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Independent School District No. 283 v. E.M.D.H

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 25, 2018

Independent School District No. 283, Plaintiff,
v.
E.M.D.H., a minor, by and through her parents and next friends, L.H. and S.D., Defendants.

          Peter A. Martin, Esq., Knutson, Flynn & Deans, PA, counsel for Plaintiff.

          Amy J. Goetz, Esq., and Andrea L. Jepsen, Esq., School Law Center, LLC, counsel for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         In this action, Independent School District No. 283 (the “District”) requests judicial review of a March 16, 2018 decision (the “Decision”) issued by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Doc. Nos. 1, 2.) The Decision ruled in favor of the parents of a high-school student who lodged a due process complaint under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq. (“IDEA”). The District seeks reversal of the ALJ's Decision and presently moves for a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) and Preliminary Injunction Staying Enforcement of Administrative Decision pending resolution of the current litigation. (Doc. Nos. 1, 6.) The District's motion is granted as set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendants E.M.D.H. (the “Student”), a minor, by and through her parents and next friends, L.H and S.D. (the “Parents”) (together “Defendants”) assert that the Student, a sixteen-year old junior in high school, has been denied her right to a free and appropriate education under the IDEA. In short, Defendants submit that the Student went years without special education and related services because she was not properly classified as having a disability. The Parents hired a private educational team to design and implement an individualized education program. In June 2017, Defendants initiated an administrative hearing to correct the conditions and restore the Student's education.[1]

         After a seven-day hearing, the ALJ issued the Decision, requiring Plaintiff to immediately change the Student's educational placement by providing her a free appropriate public education consisting of special education and related services, at public expense, until her graduation. The District then initiated the present action seeking judicial review of the Decision and to reverse the findings therein. The District presently seeks to stay the following portions of the Decision pending resolution of this action:[2]

1. The requirement that the District reimburse the Parents $21, 208.80 for costs associated with independent educational evaluations conducted by privately hired evaluators Dr. Read Sulik (the Student's treating psychiatrist), Dr. Richard Ziegler (a pediatric neuropsychologist), Wendy Selnes (a behavior analyst), and Heather Lindstrom (a special education teacher working for the Minnesota Department of Corrections with a side-business known as “Beyond Risk Youth”);[3]
2. The requirement that the District reimburse the Parents $2, 430 for the assessment conducted in May 2017 by Dr. Denise Reese, a private, licensed psychologist;
3. The requirement that the Student's IEP team meet at least quarterly following the implementation of the Student's initial IEP;
4. The requirement that Dr. Sulik and Lindstrom be invited to all quarterly IEP meetings and be reimbursed for their time participating in such meetings;
5. The requirement that the District reimburse the Parents for the cost of a private program provided by Lindstrom since January 5, 2018 and for future services;
6. The requirement that the Student's IEP include a placement in a “program identical” to the program currently provided by Lindstrom; and
7. Any alleged requirement that a “program identical” to Lindstrom's program must also include involvement by Dr. Ziegler and Selnes in IEP meetings ...

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