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D.L. v. Springfield Board of Education

March 6, 2008

D.L. AND K.L., O/B/O J.L., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SPRINGFIELD BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greenaway, Jr., U.S.D.J.

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This matter comes before this Court on cross-motions for summary judgment, pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56, of Plaintiffs D.L. and K.L., on behalf of their son J.L. (collectively "Plaintiffs"), and Defendant Springfield Board of Education ("Springfield" or "Defendant").*fn1

For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' motion is granted, and Defendant's motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

This Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") case arises from the school placement of Plaintiff J.L., a minor, for the 2004-2005 academic year, and the 2005 extended academic year. Plaintiffs D.L. and K.L. brought this case on behalf of their son, J.L., arguing that the Individualized Education Program ("IEP") developed for J.L. by Springfield failed to provide a free appropriate public education ("FAPE"). D.L. and K.L. allege that the IEP was inadequate for a number of reasons, including that Springfield's proposed placement was not the least restrictive environment for J.L., and that the applied behavior analysis ("ABA") services were not commensurate with that which J.L. had been receiving.*fn2 As a result of their disagreement with the IEP, D.L. and K.L. agreed to accept occupational therapy and speech services on a "without prejudice" basis, and rejected the remainder of the IEP. Plaintiffs also provided written notice to Springfield of their intent to seek reimbursement for other expenses relating to J.L.'s education.

On May 3, 2005, after a series of correspondence with Springfield, D.L. and K.L. requested a due process hearing to resolve their dispute with Defendant. Plaintiffs also sought reimbursement for the engagement of ABA services during the 2004-2005 school year, and for the summer of 2005. On July 13, 2005, Defendant filed a Notice of Motion for Summary Decision to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims for reimbursement. ALJ Weiss granted Springfield's motion on September 16, 2005, and dismissed Plaintiffs' case without a hearing. On October 26, 2005 Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to this Court. At the time Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment were filed, J.L. had not received any special education or related services from Springfield.

B. Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

Congress enacted the IDEA

to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living[, and] . . . to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected . . . .

20 U.S.C. §§ 1400(d)(1)(A) and (B) (2008). Pursuant to the IDEA, each local educational agency must have in effect, at the beginning of each school year, an IEP for each student designated as eligible for special education. 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(2)(A) (2008).

An IEP is developed by a team consisting of the child's parents, at least one of the child's special education teachers, a curriculum specialist, and, if requested, a person with special knowledge or expertise related to the child's education. 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(B). The team must meet no less than annually to determine whether the goals set for the child are being achieved. 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(4). In the instant case, the CST and J.L.'s parents make up this team.

A parent may reject an IEP if he or she feels that it does not provide their child with a FAPE. 20 U.S.C. ยง 1415(b)(6) (2008). A parent may then request a due process hearing or a mediation conference to address their ...


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