United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION [DKT. ## 10, 11 ]
RICHARD J. LEON, UNITED STATES DISTRCT JUDGE.
Gaston and her minor child B.G. (collectively,
"plaintiffs") brought this action against the
District of Columbia ("District" or
"defendant") for injunctive and declaratory relief
under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20
U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq. See Compl. [Dkt. #
1]. Plaintiffs claim that the District violated the IDEA by
denying B.G. a free appropriate public education when it
failed to provide her with an appropriate individual
educational program during the 2017-18 academic year. See
Id. at ¶ 1.
before me are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. See [Dkt. ## 10, 11]. Upon consideration
of the briefing, the relevant law, and the entire record
herein, and for the reasons stated below, plaintiffs'
motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and
defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment is
a minor child eligible to receive special education and
related services under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act ("IDEA") as a student with a
disability. See 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et.
seq. Defendant is a municipal corporation that receives
federal funds pursuant to the IDEA and is obligated to comply
with the IDEA. See Id. §§ 1411,
IDEA provides that states and territories, including
defendant, that receive federal educational assistance must
establish "policies and procedures to ensure,"
among other things, that a free appropriate public education
("FAPE") is available to disabled children. See
Id. § 1412(a)(1)(A). In order to provide such
children with a FAPE, a school district must create and
implement an individualized education plan ("IEP"),
"which is the 'primary vehicle' for implementing
the [IDEA]." Lesesne ex rel. B.F. v. District of
Columbia., 447 F.3d 828, 830 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting
Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 311 (1988)). An IEP is
developed through "meetings with a representative of the
school district, teachers, parents or guardians, and the
child if appropriate." Honig, 484 U.S. at 311.
Among other things, it "lays out the specialized
educational services the child will require to meet" the
goals that the team establishes for him or her. Id.
the IDEA, a parent of a disabled child who is dissatisfied
with a school district's "provision of a [FAPE] to
such child," 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(6), may present
their arguments in an "impartial due process
hearing," id. § 1415(f). At the hearing,
the parties are permitted to put on evidence and expert
testimony about the child's educational and functional
needs. Id. § 1415(f), (h). An independent
hearing officer will then consider the evidence presented and
issue a "determination of whether the child received a
[FAPE]." Id. § 1415(f)(3)(E). A party
aggrieved by the hearing officer's determination may
bring a civil action in state or federal court. Id.
a fourteen-year-old female student, a resident of the
District of Columbia, and the adopted child of Ms. Gaston.
AR5, 321, 571-74. B.G. faced a number of serious hardships
as a young child, including in utero exposure to drugs and
alcohol as well as physical abuse and introduction to
dangerous and violent situations. AR84. Perhaps consequently,
B.G.'s childhood and adolescence have been marked by a
longstanding and well-documented history of academic and
behavioral challenges. AR6, 62-82, 96-109, 168-82, 579-81. In
the fourth grade, B.G. was formally diagnosed with attention
deficit hyperactive disorder ("ADHD'') AR171.
She was enrolled in private schools through the seventh grade
but was removed during the 2016-2017 school year after an
altercation with other students. AR63, 93, 171.
2016, while still in private school, B.G. was referred to the
District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS'`) for
special education testing. At that point, B.G. was twelve
years old and enrolled as a seventh grader at DuPont Park
Adventist School. AR51. DCPS convened a multidisciplinary
team ("DCPS team") meeting on October 18, 2016 to
discuss B.G.'s circumstances and determine how to move
forward. AR6, 51, 54, 62. B.G. was referred for an initial
psychological and educational evaluation, which DCPS
psychologist Dr. Leah Nathan prepared on January 26, 2017.
AR62. In the course of her evaluation, Dr. Nathan
interviewed, among others, B.G.'s teachers, who reported
that B.G. struggled with basic computation and reading skills
and that she frequently acted out in negative ways. AR64-65.
Dr. Nathan also performed a series of tests; B.G. measured
poorly in verbal comprehension, fluid reasoning, and
behavioral functioning. AR65-77. Dr. Nathan opined that based
on B.G.'s ADHD and her history of academic and behavioral
problems, B.G. appeared to meet the criteria for
classification as a student with an "other health
impairment." AR77. Dr. Nathan recommended that B.G.
receive, among other things, a behavior intervention plan and
February 23, 2017, the DCPS team met to review and discuss
Dr. Nathan's report. AR89. Consistent with Dr.
Nathan's recommendations, the team classified B.G. as
"other health impairment" based on her ADHD and
determined that B.G. was eligible for special education
services. AR6, 90. The team also decided that a draft IEP
should be developed for B.G. and reviewed in March 2017.
AR90. A few weeks later, B.G. was involved in a physical
altercation with other students and transferred from DuPont
Adventist to the public Kramer Middle School. AR93, 171.
DCPS team met again on March 24, 2017 to review B.G.'s
IEP. AR123. The March 2017 IEP called for B.G. to receive ten
hours per week of specialized instruction and three hours per
month of behavioral support services, both within the general
education setting. AR118. Notwithstanding the IEP, B.G. ended
the 2016-2017 academic year with poor grades, including a D
in English, a D in Reading Support, and an F in Science.
continued her enrollment in Kramer for the 2017-2018 school
year. On July 28, 2017, independent psychologist Dr. Natasha
Nelson conducted a comprehensive psychological evaluation of
B.G., which Dr. Nelson updated on September 25, 2017. AR168.
Dr. Nelson found that B.G., who was set to enter the eighth
grade, was reading at the third-grade level and writing at
the fifth-grade level, and that her math skills were at the
fourth-grade level. AR173-74. Dr. Nelson observed that B.G.
"appear[ed] to suffer from affective disorder that is
rooted in depression"; she diagnosed B.G. with an
unspecified depressive disorder (in addition to her
preexisting ADHD diagnosis). AR 177-78. Based on these
diagnoses, Dr. Nelson recommended that, together with
B.G.'s "'other health impairment"
classification for ADHD, B.G. "be classified under the
special education category of emotional
disturbance.'' AR178. Dr. Nelson further recommended
that B.G. receive fifteen hours per week of "pull
out" special education instruction outside of the
general education setting in reading and math as well as
"inclusion supports" in all of B.G.'s other
academic classes. AR178. In this context, by "inclusion
supports" Dr. Nelson meant that a special education
teacher would work ...