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Department of Education, State of Hawaii v. Patrick P.

November 5, 2012

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, STATE OF HAWAII, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PATRICK P., BY AND THROUGH HIS PARENTS, GORDEAN L.-W. AND THOMAS W., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS COMPLAINT

On September 10, 2012, Defendants Patrick P. ("Student"), by and through his parents Gordean L.-W. and Thomas W. ("Parents", all collectively "Defendants"), filed their Motion to Dismiss Complaint ("Motion"). Plaintiff Department of Education, State of Hawai`i ("the DOE") filed its memorandum in opposition on October 24, 2012, and Defendants did not file a reply. On October 3, 2012, the Court issued an order finding this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rule LR7.2(d) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i ("Local Rules"). After careful consideration of the Motion, supporting and opposing memoranda, and the relevant legal authority, Defendants' Motion is HEREBY DENIED for the reasons set forth below.

BACKGROUND

The instant case is an appeal by the DOE of the Administrative Hearings Officer's ("Hearings Officer") July 6, 2012 Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decision ("Decision").*fn1

I. Factual and Administrative Background

At the time of the Decision, Student was eighteen years old and, during the 2011-2012 school year, he was in the twelfth grade at a private school that he had been attending since the summer of 2004, which was the summer after his fourth grade year ("the Private School"). [Decision at 4.]

When he attended public elementary school, Student received special education and related services in the category of Specific Learning Disability ("SLD"). During Student's fourth grade year, a private psychologist ("Private Psychologist #1") diagnosed Student with Disorder of Reading, commonly known as Dyslexia, and Disorder of Writing, commonly known as Dysgraphia. During Student's fifth grade year, another private psychologist ("Private Psychologist #2") diagnosed Student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominately Inattentive Type. [Id. at 4-6.]

"On or about December 2008, the DOE members of Student's [Individualized Education Program ("IEP")] team determined that Student no longer qualified for special education and related services. Student's [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 ("IDEA")] program and services were rescinded." [Id. at 6.]

On or about February 24, 2010, the DOE and Student's Parents entered into a settlement agreement which, inter alia, addressed Student's tuition and related expenses at the Private School for the school years 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011. [Id. at 8.]

During Student's twelfth grade year, Private Psychologist #1 conducted a second evaluation of Student at Parents' request. [Id.] Parents informed the DOE of the results of that evaluation and requested that the DOE reevaluate Student. [Id. at 11.] After a November 22, 2011 Student Support Team Meeting and two subsequent observations of Student at the Private School, an Eligibility Meeting was conducted for Student on January 10, 2012. The DOE members of the Eligibility Team ultimately determined that Student did not meet the eligibility requirements for SLD, and that he was ineligible for special education and related services under Haw. Admin. R. Title 8, Chapter 23.*fn2 [Id. at 11-14, 18.]

On or about January 11, 2012, Defendants filed a request for impartial hearing. The Hearings Officer convened a due process hearing on May 3 and May 4, 2012. [Id. at 2-3.] The Hearings Officer described the issue as "[w]hether Student is eligible for special education and related services under the" IDEA. [Id. at 3.] The Hearings Officer ultimately found that "Student should have been found eligible for special education and related services under the category of SLD at the January 10, 2012 eligibility meeting" and that the finding of ineligibility denied Student a Free Appropriate Public Education ("FAPE"). [Id. at 29.] Further, the Hearings Officer found that Student's placement at the Private School was appropriate and ordered the DOE to reimburse Parents for Student's program and placement at the Private School for his twelfth grade year. [Id. at 30.]

II. The Instant Case

The DOE filed its Complaint in the instant case on August 3, 2012. The Complaint states that the DOE seeks review and reversal of the Decision. [Complaint at ¶ 9.] The DOE alleges:

11. The Hearings Officer erroneously relied on purely speculative evidence submitted by Defendants ...


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