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DeKalb County Board of Education v. Manifold

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

June 16, 2015

DEKALB COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Plaintiff,
v.
DENITA MANIFOLD, as Parent/Guardian of A.M., a minor, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

This case is an appeal by plaintiff DeKalb County Board of Education (“the Board”) of an administrative due process hearing decision under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act[1] (“IDEA”). (Doc. 1 at 1). In that decision, issued on March 19, 2012, Due Process Hearing Officer Steve Morton, Jr. (“hearing officer”) found in favor of plaintiff Denita Manifold (“D.M.”) on several claims brought as guardian of A.M., a minor, against the Board. (See Doc. 11-1 at 89).

The case is now before the court on cross-motions for summary judgment by D.M. (doc. 47) and the Board (doc. 48). Each party has filed a response (doc. 49, 50) to the other’s motion for summary judgment and a brief (doc. 51, 52) replying to the other’s response. Having considered the motions, briefs, and administrative record, the court concludes that summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of defendant D.M.[2]

II. APPLICABLE LAW

A. The IDEA

The statutorily defined purposes of IDEA are:

(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 be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes the early identification and assessment of disabling conditions in children.

20 U.S.C. § 1401(26). Each disabled student receiving special education and related services receives an “Individualized Education Program” (IEP), which is “a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in ...


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