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R.T.D., By and Through His Parents, R.D. and M.D v. Department of Education

April 30, 2012

R.T.D., BY AND THROUGH HIS PARENTS, R.D. AND M.D., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, STATE OF HAWAII, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge

ORDER AFFIRMING THE HEARINGS OFFICER'S OCTOBER 26, 2010 ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Before the Court is an appeal by Plaintiff R.T.D., by and through his parents, R.D. and M.D. ("R.T.D."), of the Administrative Hearings Officer's ("Hearings Officer") Order Granting Respondent's Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment ("Decision"), filed on October 26, 2010. Plaintiff filed his Opening Brief on October 24, 2011. Defendant the Department of Education, State of Hawai`i ("Defendant" or "the DOE") filed its Answering Brief on November 14, 2011, and Plaintiff filed his Reply Brief on November 28, 2001. The Court heard oral argument in this matter on January 3, 2012. Appearing on behalf of Plaintiff was Jennifer Patricio, Esq., and appearing on behalf of Defendant was Kris Murakami, Esq. Pursuant to this Court's order, the parties submitted supplemental briefing after United States District Judge David Alan Ezra issued his decision in R.P.-K., et al. v. Department of Education, Civ. No. 10-00436 DAE-KSC ("the Class Action"). Plaintiff filed his supplemental brief on April 6, 2012, and Defendant filed its supplemental brief on April 13, 2012. After careful consideration of the parties' submissions, the arguments of counsel, and the relevant legal authority, the Decision is HEREBY AFFIRMED because this Court agrees with Judge Ezra's decision in the Class Action.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual and Administrative Background

On November 5, 2010, R.T.D. filed his Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief ("Complaint") appealing from the Hearing Officer's Decision. R.T.D. is a student eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., because he has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Mental Retardation, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Mental Illness, Hearing Impairment, Vision Impairment, and Speech and Language Disorder. [Complaint at ¶¶ 1, 7.]

The Complaint alleges, in pertinent part:

10. R.T.D. has been a student at Kalaheo High School since 2005.

11. R.T.D. turned 20 years of age on June 24, 2010.

12. On or about June 28, 2010 Defendant issued a Prior Written Notice advising that R.D. and M.D.'s request for continued special education and related services beyond the 2009-2010 school year was denied based on Act 163 of the 2010 Hawaii Session Laws [("Act 163")] which prohibits any student aged 20 or over on the first instructional day of the school year from attending public school.

13. Plaintiffs filed a due process complaint on or about June 30, 2010 raising the following issues:

a. Whether Defendant's refusal to continue to provide R.T.D. with special education and related services until his 22nd birthday is a denial of a [free appropriate public education ("FAPE")] in violation of IDEA;

b. Whether Defendant's refusal to continue to provide R.T.D. with special education and related services until his 22nd birthday while allowing non-disabled students over 20 to pursue a CB or GED high school equivalency diploma is a denial of FAPE in violation of IDEA; and,

c. Whether Defendant should be estopped from claiming that it can refuse to provide R.T.D. special education and related services when in its application for IDEA funding it represented that it provided a FAPE to all students with disabilities until they become 22 years of age.

14. Act 163 of the 2010 Session Laws of Hawaii was signed into law on June 3, 2010 and became effective July 1, 2010.

15. Defendant offers non-disabled students beyond the age of 20 an opportunity to continue their education by attending adult education classes in pursuit of CB (competency-based) or a GED (General Education Development) high school equivalency diplomas.

16. In its application for IDEA funding, Defendant represented that a free and appropriate public education is available to all children with disabilities residing in the State until age 22.

17. Defendant has acknowledged that R.T.D. continues to need special education and related services in order to receive a meaningful educational opportunity.

18. Defendant's administrative rules terminate eligibility for special education and related services when a student reaches 20 years of age before the first instructional day of the school year.

19. R.T.D. would benefit from further education with appropriate special education and related services. Defendant's denial of FAPE is based solely on the fact that he is 20 years of age. [Complaint at pgs. 3-5.]

The Complaint alleges the following claims: the Hearings Officer erred in determining that he lacked jurisdiction over the issues in the due process complaint; the Hearings Officer erred in applying the age-eligibility rule in Act 163 instead of the IDEA requirement that the provision of FAPE extends to age twenty-two; refusal to provide R.T.D. special education and related services until his twenty-second birthday while allowing non-disabled students to pursue CB or GED diplomas violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"); Defendant's actions violate Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Rehab Act"); and Defendant should be estopped from terminating the offer ...


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