United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Independent School District No. 283, Plaintiff,
E.M.D.H., a minor, by and through her parents and next friends, L.H. and S.D., Defendants.
Katharine Saphner, Esq., and Peter A. Martin, Esq., Knutson,
Flynn & Deans, PA, counsel for Plaintiff.
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
action, Independent School District No. 283 (the
“District”) moves for judgment on the
administrative record seeking reversal of a July 27, 2018
decision issued by an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (Doc. No. 20.) The July Decision ordered
that the IEP of a high-school student whose parents
previously lodged a due process complaint under the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §
1400, et seq. (“IDEA”), be revised to
include additional features and services. (See Doc.
No. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶ 2; Doc. No. 2 (the
“July Decision”).) In addition, Defendants
E.M.D.H. (the “Student”), a minor, by and through
her parents and next friends, L.H and S.D. (the
“Parents”), move for judgment as a matter of law
and to strike the Declaration of Peter Martin (Doc. No. 23).
(Doc. No. 37.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court
grants the District’s motion on jurisdictional grounds,
denies the Defendants’ motions, and vacates the July
assert that the Student has been denied her right to a free
and appropriate education under the IDEA. In a March 16, 2018
hearing decision (the “March Decision”), the ALJ
found the Student eligible for special education and ordered,
among other things, that the District implement an IEP with
certain substantive features. Specifically, the March
Decision required the District to immediately change the
Student’s educational placement by providing her a
free, appropriate public education (“FAPE”)
consisting of special education and related services, at
public expense, until her high-school graduation.
(See Civ. No. 18-935 (“E.M.D.H.
I”), Doc. No. 2 (the “March
Decision”).) As part of the March Decision, the ALJ
reached the following conclusions:
1. The School District failed to conduct an appropriate
evaluation of Student when it did not complete required
assessments and failed to reach appropriate conclusions about
Student’s eligibility. Parents are entitled to
reimbursement for their [independent educational evaluation
(“IEE”)] as a matter of law.
2. Student is eligible for special education and related
services under the IDEA because her condition meets the
definition of serious emotional disturbance/emotional
behavioral disorder (EBD) and other health impairment
(OHI)/other health disabilities (OHD).
3. The School District failed to timely identify Student as a
possible child with a disability when Student refused to
consistently attend school during eighth grade as a result of
her deteriorating mental health.
4. The School District denied Student a FAPE when it did not
timely and appropriately identify and evaluate her, determine
her eligible, and provide her with special education and
related services designed to enable her to make educational
progress appropriate in light of her circumstances. Student
is entitled to services appropriate to address her loss of
educational benefit, including her lack of credits toward
graduating, and teaching her skills to cope effectively with
(Id. at 4-5.) The ALJ further ordered that:
1. Student is a child with a disability under the IDEA, and
eligible for special education and related services delivered
via an IEP reasonably calculated to enable her to make
educational progress in light of her circumstances.
2. The IEP must be formulated and in place no later than
April 16, 2018. The initial version of the IEP shall include
academic and functional goals designed to assist Student in
accessing the curriculum she is intellectually capable of,
make progress toward graduation, transition into
post-secondary activities, and to gradually move to a less
restrictive environment. Goals, instruction, and services
must, at a minimum, be designed to provide Student
instruction about her disabilities, coping strategies, and
recognizing triggers and early physiological signs of anxiety
so that she can effectively implement coping strategies.
Supplemental services must be provided to teachers and staff
who work with Student to teach them about Student’s
disabilities, triggers of arousal, and the coping strategies
Student must learn and use. The IEP must permit Student to
work at her own pace, including requiring teachers to set
time limits for tests and assignments with Student’s
input. The IEP must provide Student with a resource room or
quiet and uncrowded place to go when she needs a break due to
arousal. The IEP shall also include a placement in a program
identical to the program currently provided by Beyond Risk
Youth, but must include an increased level of instruction and
services as determined appropriate by the IEP team, and may
permit Student to choose whether she participates in large
group activities during the academic day.
3. Student’s IEP team must meet at least quarterly,
following the implementation of the initial version of the
IEP, to evaluate Student’s academic and functional
progress, and consider placement changes. Any disagreements
will be subject to dispute resolution options under state and
federal law. These educational services must remain available
to Student until she graduates from secondary school.
4. Dr. Sulik and Heather Lindstrom must be invited to all IEP
team meetings for Student, and will be reimbursed by the
School District at a reasonable, good faith, contracted rate
between the School District and the providers.
5. The School District must reimburse Parents for the cost of
the private program provided by Heather Lindstrom since
January 5, 2018. Future payments for Lindstrom’s
services must be paid directly to Lindstrom, based on
invoices provided by Lindstrom to the School District. All
payments must be made within 30 calendar days of the School
District’s receipt of an invoice.
6. The School District must reimburse Parents $21,208.80 for
the IEE activities of Dr. Sulik, Dr. Ziegler, Wendy Selnas
[sic], and Heather Lindstrom. This amount includes the
combined fees charged by Lindstrom for tutoring and
assessments until January 5, 2018. Payment must be made
within 30 calendar days of the date of this Order.
7. The School District must, within 30 days of the date of
this Order, reimburse Parents $2,430 for the assessment
conducted by Dr. Reese in May, 2017.
8. Parents are the prevailing party in this matter.
(Id. at 28-29.)
April 4, 2018, the District brought an action in this Court,
E.M.D.H. I, challenging the March
Decision. The District then moved to stay certain
portions of the March Decision. Defendants opposed the motion
and asked the Court to order that the following additional
services be part of the Student’s IEP:
• expert and intensive behavioral support services;
• expert and intensive psychological and counseling