United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR
A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jacques Benoit and Camille Collette brought this suit against
the District of Columbia under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act to seek review of various portions
of a February 18, 2018 Hearing Officer Determination
concerning the education of their son E.B. As alleged in
their complaint, the Hearing Officer Determination
incorrectly denied relief on a number of Plaintiffs'
claims. In this motion however, Plaintiffs ask for a
preliminary injunction compelling Defendant's compliance
with those portions of the Hearing Officer Determination on
which they prevailed. While the Court is inclined to agree
with Plaintiffs' substantive arguments regarding
Defendant's payment obligations under the HOD, the relief
requested falls outside the scope of the claims brought in
the complaint. Plaintiffs have also failed to show that they
will suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction.
Accordingly, the Court denies the preliminary injunction.
Plaintiffs are free to amend the complaint to bring a claim
for enforcement of the relevant portions of the Hearing
case marks the latest development in a long-running dispute
between Plaintiffs Jacques Benoit and Camille Collette
(“Benoit and Collette”) and Defendant the
District of Columbia (“the District”) regarding
the education of E.B., Benoit and Collette's son. E.B. is
a 9-year old child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Compl.
¶ 4, ECF No. 1. In the spring of 2012, E.B. was
determined to be eligible for special education services and,
pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(“IDEA”), the District developed an
Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) for him.
See Id. ¶ 7. Between 2012 and 2014, Benoit and
Collette allege that the District failed to offer school
placements that could implement the IEP and refused to
acknowledge E.B.'s disability. See Id.
¶¶ 8-19. And over the next three years, Benoit and
Collette allege that the District developed updated IEPs in
2014, 2015, and 2016 that each significantly decreased the
amount of special education services provided to E.B. See
Id. ¶¶ 22, 27, 31. Benoit and Collette placed
E.B. in private school at The Auburn School between 2014 and
2016 rather than go through with the District's IEPs.
See Id. ¶¶ 25, 28. When E.B. was placed at
the public Murch Elementary School between 2016 and 2017,
they allege that he suffered significant emotional and
behavioral issues. See Id. ¶ 33. After the
District failed to update E.B.'s IEP at the conclusion of
the 2016-2017 school year, Benoit and Collette returned him
to The Auburn School for 2017-2018, see Id. ¶
42, and began legal action.
January and February 2018, an administrative hearing was held
pursuant to the IDEA regarding E.B.'s education. Compl.
¶ 47. On February 18, 2018, the Hearing Officer issued a
Hearing Officer Determination (“HOD”). Compl.
¶ 48. In the HOD, the Hearing Officer found that the
District had denied E.B. a Free and Appropriate Education
(“FAPE”) as required by the IDEA by failing to
provide an appropriate IEP for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018
school years. See HOD Determination at 27-28, 31,
Pl.'s Second Mot. Prelim. Inj. Ex.1, ECF No. 8-3. After
finding that Benoit and Collette had acted reasonably and
placed E.B. in an appropriate private school following the
District's denial of a FAPE for the 2017-2018 school
year, the Hearing Officer ordered the District to reimburse
Benoit and Collette for the expenses associated with
enrolling E.B. at The Auburn School between the fall of 2017
and February 18, 2018. See Id. at 31. And as
compensatory education for the denial of the FAPE for the
2016-2017 school year, the Hearing Officer also ordered that
the District “fund [E.B.'s] continued placement at
[The Auburn School] for the remainder of the 2017-2018 school
year.” Id. at 37. The Hearing Officer
emphasized that any concerns about the lack of interaction
between students at The Auburn School and typically
developing peers were “offset by the undisputed fact
that [E.B.] [was] receiving educational benefit at” The
Auburn School. Id. at 38. On the other hand, the HOD
also denied relief on a number of Benoit and Collette's
claims, including claims for relief based on the
District's actions in the 2015-2016 school year that the
Hearing Officer determined were barred by the IDEA's
statute of limitations. See Compl. ¶ 49.
9, 2018, Benoit and Collette filed this lawsuit to challenge
those portions of the HOD that denied them relief. See
generally Id. Benoit and Collette indicated that they
were bringing “this Complaint seeking relief for denial
of a Free and Appropriate Education (herein FAPE)[, ]”
id. ¶ 1, and stated nine counts for violations
of the IDEA that the Hearing Officer was alleged to have
improperly denied relief on at the February 18, 2018 hearing,
id. ¶¶ 51-69. In their request for relief,
Benoit and Collette specifically asked that the Court
“[f]ind that [the] Hearing Officer . . . erred”
as set forth in the Complaint. Id. ¶ 69.
August 2018, Benoit and Collette filed two motions for a
preliminary injunction, seeking 1) a “stay put”
injunction pursuant to the IDEA requiring that the District
fund E.B.'s continued attendance at The Auburn School
during the pendency of the case, see Pl.'s First
Mot. Prelim. Inj., ECF No. 7, and 2) an injunction compelling
the District to comply with the terms of the HOD requiring it
to fund E.B.'s placement at The Auburn School between
February 18, 2018 and the end of the 2017-2018 school year,
for a total of $23, 672, see Pl.'s Second Mot.
Prelim. Inj. The District filed its opposition to both
motions on August 24, 2018, arguing, inter alia,
that the second motion was moot because the District had
approved payment to The Auburn School for the remainder of
the 2017-2018 tuition and the payment would be made shortly.
See Def.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot. Prelim. Inj. at
5-6, ECF No. 10. After a hearing on August 27, 2018, the
Court granted the first motion and took the second motion
under advisement. See Aug. 27, 2018 Minute Order,
September 4, 2018, the District filed a status report where
it represented that payment to The Auburn School for the
remainder of the 2017-2018 tuition would be made on September
10. See Def.'s Sept. 4 Status Report, ECF No.
17. On September 11, 2018, the District filed another status
report noting that a check for the payment had issued on
September 10. See Def.'s Sept. 11 Status Report,
ECF No. 18. However, just five days later on September 16,
2018, Benoit and Collette filed their own status report
indicating that the District had only paid $10, 672 to The
Auburn School on September 10, leaving $13, 000 unpaid.
See Pl.'s Sept. 16 Status Report, ECF No. 19.
The District confirmed as much on September 24, 2018, noting
for the first time that it disputed the tuition amount
claimed by Benoit and Collette and that it would not pay the
remaining $13, 000. See Def.'s Sept. 24 Status
report, ECF No. 20.
September 26, 2018, Benoit and Collette filed their reply in
further support of the motion for a preliminary injunction.
See Pl.'s Reply to Opp'n, ECF No. 21. On
October 1, 2018, Benoit and Collette filed a supplemental
memorandum to their reply, where they noted that The Auburn
School had informed them that failure to pay the $13, 000 by
October 31 would trigger a monthly 2.5% late fee and result
in their account being sent to collection. See
Supplement to Pl.'s Reply to Opp'n at 1, ECF No. 22.
preliminary injunction is an injunction to protect [the
movant] from irreparable injury and to preserve the
court's power to render a meaningful decision after a
trial on the merits.” Select Milk Producers, Inc.
v. Johanns, 400 F.3d 939, 954 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (quoting
11A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, & Mary Kay
Kane, Federal Practice and Procedures § 2947 (2d ed.
1992)). Preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary
remedy, ” and one that is “never awarded as of
right.” Winter v. Nat'l Res. Def. Council,
Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008).
plaintiff seeking preliminary injunctive relief “must
establish  that he is likely to succeed on the merits, 
that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence
of preliminary relief,  that the balance of equities tips
in his favor, and  that an injunction is in the public
interest.” Aamer v. Obama, 742 F.3d 1023, 1038
(D.C. Cir. 2014) (quoting Sherley v. Sebelius, 644
F.3d 388, 392 (D.C. Cir. 2011)). When seeking such relief,
“the movant has the burden to show that all four
factors, taken together, weigh in favor of the
injunction.” Abdullah v. Obama, 753 F.3d 193,
197 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (quoting Davis v. Pension Benefit
Guar. Corp., 571 F.3d 1288, 1292 (D.C. Cir. 2009))
(internal quotation marks omitted).