Forest Grove School District v. Student
OPINION and ORDER - The court declines the Districts request to hear additional evidence in lieu of remanding this case to the ALJ for further proceedings. The court REMANDS this case for further administrative proceedings consistent with this opinion and the courts 2014 Opinion and Order. IT IS SO ORDERED.DATED this 5th day of April, 2017, by United States Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta. (peg)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF OREGON
FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DISTRICT,
Case No. 3:12-cv-1837-AC
OPINION AND ORDER
FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DISTRICT,
ACOSTA, Magistrate Judge:
This lawsuit arose from plaintiff Forest Grove School District’s (“the District”) appeal from
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)’s decision under the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400–1482. At issue is the District’s provision of special-education
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services to defendant Student.1 The issue currently before the court is whether, following the court’s
order remanding the case to the ALJ for determination and award of compensatory transition
services, the court should instead hear evidence and determine the appropriate amount of
compensatory transition services.
In 2011, Student’s parents initiated a due-process proceeding with the Oregon Department
of Education, asserting a variety of defects with the substance and process of Student’s Individual
Education Program (“IEP”). Among the asserted defects was the lack of a transition plan and
transitional services from April 2010 until March 2011. The ALJ held a hearing in 2012. The ALJ
found that the District violated the IDEA in multiple respects, including the transition plan and
transitional services issues. The District filed this lawsuit, appealing the ALJ’s decision to this court.
Student cross-appealed other aspects of the ALJ’s decision.
In 2014, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the ALJ’s decision. Forest Grove Sch.
Dist. v. Student (“FGSD”), Civ No. 3:12-1837-AC, 2014 WL 2592654 (D. Or. June 9, 2014). The
court’s prior opinion and order, in relevant part, determined the District violated the IDEA by failing
to provide transition services from April 2010 until March 2011. Id. at *35. But the record was
insufficient to determine the appropriate amount of compensatory transition services to remedy the
District’s failure to provide appropriate transition services. Id. at *38. Because the record was
insufficient, the court remanded the case to the ALJ for the narrow purpose of determining and
awarding appropriate compensatory transition services. Id. Student appealed the court’s decision
Student is a minor, and her parents have sought to retain her anonymity throughout the
pendency of this action. The court refers to her only as “Student” throughout its Opinion and Order.
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to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (ECF No. 44.) The Court of Appeals
affirmed the court’s opinion in October, 2016. (ECF No. 70.)
In a status report filed after the court of appeals’ ruling, the District requested that the court
resolve the remaining issues in the case in lieu of remanding the case to further proceedings before
the ALJ. (Jt. Status Rep. (ECF No. 82) at 2.) Student seeks remand of this case to the ALJ,
consistent with the court’s previous opinion. (Id.)
A district court’s charge under the IDEA is to “grant the relief the court determines to be
appropriate” based on the record before the court. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(C). The court previously
determined that the record was insufficient to determine the appropriate quantity of compensatory
transition services. FGSD, 2014 WL 2592654 at *38. Based on the insufficiency of the record, the
court determined appropriate relief was to remand to the ALJ.
Remand for further
administrative proceedings is an appropriate remedy where the record before the court is insufficient
to determine an appropriate remedy. Shapiro v. Paradise Valley Unified Sc. Dist. No. 69, 152 F.3d
1159, 1160 (9th Cir. 1998). Remand is particularly appropriate where the parties did not “exercise
their right to request consideration of additional evidence” before filing motions for summary
judgment. Reid ex rel. Reid v. District of Columbia, 401 F.3d 516, 526 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
The District asks the court to hear additional evidence regarding transition services and award
appropriate relief based on the additional evidence. While the District is correct that the court can
hear additional evidence to supplement an administrative record, the court declines to hear such
additional evidence in this case. Under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(C) and 34 C.F.R. § 300.516(c)(2),
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district courts may hear additional evidence at the request of the parties. The court has discretion
to determine “what is ‘additional’ evidence.” Ojai Unif. Sch. Dist. v. Jackson, 4 F.3d 1467, 1473
(9th Cir. 1993) (quoting Town of Burlington v. Dep’t of Educ., 736 F.2d 773, 791 (1st Cir. 1984),
aff’d sub nom. Sch. Comm. v. Dep’t of Educ., 471 U.S. 359 (1985)). “Additional” evidence
supplements, but does not replace, the administrative hearing record, consistent with the requirement
of “giving due weight to the administrative proceeding.” Id. The Ojai court gave some examples
of appropriate reasons for additional evidence, such as technical errors in creating the transcript,
evidentiary errors in the administrative proceeding, and subsequent developments in the case after
the administrative hearing occurred. Id.
Here, the District gives two reasons for providing supplemental evidence in lieu of remand.
First, the District argues that determining the appropriate quantity of transition services before the
ALJ is likely to result in another appeal to this court because the court found the ALJ’s prior opinion
not careful and thorough. See FGSD, 2014 WL 2592654, at *12. The District’s argument is
unpersuasive. The court’s prior opinion was not a judgment about the competence of the ALJ.
Instead, the policy underlying judicial review of IDEA due-process decisions favors remanding the
remaining issue to the ALJ.
Although courts give IDEA due-process hearing decisions less deference than other
administrative decisions, the court’s review requires “recognition of the expertise of the
administrative agency” and avoids “substitut[ing the court’s] own notions of sound educational
policy for those of the school authorities which they review.” J.W. ex rel. J.E.W. v. Fresno Unified
Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 431, 438 (9th Cir 2010) (first quoting Gregory K. v. Longview Sch. Dist., 811
F.2d 1307, 1311 (9th Cir. 1987); then quoting Van Duyn v. Baker Sch. Dist. 5J, 502 F.3d 811, 817
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(9th Cir. 2007)). Here, the ALJ did not take evidence of or determine the appropriate quantity of
transition services. FGSD, 2014 WL 2592654, at *38. The policy of deferring to the expertise of
the administrative agency favors allowing the ALJ to make such a determination. Accordingly, the
court finds remand for further administrative proceedings remains an appropriate remedy.
Second, the District contends remand to the ALJ may cause undue delay if the case is
assigned to a different ALJ, because the parties would need to “impart basic information about
Student” before presenting evidence on the remaining issue. While some delay may be possible, the
court is not persuaded that the possible need to apprise a different ALJ of the facts of the case and
any consequent delay is a sufficient reason to deviate from the normal remand process.
The court declines the District’s request to hear additional evidence in lieu of remanding this case
to the ALJ for further proceedings. The court REMANDS this case for further administrative
proceedings consistent with this opinion and the court’s 2014 Opinion and Order.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED this 5th day of April, 2017.
/s John V. Acosta
John V. Acosta
United States Magistrate Judge
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