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In re Kimi R.

United States District Court, District of Hawaii

February 4, 2015

In the Matter of KIMI R., by and through her Parent, MALIA V., Plaintiffs,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, STATE OF HAWAII, Defendant.

ORDER AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS OFFICER

Derrick K. Watson United States District Judge

This appeal concerns the administrative hearings officer’s (“AHO”) determination of Kimi R. (“Student”) and Malia V’s (“Parent”) request for due process following the issuance of Student’s March 15, 2013 Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) for the 2013-14 school year. Because Parent has not shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the AHO’s March 7, 2014 decision should be reversed, the Court affirms that decision. The IEP team possessed and utilized data and information related to Student’s then-current performance and program at ABC School and sufficiently evaluated Student. Parent has failed to show that this information was inaccurate or led to an inappropriate program in the IEP to address Student’s condition and needs. Further, Parent has provided insufficient evidence to controvert that the IEP addressed Student’s present achievement level and needs and set appropriate goals and objectives.

BACKGROUND

Parent previously requested an impartial due process hearing for the IEPs drafted in April of 2009, 2010, and 2011. The AHO concluded that the IEPs for those years denied Student a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”). The present appeal does not include those earlier IEPs or the AHO’s earlier decisions; instead, this appeal involves only the decision of the AHO reviewing a separate due process request made by Parent relating to the March 15, 2013 IEP.

Student was 13 years old at the time of the AHO’s March 7, 2014 decision. She has been eligible to receive special education and related services pursuant to the IDEA because she has Rett’s syndrome. Student attended Mililani Middle School (the “home school”) for most of her sixth grade year in 2011–2012, when Parent moved Student to ABC School, a private school. March 7, 2014 Decision (“Decision”) at 4.

The March 15, 2013 IEP, which was prepared prior to Student’s eighth grade year, provided Student with special education, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, transportation, and a variety of other supplementary aids and services, program modifications, and supports. The IEP also provided Student with an extended school year (“ESY”) that included special education services only (e.g., no occupational therapy or speech/language therapy) for any breaks longer than 4 calendar days. Pet. Ex. 3 (IEP) at 023. In terms of placement, the IEP provided that:

[Student] will receive specialized instruction in the special education setting for math, language arts, science, social studies, and advisory due to her difficulties in reading, writing, and math. [Student] will receive specialized support in the general education setting for her wheel classes, her elective classes, field trips, lunch, recess, and any other non-academic activities. [Student] will receive specially designed instruction in the public school.

Pet. Ex. 3 (IEP) at 025.

On July 22, 2013, Parent filed her request for due process hearing to review the March 15, 2013 IEP. After hearings on December 9–12, 2013, the AHO issued a decision on March 7, 2014, concluding that:

Petitioners have not shown that procedurally and substantively, the March 15, 2013 IEP denied Student a FAPE. Specifically, Petitioners have not shown that:
- Student’s March 15, 2013 IEP PLEPs were inaccurate, and the DOE did not have adequate information when developing the IEP;
- The goals and objectives in the IEP were not measurable and inappropriate;
- That the program and placement offered was not appropriate to meet Student’s needs;
- That parental participation was denied; and
- That the ESY services offered were inappropriate.

Decision at 28.

Parent’s appeal of the AHO’s decision is presently before the Court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

I. IDEA Overview

“The IDEA is a comprehensive educational scheme, conferring on disabled students a substantive right to public education and providing financial assistance to enable states to meet their educational needs.” Hoeft ex rel. Hoeft v. Tucson Unified Sch. Dist., 967 F.2d 1298, 1300 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 310 (1988)). It ensures that “all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education [(“FAPE”)] that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living[.]” 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(A). The IDEA defines FAPE as special education and related services that --

(A) have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and ...

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