T.L. v. New York City Department of Education
MEMORANDUM, ORDER & JUDGMENT: The decision of the impartial hearing officer is reinstated. Plaintiffs have met their burden under the second and third prongs of the Burlington/Carter test and are entitled to appropriate relief. The parents' ; request for tuition reimbursement for the 2011-12 school year is granted. Leave to file a fee application pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3) (B) is granted and respectfully referred to the magistrate judge. Ordered by Judge Jack B. Weinstein on 7/29/2014. (Barrett, C)
* AUG O72Q4
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
T.L., a student with a disability, by her parents
A.L. and R.L.
MEMORANDUM, ORDER &
- against -
THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF
For the Plaintiff:
George P. Zelma
Law Offices of George Zelma and David Berlin
28 West 44th Street, Suite 711
New York, NY 10036
For the Defendant:
Charles E. Carey, Jr.
New York City Law Department
100 Church Street
New York, NY 10007
JACK B. WEINSTEIN, Senior United States District Judge:
Table of Contents
Introduction and Procedural History.......................................................................................2
Order and Remand...................................................................................................................2
A.L. and R.L. sue the New York City Department of Education on behalf of their
daughter, T.L., who has serious learning disabilities. They contend that the defendant failed to
offer her a free appropriate public education, as requiredby the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act ("IDEA"). See TL. v. New York City Dep 't of Educ.,
938 F.Supp.2d 417, 422
(E.D.N.Y. 2013) (holding that T.L. had serious PICA problem requiring further consideration
Before the commencement of the present action, an impartial hearing officer ("IHO"),
see 20 U.S.C. §§ 1415(f),(g), had granted to the parents prospective payment and reimbursement
by the defendant for T.L.'s tuition and related educational services at the Rebecca School for the
2011-2012 school year. See ECF No. 26-5 (IHO decisions). A state review officer ("SRO")
reversed, finding that the defendant had offered T.L. an appropriate public school education. See
ECF No. 26-2 (SRO decision).
Both parties filed motions for summary judgment; the motions were denied. TL. v. New
York City Dep 't of Educ., 938 F.Supp.2d at 422. In accordance with normal practice in these
cases, the case was remanded to the SRO, the highest state agency that ruled on the matter. Id. at
Remand notwithstanding, both parties sought review of this court's non-final ruling
before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. See Pl.'s Notice of Appeal,
June 6, 2013, ECF No. 38; Def.'s Notice of Cross Appeal, June 19, 2013, ECF No. 39. Since no
final judgment had been entered, the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of
jurisdiction. See Mandate of USCA, June 26, 2014, ECF No. 43.
Judgment & Order
The Court of Appeals' order of dismissal invited the district court to reconsider its April
2013 order remanding the matter to the SRO. Id. The appellate court noted that when an SRO
decision "is inadequately reasoned,.. . a better-reasoned THU opinion may be considered
instead." Id. (citing R. E. v. New York City Dep 't of Educ., 694 F.3d 167, 189 (2d Cir. 2012)).
Although this court's April 2013 Opinion characterized the administrative record as
"deficient" and "unacceptably sparse," it also explained that "[t]he THU opinion [properly]
identif[ied] a number of issues about the Kennedy School facility that are of concern given
T.L.'s PICA." 938 F.Supp.2d at 435. The THU opinion was well enough reasoned to warrant an
affirmance by the SRO and this court.
In contrast, the SRO decision reversing the THU failed to offer "any analysis of the
concerns raised by the IHU as well as by the parents regarding the school's building and
classroom facilities and their effect on T.L.'s PICA." 938 F.Supp.2d at 436; see also id. ("Aside
from noting the caution that would be exercised by the Kennedy School faculty in educating
students with PICA needs, and the fact that items in the classroom were locked away, the SRO
decision does not provide more detail about the school and class physical environment.").
The SRU's determination is insufficiently reasoned to merit the deference it would
ordinarily receive. See R.E., 694 F.3d at 189. A district court may, under these circumstances,
consider a better reasoned THU decision, which in this case identified the multifarious challenges
posed by the student's PICA and properly analyzed the effect of the school's facilities and
environment on the student's needs.
The record as developed by the THU and the district court is adequate to permit entry of
judgment, effectively ignoring the inadequate SRO decision as the Court of Appeals suggested.
With the passage of time, the equities have shifted sharply in favor of a prompt resolution
of the case in plaintiff's favor. There has been too much delay and inadequate analysis at the
The decision of the IHO is reinstated. Plaintiffs have met their burden under the second
and third prongs of the Burlington/Carter test and are entitled to appropriate relief. See Florence
Cnty, Sch. Dist. Four v. Carter, 510 U.S. 7 (1993); Sch. Comm. of Town of Burlington v. Dep 't of
Educ., 471 U.S. 359 (1985).
The parents' request for tuition reimbursement for the 2011-12 school year is granted.
Leave to file a fee application pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B) is granted and respectfully
referred to the magistrate judge.
Jack B. Weinstein
Senior United States District Judge
Date: July 29, 2014
Brooklyn, New York
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