 6, 2017). Plaintiff then filed an amended
complaint in April 2017, adding a cause of action under
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Dkt. 13 at 12-14 (Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 39-51). Both Defendants moved to dismiss
Plaintiff's amended complaint. Dkt. 14; Dkt. 16.
Magistrate Judge Harvey issued a R&R granting the
BOP's motion to dismiss in its entirety and denying the
District's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's IDEA claim.
Dkt. 25 at 2.
the R&R concluded that Plaintiff failed to state a claim
under the Rehabilitation Act because he could not show that
either the BOP or the District's refusal to provide him
with a FAPE was in bad faith. Dkt. 25 at 29. With respect to
Plaintiff's IDEA claim against the BOP, the R&R
concluded that the BOP was not subject to the IDEA,
notwithstanding the Revitalization Act's broad language
charging the BOP with the “custody, care, subsistence,
education, treatment[, ] and training” of individuals
like Plaintiff, see Pub. L. No. 105-33, §
11201(b). Dkt. 25 at 14-20. The R&R, in contrast, did not
dismiss Plaintiff's IDEA claim against the District.
Instead, it found that the District's obligation to
provide a FAPE is triggered by a child's residency, Dkt.
25 at 21, and that this obligation is not terminated when the
child is in federal custody, Dkt. 25 at 22-24.
objects to the R&R's dismissal of his IDEA claim
against the BOP and the dismissal of his Rehabilitation Act
claims against both Defendants. Dkt. 26. As to the IDEA
claim, Plaintiff argues that the BOP is subject to the IDEA
because it “assumed responsibility for the
‘education' of . . . individuals [like
Plaintiff]” through the Revitalization Act.
Id. at 3 (quoting Pub. L. No. 105-33, §
11201(b)). Plaintiff also contends that holding the
District-but not the BOP-responsible for providing
individuals, like Plaintiff, a FAPE replaces their
“absolute right” to a FAPE under the IDEA with
one “contingent” on the cooperation of the BOP,
resulting in their disparate treatment. Id. at 4-5.
Finally, Plaintiff avers that his Rehabilitation Act claims
should not be dismissed because he adequately alleged that
Defendants acted in bad faith. Id. at 6-8.
District objects to the R&R's denial of its motion to
dismiss Plaintiff's IDEA claim on three grounds. First,
the District asserts that the Revitalization Act
“carve[s] out” an exception to the text of the
IDEA because it provides that the “BOP-rather than the
District-is responsible for the education of felony offenders
of the D.C. Code sentenced as adults.” Dkt. 27 at 10.
Second, the District argues that under the plain language of
20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(11)(C), it is only “required
to ensure that its own facilities comply with the
IDEA;” here, it has no authority over the BOP. Dkt. 27
at 12; see also Id. at 19-20 (arguing that the
R&R “erred by finding de facto that the District is
required to force BOP to provide a FAPE to [D.C.] residents
in [the] BOP's custody”). Finally, the District
contends that the R&R ignores the import of two
Department of Education (“DOE”) opinion letters
and Fourth Circuit precedent that, in its view, compels a
contrary result. Id. at 16-19.