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Q.A. v. Salem City Board of Education

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 8, 2014

Q.A., Plaintiff,
v.
SALEM CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

DISABILITY RIGHTS NEW JERSEY, By: Robert A. Robinson, Esq., Trenton, New Jersey, Counsel for Plaintiff Q.A.

BARBOUR & ASSOCIATES LLC, By: Roger Barbour, Esq., Maple Shade, NJ, Counsel for Defendant Salem City Board of Education.

OPINION

JOSEPH E. IRENAS, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Q.A.'s motion for summary judgment.[1] (Dkt. No. 8.) Plaintiff claims he is entitled to an award of attorneys' fees and costs from Defendant Salem City Board of Education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B) ("IDEA"). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted. The Court, however, will substantially reduce the award sought.

I.

Plaintiff has a severe learning disability for which he receives special education services under the IDEA. (PSMF[2] ¶ 1.)

At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, Plaintiff was a student at Woodbridge Township School District ("Woodbridge"), where he spent half of the school day in a resource room and the remainder at Piscataway Vocational School. (PSMF ¶ 3.) Plaintiff also received individual counseling once a week. (PSMF ¶ 3.)

For reasons unknown to the Court, Plaintiff was detained at the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Center from February 18, 2012 to June 11, 2012. Upon his release, as ordered by the New Jersey Superior Court, he was placed at DRENK, a behavioral health center in Salem, New Jersey. (PSMF ¶¶ 4, 6; PSMF Ex. A (Q.A. Aff.) ¶ 2.) Plaintiff registered as a student with the Salem City school district days later. (PSMF ¶ 7.)

On September 10, 2013, Defendant proposed an individualized educational program ("IEP") for Plaintiff. Defendant's proposal provided the following:

• Placement in Salem City's Alternative High School for four hours per day;[3]
• Daily general education instruction in four core subjects for an hour each;
• Weekly counseling services for thirty minutes; and
• No vocational school services.

(PSMF ¶ 8.)

On September 12, 2012, Plaintiff filed pro se for expedited due process with the New Jersey Office of Special Education ("OSE"). (PSMF ¶ 11.) Plaintiff sought to prevent the implementation of the proposed IEP and obtain an educational program on par with the program he received at Woodbridge. (Id.) OSE converted Plaintiff's expedited due process request into a mediation request, and provided him time in which to find legal counsel. (PSMF ¶¶ 13, 16.) Plaintiff retained his current counsel, Disability Rights New Jersey. (PSMF ¶ 13.) The mediation, however, was unsuccessful. (PSMF ¶¶ 13, 16.) Consequently, the matter was transferred to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law ("OAL") for a due process hearing. (PSMF ¶ 16.)

While the matter was ongoing, Plaintiff attended Salem's Alternative High School because Defendant refused to let him attend Salem City's Regular High School.[4] (PSMF ¶¶ 10, 14; PSMF Ex. A (Q.A. Aff.) ¶ 20.)

On November 27, 2012, Plaintiff moved before the OAL for a stay-put order, again seeking a program comparable to the one received at Woodbridge. (PSMF ¶ 17.) The OAL granted Plaintiff's motion on December 27, 2012. (PSMF ¶ 19.) The order required that Plaintiff receive:

• English and math instruction at Salem City's Regular High School;
• Placement in a vocational program; and
• Individual counseling once a week for ...

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