United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Jawanzah Crockett, proceeding pro se, brings this
action against the District of Columbia Public Schools
(“DCPS”); various school administrators,
managers, and teachers; and the Mayor of the District of
Columbia. The case focuses on a series of events occurring
over the course of Crockett's tenure as a student at
Wilson Senior High School (“Wilson H.S.”). DCPS
determined that Crockett was entitled to special education
services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et
seq., and he eventually received an Individualized
Education Plan (“IEP”). Crockett alleges,
however, that Defendants failed to accommodate his
disability; that Wilson H.S. did not properly implement the
IEP; that he was otherwise denied the Free Appropriate Public
Education (“FAPE”) to which he was entitled; that
DCPS unlawfully disclosed portions of his protected
educational records; and that Defendants inaccurately
reported his attendance and grades. Based on these factual
allegations, he asserts claims under Title II of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42
U.S.C. § 12131 et seq.; the IDEA; the D.C.
Student Grievance Procedures, D.C Mun. Regs. tit. 5B, §
2405; the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
(“FERPA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; the D.C. Human
Rights Act (“DCHRA”), D.C. Code § 2-1401.01
et seq.; and an array of common law torts.
equally multifaceted response, Defendants move to dismiss or,
in the alternative, for summary judgment, raising a host of
defenses. Their central argument is that Crockett brought a
similar action in D.C. Superior Court in June 2015; that he
was unsuccessful there; and that he is now barred by the
doctrines of claim and issue preclusion from litigating his
case before this Court. In addition to that argument,
Defendants contend that Crockett's current lawsuit should
be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies
under the IDEA; that his complaint fails to state a claim of
negligence or neglect of duty; that his remaining tort claims
are barred by a one-year statute of limitations; that DCPS is
non sui juris and thus not subject to suit; and that
the complaint fails to include any factual allegations
directed at the Mayor.
reasons explained below, the Court will
GRANT in part and DENY in
part Defendants' motion.
began attending Wilson H.S. in the fall of 2011. Dkt. 1 at 3
(Compl. ¶ 15). He struggled during that first year, and
his mother asked that he be tested to determine eligibility
for special education services. Id. (Compl.
¶¶ 15-16). An accommodations plan drafted under
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794,
led to improved performance in his sophomore year.
Id. Still, miscommunications and disagreements about
the plan hampered its implementation, and Crockett's
mother continued to push for further evaluation of her son.
Id. (Compl. ¶¶ 17-24). Eventually, DCPS
conceded that Crockett was entitled to an IEP under the IDEA.
Id. (Compl. ¶¶ 21-22). On April 7, 2014,
during the spring of Crockett's junior year, Wilson H.S.
finally produced the IEP, id. (Compl. ¶ 22),
but, according to Crockett, the school almost immediately
fell into noncompliance, id. (Compl. ¶ 27).
challenging that noncompliance, however, Crockett's
mother filed a different due process complaint with the D.C.
Office of the State Superintendent of Education
(“OSSE”), challenging DCPS's failure to offer
Crockett an IEP earlier in his time at Wilson H.S.
See Dkt. 12-8 (First OSSE Hearing Report). The OSSE
hearing officer concluded in December 2014 that DCPS had
failed to provide Crockett a FAPE from October 11, 2012, to
April 7, 2014-that is, for much of his high school career.
Id. at 3, 8-11. As compensatory education, the OSSE
hearing officer ordered DCPS to provide Crockett 200 hours of
independent tutoring, 20 hours of behavior counseling, and
reimbursement for prior tutoring expenses. Id. at
10. Crockett has not called into question DCPS's
compliance with that award.
the 2014-2015 school year, Crockett was initially placed into
a self-contained classroom (one containing only students
receiving special education services) for math, as
contemplated by his IEP. Dkt. 12-7 at 5 (Second OSSE Hearing
Report). Because he was substantially more advanced than
other students in the self-contained classroom,
Crockett's special education teacher recommended that he
be returned to the general education classroom for math.
Id. At his mother's request, that switch was
made. Id. Crockett then passed both math classes he
took his senior year. Id.
contrast, Crockett struggled in Spanish. Despite his
mother's repeated efforts to coordinate with his teachers
to make sure all of his assignments were turned in, he
ultimately failed that class. Id. Crockett contends
that this failing grade was the product of a host of missteps
by Defendants, including failing to provide adequate support
and accommodations, “denying [his] parent access to
teachers to assist in organizing . . . and keeping track of
[his] assignments, ” Dkt. 1 at 13 (Compl. ¶ 87),
misrepresenting the number of assignments that had yet to be
completed, id. at 8-9 (Compl. ¶¶ 48-57);
id. at 15-16 (Compl. ¶ 103), and falsifying
attendance records, id. at 17-18 (Compl.
¶¶ 112, 118-25). Because he failed Spanish,
Crockett was unable to graduate with his class, and was
required to repeat the course over the summer. Dkt. 12-7 at
receiving notice of his failing grade in Spanish, Crockett
took two actions. First, he lodged another due process
complaint with OSSE. See Dkt. 12-7. The complaint
alleged that his mother had not been timely provided with his
most recent IEP and that the school's decision to return
him to the math general education classroom at his
mother's request had not relieved the school of its
obligation to provide him with additional educational
services in math. See id. at 4- 5. Although those
claims had nothing to do with his Spanish grade, Crockett
sought compensatory education in the form of Spanish
tutoring, funding for the Spanish summer school course he was
taking to graduate, and enrollment in a college preparatory
course. Id. at 9. A due process hearing was held on
July 23, 2015. Id. at 2. On August 7, 2015, the OSSE
hearing officer rejected Crockett's first claim, but
ruled that Wilson H.S.'s failure to provide Crockett with
the additional math support contemplated by his IEP violated
the IDEA. Id. at 6-8. The hearing officer found the
proposed relief inappropriate, however, because it did not
“correlate” with that omission. Id. at
9. As a result, the hearing officer instead ordered that
Crockett receive “20 hours of independent behavior
counseling.” Id. at 10.
Crockett brought suit against DCPS, Wilson H.S., and various
school administrators and teachers in D.C. Superior Court,
seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary
injunction to compel Wilson H.S. to allow him to “pick
up [his] cap and gown, participate in graduation rehearsal
and graduate on June 13 with [his] class.” Dkt. 12-2 at
1 (Superior Court Complaint). Crockett's complaint did
not identify a particular cause of action, but it did allege
that the defendants in that action had failed to provide him
with “accommodations” and had failed to act in a
timely manner on “grade disputes” that he had
raised. Id. The complaint left little doubt,
moreover, that Crockett's allegations were focused- at
least in large part-on his failing grade in Spanish.
hearing on Crockett's motion for a temporary restraining
order was convened the day prior to the Wilson H.S.
graduation, and that motion was denied. The Superior Court
[P]laintiff has not established that he would be irreparably
damaged by not being permitted to participate in the
graduation ceremony on June 13, 2015, nor that he would
likely prevail at trial, nor that he would be more damaged
than would be defendant, nor that the public good would be
injured by withholding injunctive relief.
Dkt. 12-3. Three days later, the Superior Court denied
Crockett's motion for a preliminary injunction for those
same reasons. See Dkt. 12-4.
defendants in that case then filed a motion to dismiss, which
the Superior Court granted on August 25, 2015. See
Dkt. 12-5. Although the complaint had not expressly
identified a cause of action, the Superior Court construed it
to “arise” under 20 U.S.C. §
1415(b)(6)(A), the provision of the IDEA that provides for
administrative due process hearings like those Crockett won
in December 2014 and August 2015. Id. at 4. As the
Superior Court explained, the IDEA sets forth
“carefully tailored administrative and judicial
mechanism[s]” to challenge the failure of a school
system to provide a child with a FAPE. Id. at 6
(quoting Bonar v. Ambach, 771 F.2d 14, 18 (2d Cir.
1985)). In particular, the child's parents must first
pursue a due process hearing conducted by either the state
educational agency or by the local educational agency.
See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f); see also Dkt.
12-5 at 5. Under D.C. law, the initial due process hearing is
conducted by the state educational agency,  Dkt. 12-5 at 5,
and its decision is treated as final agency action for
purposes of the IDEA, see 20 U.S.C. §
1415(i)(1)(A). It is only after obtaining such a final agency
decision, however, that the IDEA authorizes an aggrieved
party to bring a civil action in state or federal court.
Id. § 1415(i)(2)(A); see also Dkt.
12-5 at 5. In light of this regulatory structure, the
Superior Court held that Crockett had failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies under the IDEA because neither he nor
a parent pursued a due process hearing respecting the claims
he sought to raise in the Superior Court action. Dkt. 12-5 at
5-6. As a result, the court lacked “subject matter
then appealed the Superior Court's decision to the D.C.
Court of Appeals. Nine months later, the Court of Appeals
dismissed the appeal as moot. Dkt. 13-1 at 1-2. In a summary
order, the court explained that Crockett sought only
injunctive relief-that is, an order requiring that he be
allowed to graduate with his class-and because the graduation
ceremony had already taken place, there was “no relief
that [the] court [could] provide.” Id. at 1.
Crockett did not request that the D.C. Court of Appeals
vacate the Superior Court's decision, and the Court of
Appeals did not order vacatur sua sponte.
than three weeks after the D.C. Court of Appeals dismissed
his appeal, Crockett filed the present action. Dkt. 1. Five
of the defendants in this case were also named in the earlier
suit: DCPS, Wilson H.S.'s assistant principal for special
education, the school's acting principal, Crockett's
Spanish teacher, and his special education case manager.
Compare Dkt. 12-1 at 1, with Dkt. 1 at 2-3.
To this list, the present suit adds six new defendants: the
DCPS “Instructional Superintendent managing Cluster
VIII schools, ” a second Spanish instructor at Wilson
H.S., Wilson H.S.'s “assistant principal for 2015
summer school and attendance supervisor, ” an
attendance counselor at Wilson H.S., an AP English teacher at
the school, and the Mayor of the District of
Columbia. Dkt. 1 at 1-3. Unlike his prior suit,
which sought only injunctive relief, this case seeks only
damages. Dkt. 1 at 21-22.