Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

I.W. v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 18, 2018

I.W., [1] et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DABNEY L. FRIEDRICH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides a right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for eligible children with disabilities. A FAPE entitles children with disabilities to a uniquely tailored individualized education program. The parents of Washington, D.C. student I.W. filed this lawsuit alleging that the District of Columbia Public Schools proposed an inappropriate individualized education program for I.W. and, as a result, denied him a FAPE. Before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Court will remand the case to the hearing officer for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         I.W. currently attends a private school in the District of Columbia (D.C), but from 2009-2013, he attended his neighborhood D.C. public school. In 2012, I.W.'s parents obtained a private psychoeducational evaluation of I.W. because of his academic challenges. That evaluation revealed that I.W. had a written expression disorder and recommended that he receive certain services and tutoring. In December 2012, D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) found I.W. eligible for special education services and proposed an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP recommended one hour per week of specialized instruction outside of the general education setting and 30 minutes per week inside the general education setting. DCPS later amended I.W.'s IEP to recommend 2 hours per month of occupational therapy services in the general education setting.

         Even with the IEP, however, I.W. continued to struggle academically. I.W.'s parents therefore enrolled him in a private school that specializes in educating students with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning disabilities for the 2013-2014 school year. I.W.'s private school provides full-time special education services and integrated speech and language and occupational therapy services in the classroom.

         Before the 2015-2016 school year, I.W.'s parents initiated the special education eligibility process through DCPS and obtained another private psychological assessment of I.W. That assessment placed I.W. in the high-average range for verbal comprehension, the average range for visual spatial index, fluid reasoning, and working memory, and the low-average range for processing speed. A.R. 224-27. The assessment also diagnosed I.W. with developmental dyslexia, a written expression disorder, and a mathematics disorder. Id. 234-36.

         During an October 26, 2015 initial screening meeting, the parties agreed that DCPS would conduct an occupational therapy evaluation of I.W. and review his psychological assessment. Thereafter, a DCPS occupational therapist evaluated I.W. and concluded, among other things, that it is difficult for I.W. to integrate visual information with motor output, that he struggles to regulate his arousal level, and that handwriting is an area of weakness. Id. 263-69. The DCPS psychologist who reviewed I.W.'s independent psychological assessment noted that I.W. needs redirection from teachers to stay on task and complete assignments. Id. 260. The DCPS psychologist also concluded that I.W. meets the criteria for a specific learning disability and that he would benefit from various accommodations, including repeated instructions and follow-up, extended time, shortened assignments, and attentional breaks. Id. 261-62.

         The IEP team found I.W. eligible for special education services as a student with specific learning disabilities in reading, writing, and math. Although I.W.'s parents and DCPS agreed on I.W.'s goals, they disagreed about what services could help I.W. make progress on those goals. DCPS proposed an IEP that includes 10 hours per week of specialized instruction in the general education setting and the following special instruction outside of the general education setting: 2.5 hours per week of specialized written expression instruction, 2.5 hours per week of specialized instruction in reading, and 2.5 hours per week of specialized instruction in math. Id. 580-81. The proposed IEP also includes four hours per month of occupational therapy in the general education setting and two hours per month outside of the general education setting. Id. I.W.'s parents, however, asserted that I.W. needs more service hours and a more intensive special education program to make progress on his goals.

         In spring 2016, I.W.'s parents hired an educational consultant to analyze whether DCPS's proposed educational program at the public school and I.W.'s current placement at the private school were appropriate. Based on the consultant's review, which included observing I.W. at the private school, the consultant concluded that the proposed educational program at the public school would not be appropriate for I.W. but that his private school could continue to provide him with the services he needs.

         In August 2016, 1.W.'s parents notified DCPS that I.W. would continue to attend his private school for the 2016-2017 school year because DCPS failed to offer him a FAPE. When DCPS refused to fund his private school tuition, I.W.'s parents requested a due process hearing to challenge DCPS's proposed educational program and placement.

         During the hearing, I.W.'s parents argued that DCPS denied I.W. a FAPE in four ways: (1) by failing to propose an appropriate IEP for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years; (2) by failing to propose an appropriate placement for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years; (3) by failing to timely determine I.W.'s eligibility for special education services by December 2015; and (4) by failing to timely develop I.W.'s IEP for the 2015-2016 school year by December 2015. Id. 576-78. They also argued that DCPS's proposed educational program and placement for I.W. are flawed because I.W. needs more service hours than the public school can provide. They therefore requested that DCPS place I.W. in his private school, pay his private school tuition for the 2016-2017 school year, and reimburse them for all tuition and related expenses associated with his attendance at the private school during the 2015-2016 school year. The hearing officer concluded that DCPS did not deny I.W. a FAPE and denied the requested relief. Id. 588.

         On November 30, 2016, the plaintiffs filed this action challenging the hearing officer's determination.[3] Compl., Dkt. 1. In their motion, plaintiffs argue that the hearing officer committed the following errors: first, the hearing officer misapplied the relevant burden of proof provisions; second, the hearing officer misapplied the FAPE standard; third, the hearing officer incorrectly assessed the credibility of witnesses; fourth, the hearing officer failed to address contradictions in DCPS's case; and fifth, the hearing officer applied the wrong legal standard to the plaintiffs' claim for tuition reimbursement. See Pl's Mot., Dkt. 14 at 2. Because the Court concludes that the hearing officer misapplied the FAPE standard, it does not resolve the plaintiffs' other challenges here.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "On cross-motions for summary judgment, each party carries its own burden to demonstrate that there are no disputed material facts and it is entitled to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.