United States District Court, D. New Jersey
M.G. and D.G. on behalf of M.G., Plaintiff,
NORTH HUNTERDON-VOORHEES REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter is before this Court on two cross-motions for summary
judgment (ECF No. 12 and 13). At oral argument both parties
agreed that the matter may be resolved on these motions
rather than conducting another hearing. The Court has subject
matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Individuals with
Disabilities Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C.A. § 1400, et seq.
preliminary matter, this is an appeal from a final order
entered on October 13, 2017 by Administrative Law Judge Barry
E. Moscowitz ("ALJ"). On November 22, 2017,
Plaintiff filed a Complaint challenging the ALJ's
decision because it "would result in unlawful
discrimination against M.G. and Plaintiffs on the basis of
M.G.'s disabilities in violation of Section 504 and the
IDEA. (Compl. "Compl." ECF No. 1, 30).
M.G. is presently an eighteen-year-old student (date of birth
March 5, 2000), but at the time of decision, M.G. was a
minor. M.G. has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder
and other related disabilities. (Complaint, ECF No. 1, 4).
For more than ten years, M.G. attended the Developmental
Learning Center ("Learning Center") in Warren, New
The North Hunterdon Voorhees Regional School District
("District"), is a regional educational agency of
several municipalities and is subject to the regulations of
the State of New Jersey, Department of Education, for the
provision of educational services to children residing within
the confines of its district, including children with special
needs. The District is a recipient of federal funding for
educational services it provides in accordance with IDEA and
laws and regulations of New Jersey. See, e.g.
N.J.A.C. 6A: 14-1.1 et seq.
District has identified M.G. as a child eligible for special
education under IDEA as a student with autism. See
34 C.F.R. §300.7(c). When M.G. began attending the
Learning Center in elementary school, a program for autistic
students was not available within the District.
Learning Center is approximately twenty-five miles from
M.G.'s home in Pittstown, New Jersey. During her first
year of high school, M.G. continued to attend the Learning
Center; however, for her second year (2016-2017), the
District initiated a specialized program at its Voorhees High
School in Glen Gardner, New Jersey for students with autism.
(Def. Br. pg. 2). According to the District, the specialized
program offered the same instruction, support and services as
provided at the Learning Center, and Voorhees High School is
substantially closer to M.G.'s home. (Def. Br. p. 2).
According to Defendant, throughout the three years of
dispute, M.G. has attended the Learning Center at the
District's expense, pursuant to the "stay put"
provision of the IDEA. 20 U.S.C. §14150. (Def. Br. p.
February 26, 2016, the District proposed removing M.G. from
the Learning Center to its specialized program at Voorhees
High School as set forth within an Individualized Educational
Program ("IEP"). (Compl. 12; Def. SOF 5). Plaintiff
declined the IEP on March 8, 2016, and filed a due process
petition ("Petition No. 1"). (Def. SOF ¶6).
April 28, 2017, the child study team at Voorhees High School
offered M.G. a revised IEP which included placement in the
autism program at Voorhees High School. (Id.
¶8). The revised IEP had many educational component
including: (1) placement in a self-contained classroom at
Voorhees High School, (2) a career development component of
495 minutes per week in the community, (3) group occupational
therapy two times per week for thirty minutes, (4) group
parent counseling and/or training services for 120 minutes
weekly, (5) individual speech language therapy four times per
week for thirty minutes, (6) group speech language therapy
two times per week for thirty minutes each, (7) round trip
transportation services between her home and school, (8)
extended school year services, (9) a behavioral plan, (10) a
transition plan from the Learning Center to the District, and
(11) an ABA consultation and one-to-one aide. (Def. SOF 9).
Plaintiff refused the IEP and filed a due process petition on
June 14, 2017 (Petition 2). (Id. ¶14).
1 and Petition 2 were pending before the New Jersey Office of
Administrative Law. ALJ Moscowitz consolidated both petitions
and conducted a three-day hearing. Since M.G. remained a
student at the Learning Center when Petition 1 was pending,
that proposed IEP was no longer an issue at the time of the
hearing. As such, the ALJ only reviewed the IEP subject to
hearing before ALJ Moscowitz was a battle of the experts. The
District included the testimony of Jessica Allora, the school
psychologist, Andrea Quinn, clinical psychologist and
behavior specialist associated with Rutgers University, and
Mary Pat Publicover, Director of Special Education for the
District. Plaintiff presented the testimony of D.G., father
of M.G., and Michelle Miller, clinical psychologist and
assistant professor at the Child Study Center of New York
October 13, 2017, ALJ Moscowitz issued his Final Decision
(ECF No. 13-5) in which he analyzed the testimony and written
reports of the experts as well as M.G.'s father's
testimony. Although M.G. has a long history of
"self-injurious behaviors, eluding and other problematic
behaviors, she has made meaningful progress at DLC over the
years and the parents believe she should remain at DLC"
(Final Decision, p. 2). Despite the Plaintiffs contention,
ALJ Moscowitz found that "no genuine difference exists
between the program ...