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D.C. v. Klein Independent School District

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

October 15, 2019

D. C., et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
KLEIN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GEORGE C. HANKS JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case arises under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). See 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq. Pending before the Court is the plaintiffs' motion for a stay-put injunction under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(j) and 34 C.F.R. § 300.518. The primary issue governing disposition of the motion is whether the appropriate stay-put placement (referred to in the statutes and regulations as the “current educational placement”) includes a dyslexia intervention program (“DIP”) or other dyslexia services for Plaintiff D.C.

         Having reviewed the relevant administrative decision, the pertinent caselaw, and the parties' well-briefed arguments, [1] the Court concludes that D.C.'s current educational placement does not include the DIP or any other dyslexia intervention services. It is true that, when D.C.'s due process hearing under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f) was conducted, his individualized education program (“IEP”) included placement in the DIP as a student with dyslexia. However, the due process hearing officer concluded that the evidence did not support D.C.'s classification as a dyslexic student and that D.C. derived minimal educational benefit from the DIP (Dkt. 1-1 at pp. 28-31). Accordingly, the plaintiffs' stay-put motion (Dkt. 5) is GRANTED to the extent that it seeks an injunction requiring the defendant, Klein Independent School District (“KISD” or “the District”), to implement the specific orders contained in Section X of the hearing officer's opinion during the pendency of this lawsuit. The motion is DENIED to the extent that it requests any other relief, including an injunction requiring KISD to implement any dyslexia intervention program.

         I. DYSLEXIA SERVICES ARE NOT PART OF D.C.'S CURRENT EDUCATIONAL PLACEMENT.

         The parties agree that, under 34 C.F.R. § 300.518(d), the hearing officer's decision determines the appropriate stay-put placement (Dkt. 5 at p. 10; Dkt. 9 at p. 9); and the Court agrees with the parties' reading of that regulation. Where the parties diverge is on the question of whether the hearing officer meant to order the District to continue D.C.'s placement in the DIP.

         The hearing officer's decision explicitly sets out the following parameters:

1. The District shall convene an [Admissions, Review & Dismissal, or “ARD”] meeting within 30 school days of the issuance of this decision.
2. At the ARD meeting, the District shall modify [D.C.'s individualized education program, or “IEP”] in accordance with the District's [Full and Individual Evaluation, or “FIE”] to indicate [D.C.] is eligible for special education as a student with a Specific Learning Disability in reading comprehension, with specific weaknesses in comprehension/knowledge, fluid reasoning, long term memory, and processing speed.
3. The District shall provide [D.C.] in his IEP 45 minutes per day of reading instruction focused on reading comprehension and related skills using Read 180 or another peer-reviewed program on which the District and [D.C.'s] parents agree. Instruction shall be provided in a one-on-one setting or in a group of no more than six students at least four school days per week, with the exception of weeks which have fewer than four school days. Extended School Year (ESY) services are neither required nor prohibited by this Order. This shall remain in effect for one calendar year from the date on which the ARD Committee meeting is held, unless [D.C.'s] parents and the District agree to a different arrangement.
4. The District shall provide [D.C.] an additional 108 hours of compensatory education in a one-on-one setting focused on reading comprehension and related skills using Read 180 or another peer-reviewed program on which the District and [D.C.'s] parents agree. At the ARD Committee meeting, the District and [D.C.'s] parents shall agree on a schedule for providing these compensatory services.
All other requests for relief not specifically stated in these Orders are hereby DENIED.

Dkt. 1-1 at pp. 39-40.

         Plaintiffs contend that, because the hearing officer's opinion did not expressly order the District to discontinue D.C.'s DIP placement, “the hearing officer was simply adding services (for reading comprehension), not deleting or substituting them” (Dkt. 31-1 at p. 3) (emphasis in original). Plaintiffs go on to argue that, “[g]iven the lack of any explicit order from the hearing officer to cease, stop, or end the dyslexia services, the Court simply cannot rely on the hearing officer's order to cease the services during the pendency of the litigation” (Dkt. 31-1 at p. 3). In effect, Plaintiffs argue that the hearing officer implicitly ordered the District to continue the dyslexia services by not explicitly ordering the District to discontinue the dyslexia services.

         The Court disagrees. Although analogous cases seem to be rare, generally, in “cases where a court implie[s] a ‘current educational placement' [in the context of a stay- put motion], the court or agency below ha[s] expressly deemed the . . . placement [requested in the stay-put motion] appropriate.” L.M. v. Capistrano Unified SchoolDistrict, 556 F.3d 900, 903 (9th Cir. 2009) (emphasis added). A close reading of the hearing officer's opinion in D.C.'s case reveals that the hearing officer did not expressly deem dyslexia services appropriate for D.C. Rather, the hearing officer specifically found that no evaluation data supported D.C.'s classification as a dyslexic student and that D.C. derived minimal educational benefit from the DIP. Particularly compelling is the hearing officer's finding that the District's plan for D.C. was inadequate precisely because, at the behest of ...


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