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Phyllene W. v. Huntsville City Board of Education

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

December 10, 2014

PHYLLENE W., individually and as mother and next friend of M.W., a minor, Plaintiff,


C. LYNWOOD SMITH, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff, Phyllene W., filed this case on August 28, 2013, asserting claims as the mother and next friend of M.W., a minor, against the Huntsville, Alabama, Board of Education ("the Board"), pursuant to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq. ("IDEA"), and the Alabama Exceptional Child Education Act, Ala. Code § 16-39-1 et seq. Specifically, plaintiff appeals under IDEA from an administrative due process hearing decision.[1]

The case presently is before the court on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.[2] The court held oral argument on that motion on November 21, 2014. Upon consideration of the motion, briefs, administrative record, and arguments of counsel, the court concludes that plaintiff's motion should be denied, and the decision of the administrative hearing officer sustained.


The statutorily defined purposes of IDEA are:

(1) (A) to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living;
(B) to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected; and
(C) to assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities;
(2) to assist States in the implementation of a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency system of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families;
(3) to ensure that educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with disabilities by supporting system improvement activities; coordinated research and personnel preparation; coordinated technical assistance, dissemination, and support; and technology development and media services; and
(4) to assess, and ensure the effectiveness of, efforts to educate children with disabilities.

20 U.S.C. § 1400(d) (emphasis supplied). See also Cory D. ex rel. Diane D. v. Burke County School District, 285 F.3d 1294, 1298 (11th Cir. 2002) ("The fundamental objective of the IDEA is to empower disabled children to reach their fullest potential by providing a free education tailored to meet their individual needs.").

A "child with a disability" is
a child -
(i) with intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this chapter as "emotional disturbance"), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; and
(ii) who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

20 U.S.C. § 1401(3)(A). Every child with a disability is guaranteed a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE), which means

special education and related services that -
(A) have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;
(B) meet the standards of the State educational agency;
(C) include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and
(D) are provided in conformity with the individualized education program required under section 1414(d) of this title.

20 U.S.C. § 1401(9).

"Special education" is defined as "specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including - (A) instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and (B) instruction in physical education." 20 U.S.C. § 1401(29). "Related services" include:

transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services (including speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, social work services, school nurse services designed to enable a child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education as described in the individualized education program of the child, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services, except that such medical services shall be for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only) as may ...

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