United States District Court, District of Columbia
C. Lamberth, United States District Judge.
Jones sues under the Individuals with Disabilities Act. 20
U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482 (IDEA), to challenge her minor
son D.M.'s individualized education program (IEP) for the
2015-2016 school year. After a local education hearing
officer determined the District of Columbia Public Schools
(DCPS) provided D.M. with the requisite free appropriate
public education (FAPE), Jones appealed to this Court.
Court referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Meriweather,
who considered the six issues Jones raised, affirming the
hearing officer on five of them. But the hearing officer
never considered the sixth: whether the 2015-2016 IEP's
failure to account for all hours during the school week or to
describe D.M.'s least restrictive possible educational
environment violated the IDEA by limiting Jones's
ability to help develop her son's IEP. Judge Meriweather
decided that it did, but since the violation did not actually
affect D.M.'s education, it only entitled Jones to
objects, arguing the deficient IEP affected D.M.'s
education by permitting instruction from
non-special-education-certified teachers. So she wants a
compensatory education plan to make up for any instruction by
non-special-education-eertified teachers. But this relief
would not remedy the IDEA violation Judge Meriweather found.
And in any event, instruction by
non-special-education-certified teachers does not render
D.M.'s 2015-2016 IEP deficient. Accordingly, the Court
adopts Judge Meriweather s Report & Recommendation in
Jones's Prior IDEA Action
suit concerns D.M.'s 2015-2016 IEP. But that IEP actually
resulted from an earlier action challenging D.M.'s
2014-2015 IEP. The earlier action ended with a hearing
officer ordering DCPS to draft a new IEP for the 2015-2016
school year requiring that "[a]ll of [D.M.]'s
academic instruction shall be specialized instruction
provided in the outside of general setting," and that
"[a] 11 of [D.M.'s] instruction shall be provided in
a small classroom (i.e., not to exceed 12 students),
with a low ratio of students to adults (i.e.. not to
exceed six students per adult)." R. 201-02, ECF No. 9.
brought this action because DCPS failed to comply. Though
DCPS follows a 32.5-hour school week, D.M.'s 2015-2016
IEP guaranteed only 21.5 weekly hours of special education.
See R. 231. But despite this oversight, the
2015-2016 IEP functionally complied with the original order
since D.M. spent the entire school week in a small,
self-contained classroom designated for behavioral and
educational support. See R. 15, 992. Regardless,
Jones brought this IDEA action alleging DCPS denied D.M. a
FAPE by failing to formally heed the original order.
time around, the hearing officer agreed the 2015-2016 IEP
formally "contravened" the original order. R.
15-16. Yet he concluded DCPS did not functionally deny D.M. a
FAPE since it "actually offered all of his academic
instruction .. . outside of [a] general education
Meriweather affirmed. But she reached further to find two new
IDEA violations the officer did not consider: First, she
decided the 2015-2016 IEP's failure to account for every
school hour "negatively impacted [Jones]'s ability
to participate in the decision making process regarding the
environment in which [her son] would be educated." R.
& R. 27, ECF No. 17. Second, she concluded the 2015-2016
IEP's "failure to address [D.M.'s] LRE also
significantly impeded [Jones]'s participation in the
development of the IEP." Id. 28. According to
Judge Meriweather, "both deficiencies constitute[d]
substantive violations of the IDEA" that denied D.M. a
FAPE. Id. DCPS does not object to that conclusion.
Judge Meriweather admitted this was "an unusual
situation because the denial of a FAPE did not affect the
educational services that D.M. received." Id.
at 48. Since "[t]he denial of a FAPE arises [only] from
the infringement of [Jones] 's ability to participate in
the process of determining the setting in which D.M. would be
educated," there was "no lost educational benefit
to redress." Id., So she declined Jones's
request for compensatory education, awarding only declaratory
Jones's Objection to Judge Meriweather's Report &
objects to Judge Meriweather's decision to award only
declaratory relief, claiming the IEP's failure to account
for every school hour and for D.M.'s LRE did affect his
educational services and thus entitle him to equitable
relief. She argues even though DCPS provided D.M.'s
education in a specialized setting. DCPS did not provide D.M.
with full-time special education since
non-special-education-certified teachers ...