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E.A. v. Frisco Independent School District

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

November 5, 2019

E.A., b/n/f EDWARD A., Plaintiff,
v.
FRISCO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Frisco Independent School District's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Original Complaint (Dkt. #5). Having considered the motion and relevant pleadings, the Court finds that the motion should be DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Summary

         Plaintiff E.A. b/n/f Edward A. (“E.A.” or “Plaintiff”) was, at the time the actions giving rise to this suit occurred, a second-grade student with autism and a speech impairment eligible for special education services. Beginning in kindergarten, Plaintiff's Admission Review and Dismissal (“ARD”) committee recommended placing Plaintiff in a Structured Learning Class (“SLC”). A SLC is a self-contained program for students with autism.

         Plaintiff's home campus is Spears Elementary School (“Spears”). But because Spears did not have a SLC program for kindergarten and first grade students, Plaintiff completed those grade levels at Nichols Elementary School (“Nichols”), which had a classroom specifically constructed to address the needs of SLC students.

         In May 2018, near the end of Plaintiff's first grade year at Nichols, Defendant Frisco Independent School District (“Frisco ISD” or “Defendant”) advised Plaintiff's custodial grandfather, Edward A. (“Mr. A”), that Nichols would not have a SLC for the 2018-2019 school year. Accordingly, Mr. A was advised, Plaintiff would attend Fisher Elementary School (“Fisher”) for the 2018-2019 school year.

         Mr. A responded by requesting an ARD committee meeting to discuss the change. At first, Defendant declined Mr. A's request on the ground that its decision to transfer Plaintiff from Nichols to Fisher was a location decision solely within its discretion. After Mr. A persisted in his request for an ARD committee meeting, Defendant convened such a meeting but apparently did not reconsider the decision to transfer Plaintiff from Nichols to Fisher.

         Defendant allowed Mr. A to tour the Fisher campus. After his tour, Mr. A claimed that Fisher was not equipped to handle students in the SLC in the same manner as Nichols. Mr. A observed that the classroom at Fisher was not close to the drop off area and required students like Plaintiff to be escorted through the school cafeteria where all the other students were gathering in order to get to their classroom. Moreover, it was not equipped with a swing or with a restroom like the classroom at Nichols. Students needing to use a private restroom allegedly would have to be escorted to the teachers' lounge, taking the student and an aide or the teacher out of the classroom and into a room otherwise used only by teachers.

         Mr. A claims that Defendant admitted that it was moving Plaintiff, along with all other SLC students, without consideration of individual needs but rather as a result of availability of space for other nondisabled students and for administrative convenience. Mr. A argues that the decision to move the students qualifying for special education services denied Plaintiff the least restrictive environment to which he is entitled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) because it denied Plaintiff the opportunity to interact with nondisabled peers fundamental to his ability to develop proper social skills.

         Due to his concerns about the Fisher SLC, Mr. A inquired to the ARD committee as to whether there were any other schools with a SLC for the 2018-2019 school year. He learned that Norris Elementary School (“Norris”), like Nichols, had a classroom constructed specifically for a SLC. On top of that, Mr. A learned that Plaintiff's teacher was moving to Norris. Apparently satisfied with the accommodations at Norris, Mr. A spoke with the Nichols Principal and requested that Plaintiff be transferred to the SLC at Norris. The Nichols Principal informed Mr. A that, while he could not guarantee anything, he believed the transfer request would be granted if Mr. A made the request on the first day students could make such a request. Indeed, Mr. A made the request, and the transfer was granted-Plaintiff now attends Norris.

         Mr. A filed a due process complaint and a requested an impartial due process hearing pursuant to the IDEA on November 19, 2018. After reviewing the case, the Special Education Hearing Officer (“SEHO”) determined that Plaintiff's transfer from Nichols to Fisher did not implicate any issue over which he could exercise jurisdiction. The SEHO accordingly granted Defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint.

         II. Procedural History

         On April 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Complaint (Dkt. #1). On May 9, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #5). On May 24, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Response (Dkt. ...


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