United States District Court, District of Columbia
J.B., a minor by and through her parent ROBERT BELT, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Belt thinks the District of Columbia Public School System
(“DCPS”) has sold his granddaughter J.B. short.
In Belt's view, DCPS has not done enough to ensure that
J.B.-who was diagnosed first with a learning disability and
later an intellectual disability-makes appropriate academic
progress at her public elementary school. Belt and J.B.
(collectively, “plaintiffs”) sought remedies
through the proper administrative channels, but an
administrative hearing officer denied their requests.
Believing the hearing officer got it wrong, plaintiffs filed
this federal lawsuit in June 2017. They claim that DCPS
violated J.B.'s right to a “free appropriate public
education” (“FAPE”) under the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20
U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. Specifically, they allege
that DCPS failed to develop an adequate Individualized
Education Program (“IEP”) for J.B. and failed to
comply with the terms of the IEPs it did produce. To right
these alleged wrongs, plaintiffs want DCPS to subsidize
J.B.'s placement in a non-public school.
moved for judgment on the pleadings and summary judgment; the
District responded with its own motion for summary judgment.
The Court referred the motions to Magistrate Judge G. Michael
Harvey, who recommended that the Court deny Belt's
motions and grant the District's. Plaintiffs then filed
objections to the recommendation, and the District responded
to those objections. After a fresh review of the magistrate
judge's work and plaintiffs' objections, the Court
adopts the magistrate judge's recommendation and will
grant summary judgment in the District's favor.
Judge Harvey's Report and Recommendation provides a
comprehensive recitation of the facts, see Report
and Recommendation (“R & R”) at 2-21, so the
Court will give only a brief summary.
this case was filed in June 2017, J.B. was a 14-year-old
eighth-grader at LaSalle Backus Elementary School in the
District of Columbia. Compl. ¶ 1. She had been given her
first IEP as a Specific Learning Disabled student in 2010.
Administrative Record (“AR”) Exh. 2 at 1. In
2013, J.B. was reevaluated and re-classified as
intellectually deficient rather than learning-disabled.
Id. A modified IEP followed in October 2014, and
once annually over the next three years. Compl. ¶¶
2, 4, 7, 15.
the October 2014 IEP through January 2017, according to
DCPS's own evaluations, J.B. made only limited-and in
some categories, no-progress. See Compl. ¶ 19
(no change in performance in written expression and motor
skills). J.B. stagnated in other areas from 2015 to 2017.
Id. (no change in social/emotional development). And
while J.B. improved in some competencies (like reading) from
2015 to 2017, the reading goals established for J.B. in her
IEP stayed the same. Id.
with the pace of J.B.'s progress, plaintiffs filed an
administrative due process complaint with DCPS in January
2017. The complaint alleged that DCPS had denied J.B. a FAPE
by failing to (1) include a special education teacher in
J.B.'s IEP planning meetings; (2) develop an IEP in
October 2016 and January 2017 that was reasonably calculated
to provide educational benefits; (3) identify an appropriate
location of services; and (4) implement J.B.'s IEPs
effectively given that she had made minimal or no academic
progress from October 2014 to January 2017. AR Exh. 1 at 4-5.
For relief, plaintiffs sought funding to subsidize J.B.'s
placement at a non-public school and enrollment in an
administrative due process hearing took place in March 2017,
at which plaintiffs presented four witnesses and the District
another two. AR Exs. 3-6; R & R at 3. Shortly thereafter,
the hearing officer determined that DCPS had fulfilled its
obligation to provide J.B. with a FAPE and denied
plaintiffs' requested relief. AR Exh. 1 at 14-15.
lawsuit challenges that administrative determination. The
plaintiffs moved for judgment on the pleadings and for
summary judgment. The District opposed both motions and filed
a cross-motion for summary judgment. The Court referred these
motions to Magistrate Judge Harvey, who issued his R & R
on May 5, 2018, recommending summary judgment in the
District's favor. Plaintiffs timely filed their
objections to the R & R, the District has responded, and
the matter is now ripe for the Court's resolution.
Judgment on the Pleadings
is entitled to judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(c) when “no material issue of
fact remains to be solved, and the movant is clearly entitled
to judgment as a matter of law.” Montanans for
Multiple Use v. Barbouletos, 542 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C.
2008) (citations and alteration omitted). In considering a
Rule 12(c) motion, “courts employ the same standard
that governs a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, ”
McNamara v. Picken, 866 F.Supp.2d 10, 14 (D.D.C.
2012), meaning it must accept a complaint's factual
allegations as true but need not accept its legal
conclusions, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007).