M.G. v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
MEMORANDUM OPINION ADOPTING 17 Report & Recommendation of Magistrate Judge, GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART Plaintiff's 7 Motion for Summary Judgment, and DENYING Defendant's 10 Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. See attached document for details. Signed by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on March 31, 2017. (Attachments: # 1 Appendix Report & Recommendation) (lckbj2)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
Civil Action No. 15-cv-2239 (KBJ)
MEMORANDUM OPINION ADOPTING
REPORT & RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Plaintiff M.G. placed her minor child, K.H., at Emerson Preparatory School—a
private school—for the 2015–2016 school year, and seeks reimbursement from the
District of Columbia under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”),
20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., for the cost of tuition at Emerson, as well as for the remaining
cost of a previous private-school placement that the District has already been ordered to
reimburse. Invoking the IDEA’s “due process hearing” procedure, id. § 1415(f), M.G.
filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent on Education, in
which she argued that she was entitled to reimbursement because the District had
denied K.H. a “free appropriate public education,” or “FAPE,” which is the central
guarantee of the IDEA, see id. § 1412(a)(1), when it failed to develop an appropriate
“individualized education program” for K.H. (See Due Process Compl. Notice, Admin.
Record (“AR”) at 109); see also 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d) (setting forth requirements for
individualized education programs).
On November 22, 2015, after M.G.’s due process hearing, the hearing officer
issued a ruling in which he agreed that the District had denied K.H. a FAPE for 2015–
2016, but nevertheless concluded that M.G. was not entitled to reimbursement for
K.H.’s private-school tuition. (Hearing Officer Determination, AR at 15, 21.) The
hearing officer reasoned that reimbursement was not warranted because the private
school at which M.G. had enrolled K.H. was not a proper placement (id. at 17–18, 20
(quoting 34 C.F.R. § 300.148(c))), insofar as the private school did not “provide some
element of special education services to the student” (id. at 19). The hearing officer
further explained that, in his view, “equitable considerations” militated against ordering
reimbursement because M.G. “did not present any ‘ten day notice’ to [the District]
alerting them that she had decided to place [K.H.]” at the private school. (Id. at 20–21
(citing 34 C.F.R. § 300.148(d)(1)(ii) (requiring written notice of private school
placement “[a]t least ten (10) business days . . . prior to the removal of the child from
the public school”)).) Finally, the hearing officer observed that there was no dispute
regarding the propriety of K.H.’s previous private school placement, and “order[ed]
reimbursement for expenses” incurred at that school. (Id. at 18.)
M.G. filed the instant lawsuit to challenge the hearing officer’s denial of
reimbursement for tuition at Emerson and to seek $355 in allegedly unpaid expenses
related to the tuition at the previous private school. (See generally Compl., ECF No. 1.)
On December 30, 2015, the Court referred this matter to a Magistrate Judge for full
case management. (See Min. Order of Dec. 30, 2015.) The parties subsequently filed
and fully briefed cross-motions for summary judgment. (See Pl.’s Mot. for Summ. J.,
ECF No. 7; Def.’s Opp’n to Pl.’s Mot for Summ. J. & Cross-Mot. for Summ. J., ECF
No. 10; Pl.’s Opp’n to Def.’s Cross-Mot. for Summ. J. & Reply to Def.’s Opp’n to Pl.’s
Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 12; Def.’s Reply to Pl.’s Opp’n to Def.’s Cross-Mot. for
Summ. J., ECF No. 14; Pl.’s Surreply Regarding Summ. J., ECF No. 16.)
Before this Court at present is the comprehensive Report and Recommendation
that Magistrate Judge Robinson filed on February 14, 2017, regarding the parties’ crossmotions for summary judgment. (See R. & R., ECF No. 17.) 1 The Report and
Recommendation reflects Magistrate Judge Robinson’s opinion that M.G.’s motion for
summary judgment should be granted in part and that the District of Columbia’s crossmotion for summary judgment should be denied. (See id. at 20.) Specifically, Judge
Robinson concludes that M.G. is entitled to reimbursement for K.H.’s tuition costs at
Emerson as a matter of law (see id. at 8-17), but that there is no record evidence to
support M.G.’s claim that $355 of the costs from the previous private-school placement
remains unpaid, and thus, that claim must be remanded for further fact-finding (see id.
at 17–19). The Report and Recommendation also advises the parties that, “[i]n the
absence of timely objections, further review of issues addressed herein may be deemed
waived .” (Id. at 20); see Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985); see also Gov’t of
Rwanda v. Johnson, 409 F.3d 368, 376 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (“[O]bjections to magistrate
rulings are forfeited absent timely challenge in the district court.”).
Under this Court’s local rules, any party who objects to a Report and
Recommendation must file a written objection with the Clerk of the Court within 14
days of the party’s receipt of the Report and Recommendation, and any such written
objection must specify the portions of the findings and recommendations to which each
The Report and Recommendation, which is 20 pages long, is attached hereto as Appendix A.
objection is made and the basis for each such objection. See LCvR 72.3(b); see also
Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2). When resolving objections, a district court must review a
magistrate judge’s report and recommendations de novo. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3);
28 U.S.C. 636(b). As of the date of this Memorandum Opinion, no objections have
been filed in the instant matter.
This Court has reviewed Magistrate Judge Robinson’s Report and
Recommendation and agrees with its careful and thorough analysis and conclusions. In
particular, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Plaintiff’s placement of K.H.
at Emerson was proper under the IDEA because it was “reasonably calculated to enable
the child to receive educational benefits” (R & R at 9 (quoting Leggett, 793 F.3d 59, 70
(D.C. Cir. 2015)); see also id. at 8–14), and that the equities favor reimbursement,
because M.G.’s failure to give ten days’ written notice of her placement of K.H. at
Emerson did not contravene any statutory requirement that she give such notice (see id.
at 14–17), and also because M.G. did not act unreasonably during the course of the
parties’ unsuccessful attempts to convene a meeting regarding K.H.’s individualized
education program (see id. at 17). This Court also concurs with Magistrate Judge
Robinson’s conclusion that additional fact-finding is required to develop evidence
regarding whether the District has failed to reimburse some of the costs of K.H.’s
previous private-school placement (see id. at 17–19).
In sum, in the absence of any timely-filed objections, and after conducting its
own review of this matter, this Court fully accepts Magistrate Judge Robinson’s
analysis of the motions on file and the record, and will ADOPT the Report and
Recommendation in its entirety. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s  Motion for Summary
Judgment will be GRANTED IN PART, and Defendant’s  Cross Motion for
Summary Judgment will be DENIED.
A separate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
DATE: March 31, 2017
Ketanji Brown Jackson
KETANJI BROWN JACKSON
United States District Judge
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