United States District Court, District of Columbia
Rosemary M. Collyer, United States District Judge.
case culminates several years of administrative interactions
and litigation between Plaintiffs, the parents of
eighth-grade student K.W., and Defendant District of Columbia
Public Schools (DCPS). At issue is K.W.'s Individualized
Education Program, his school placement, and the process by
which K.W. and his parents can vindicate his right to a free
and appropriate public education, guaranteed to him by
federal law, which DCPS appears to ignore. No. parents should
be required to sue DCPS each and every school year to force
the school system to comply with its obligations under
federal law. The Complaint allegations make out a shocking
lack of compliance by DCPS.
has moved for partial dismissal of the Complaint, which
K.W.'s parents oppose. Additionally, Plaintiffs seek
immediate injunctive relief pursuant to the
“stay-put” provision of the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act. Defendants oppose such relief.
The Court will deny the motion to dismiss and grant
a 13-year old, eighth-grade student diagnosed with a Specific
Learning Disability. He has also been diagnosed with
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and fine motor and
motor-planning disorders that cause him to reverse letters,
fail to differentiate accurately between left and right, and
be unable to imitate multi-step motor patterns and
directions. K.W. qualifies as a child needing special
education services and is entitled to a free appropriate
public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et
seq; see id § 1415(a). K.W. attended
pre-kindergarten through third grade at Brent Elementary
Public School, part of DCPS. At Brent, K.W.'s parents
expressed concern about his academic progress and questioned
the level of special education services being provided. They
also supplemented DCPS services at their own expense, with
private interventions and tutoring at the direction of Brent
end of his third-grade year in the spring of 2014, K.W.'s
parents were dissatisfied with the Individualized Education
Program (IEP) proposed for K.W. for the 2014-15 school year.
Instead, they unilaterally placed K.W. at the Lab School of
Washington, a private, special education school for students
with significant learning disabilities. K.W. attended the Lab
School during the 2014-15 academic year, where he received
over 30 hours of specialized instruction per week across all
content areas. Midway though the school year, the Lab School
additionally began to provide K.W. with a double period of
reading, utilizing intensive, research-based methodologies to
address his disabilities.
March 17, 2015, K.W.'s parents filed a due process
complaint challenging the appropriateness of the
DCPS-proposed IEP and educational (school) placement for K.W.
for the 2014-15 school year. On June 8, 2015, Independent
Hearing Officer Peter Vaden issued a Hearing Officer
Determination (HOD) in which he found that the proposed
2014-15 IEP denied K.W. a FAPE (March 2015 HOD). See
20 U.S.C. § 1415(a). Hearing Officer Vaden determined
that the Lab School was a beneficial placement for K.W. and
ordered DCPS to reimburse K.W.'s parents for the cost of
the Lab School tuition for the 2014-15 school year. DCPS did
not appeal the March 2015 HOD.
cycle repeated itself three more times. In the summer of
2015, K.W.'s parents met with DCPS to develop an
appropriate IEP for the 2015-16 school year. The DCPS team
proposed an IEP that would provide K.W. with 15 hours per
week of specialized instruction to be implemented at Brent.
K.W.'s parents again disagreed and filed a second due
process complaint on September 10, 2015. On November 23,
2015, Independent Hearing Officer Keith Seat issued an HOD
finding that the 2015-16 IEP denied a FAPE to K.W. and
ordering DCPS to reimburse K.W.'s parents for his
beneficial placement at the Lab School for the 2015-2016
school year (November 2015 HOD). DCPS did not appeal the
November 2015 HOD.
fall of 2016, K.W.'s parents again met with DCPS to
develop an appropriate IEP for the 2016-17 school year. DCPS
again proposed 15 hours of specialized instruction in a
public school setting and K.W.'s parents again disagreed.
K.W.'s parents filed a third due process complaint on
January 3, 2017, and reached a settlement with DCPS on
February 1, 2017 (February 2017 Settlement). Under the
February 2017 Settlement, K.W. remained at the Lab School and
DCPS paid his educational expenses as required by IDEA.
October 2017, DCPS yet again proposed an IEP for K.W. for the
2017-18 school year that would have provided just 15 hours of
specialized instruction in a public school setting.
K.W.'s parents again disagreed and filed a due process
complaint on December 8, 2017. On March 27, 2018, Independent
Hearing Officer Michael Lazan determined that DCPS had denied
a FAPE to K.W. by proposing a 15-hour-per-week IEP in his
local public school (March 2018 HOD). Again, the March 2018
HOD ordered DCPS to reimburse K.W.'s parents for his
beneficial placement at the Lab School for the 2017-18 school
year. DCPS did not appeal the March 2018 HOD.
March 30, 2018, DCPS contacted K.W.'s parents to obtain
documentation on K.W.'s education-related expenses.
K.W.'s parents provided the requested documentation on
May 3, 2018, and DCPS confirmed receipt. As of the filing of
the instant Complaint on November 8, 2018, DCPS had not
complied with the March 2018 HOD or fully reimbursed
K.W.'s parents for his educational expenses for the
2017-2018 school year.
the summer of 2018, K.W.'s parents met with DCPS to
develop an IEP for the 2018-19 school year. Several members
of the IEP team from DCPS were the same persons who had
proposed the previous two IEPs that had been found to deny
K.W. a FAPE. Nonetheless, the DCPS team again proposed only
15 hours of specialized instruction per week for K.W. in a
public-school setting, i.e., 3 hours per day, with
the rest of each day to be spent in general education without
support. As relevant here, the Complaint alleges that the
DCPS-proposed IEP for K.W. for the 2018-19 school year was
functionally identical to the DCPS-proposed IEP for K.W. for
the 2017-18 school year that Hearing Officer Lazan had
already found to be a denial of FAPE in the March 2018 HOD.
The DCPS-proposed 2018-19 IEP for K.W. was also highly
similar to the DCPS-proposed IEP for K.W. for the 2015-16
school year, also found to be a denial of FAPE (November 2015
HOD), and the DCPS-proposed IEP for K.W. for the 2016-17
school year that was resolved through the 2017 Settlement and
resulted in K.W. remaining in his placement at the Lab
November 8, 2018, K.W.'s parents filed the instant
Complaint, alleging the denial of a FAPE for K.W. and
violations of his civil rights by both DCPS and the Office of
the State Superintendent of Education of the District of
Columbia (OSSE). See Compl. [Dkt. 1]. On December
19, 2018, Defendants filed a motion for partial dismissal of
the Complaint, including dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims
as to Mayor Muriel Bowser, Interim Chancellor Amanda
Alexander, and Superintendent Hansuel Kang in their official
capacities. Plaintiffs oppose dismissal.
filed a motion for stay-put relief on January 8, 2019,
seeking a court order requiring DCPS to pay for K.W. at the
Lab School of Washington, effective immediately and through
the pendency of this litigation, and to reimburse K.W.'s
parents for money already spent for K.W.'s tuition and
transportation for the 2018-19 school year to date.
Defendants oppose, asserting that Plaintiffs' argument
for stay-put relief fails because Plaintiffs have no cause of
action to enforce a favorable Hearing Officer Determination
and because Plaintiffs have not exhausted their
administrative remedies regarding the 2018-19
Motion to Dismiss
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires a complaint to be
sufficient “to give the defendant fair notice of what
the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(internal citations omitted). Although a complaint need not
include detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's
obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to
relief “requires more than labels and conclusions, and
a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Id. The facts alleged
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Id. A complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief
that is “plausible on its face.” Id. at
570. When a plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged, then the claim has facial
plausibility. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a
probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. A court must treat the complaint's factual
allegations as true, “even if doubtful in fact.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A court need not accept as
true legal conclusions set forth in a complaint.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may consider
the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the
complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference, and
matters about which the court may take judicial notice.
Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052,
1059 (D.C. Cir. 2007).