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E.G. v. Glen Ridge Board of Education

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 16, 2018

E.G., individually and on behalf of R.G Plaintiffs,
v.
GLEN RIDGE BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES B. CLARK, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on a motion by Plaintiff E.G. (“Plaintiff”) for leave to engage in discovery and to submit additional evidence [ECF No. 7]. Defendant Glen Ridge Board of Education (“Defendant” or “Glen Ridge”) opposes Plaintiff's motion [ECF No. 10]. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion [ECF No. 7] is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff E.G. resides in the Glen Ridge School District (the “G.R. School District”) with his adopted fourteen-year-old daughter R.G. Compl. ¶ 3. R.G. is an eighth-grade student classified as eligible for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). Id. ¶ 9; ECF No. 10 at 4. According to Plaintiff, R.G. suffers from severe problems with communication, cognition, attention learning, emotional functioning and behavior that have substantially impacted her education. Id. ¶ 11. Because of R.G.'s disabilities, she was unable to make academic progress in the G.R. School District. Id. ¶ 13. Accordingly, Glen Ridge placed R.G. at Calais School (“Calais”), which is an approved private school for children with disabilities. Id. ¶ 14.

         After issues arose at Calais, R.G. was placed in a special education program at West Essex Middle School (“West Essex”). Compl. ¶ 17. West Essex is located approximately nine miles from Plaintiff's home and, unlike the G.R. School District, it offers a wide range of after-school extracurricular activities and clubs, which are integral to its educational program. Id. ¶¶ 18, 20. According to Defendant, participation in these extracurricular activities for students at West Essex is purely elective. ECF No. 10 at 5.

         Around the time R.G. transferred to West Essex, her psychiatrist expressed serious concern that R.G. had become “very socially isolated” and recommended that R.G. participate in extracurricular activities to help cope with stress. Compl. ¶¶ 24-25. Although participation in extracurricular activities was recommended, R.G.'s Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) failed to include any transportation after regular school hours. Id. ¶35. Glen Ridge denied Plaintiff's request to have late-bus transportation for R.G. from after school activities. Id. ¶ 37. Plaintiff contends that, without late-bus transportation, “R.G. will not be able to regularly participate in after-school extracurricular activities at West Essex Middle like her peers and as needed to meet her special education needs.” Compl. ¶ 62.

         On October 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Education, Office of Special Education, for a due process hearing related to R.G.'s education.[1]Compl. ¶ 72. Plaintiff's complaint challenges Defendant's alleged failure to afford R.G. an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities by denying her the necessary late-bus transportation. Id. After the parties were unable to resolve their issues, this matter was assigned to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing before the Honorable Leland S. McGee, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Compl. ¶¶ 73-75. By February of 2017, both parties had cross moved for summary decision on the issue related to R.G.'s transportation. Id. ¶ 76. In his opinion dated July 20, 2017, Judge McGee ruled in favor of Defendant and concluded that Plaintiff did not meet his burden to show that the current IEP did not provide R.G. with a fair and appropriate education or that Glen Ridge had discriminated against her. Id. ¶ 82.

         As a result of Judge McGee's decision, Plaintiff filed this case alleging, inter alia, that Defendant violated R.G.'s rights under the IDEA, Section 504, the ADA, and New Jersey's special education law. Compl. ¶¶ 89-90 (Count I). The Complaint further alleges that Defendant discriminated against R.G. in violation of Section 504 and Title II of the ADA. Id. ¶¶ 91-94 (Count II, III). After the Complaint was filed, on February 23, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant motion to engage in discovery and to submit additional evidence. Defendant opposes Plaintiff's motion.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The IDEA provides as follows:

Any party aggrieved by the findings and decision made under subsection (f) or (k) who does not have the right to an appeal under subsection (g), and any party aggrieved by the findings and decision made under this subsection, shall have the right to bring a civil action with respect to the complaint presented pursuant to this section, which action may be brought in any State court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States, without regard to the amount in controversy.

20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(A). Further, the statute's “additional requirements” clause provides:

In any action brought under this paragraph, the court- (i) shall receive the records of the administrative proceedings;
(ii) shall hear additional evidence at the request of a party; and (iii) basing its decision on the preponderance of the evidence, shall grant such relief as ...

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