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Carr v. Department of Public Instruction

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

February 9, 2018

MELINDA J. CARR and ALISTAIR P. CARR, Plaintiffs,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION and NEW GLARUS SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM M. CONLEY DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Melinda J. Carr and Alistair P. Carr are proceeding in this lawsuit under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2), which permits a party to appeal in federal court a decision issued as part of an Individual with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) due process hearing. Here, plaintiffs are challenging on behalf of their son, “S.C., ” a April 12, 2017, decision by Administrative Law Judge Sally Pederson that denied their request for a due process hearing against the New Glarus School District. (See Third Am. Compl. (dkt. #22) at 1-2.) Specifically, plaintiffs challenge the ALJ's conclusions that: (1) from January to May 2016, the District provided S.C. with a free, appropriate public education (“FAPE”), as guaranteed by the IDEA, despite failing to offer a math class appropriate to meet S.C.'s needs or paying the cost of a needs-appropriate math class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and (2) during the 2015-2016 school year, the District provided S.C. with a FAPE despite failing to implement various provisions of his individualized education program (“IEP”). (ALJ. Dec. (dkt. #22-1) at 2, 13-14, 16-17.) Currently pending before the court are three motions, which this opinion resolves as follows:

• plaintiffs' motion to supplement the administrative record (dkt. #43) will be granted in part and denied in part;
• plaintiffs' motion to strike defendant's opposition to that motion supplement (dkt. #48) will be denied; and
• plaintiffs' motion to extend the February 16, 2017, expert disclosure deadline (dkt. #57) will be denied as moot.

         SUMMARY OF ALJ'S FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         To provide adequate context for plaintiff's motion to supplement, the court briefly summarizes only the relevant portions of the ALJ's April 12, 2017, findings of fact and conclusions of law. (Dkt. #22.)

         I. Findings of Fact

         In 2012, an IEP team identified S.C. as a child with a disability resulting from a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”), who was eligible to receive special education and related service. Before his December 2010 TBI, SC had been identified as a gifted and talented student.

         S.C. began the 2015-2016 school year in the Oregon School District, and that district developed an IEP for him. After the first week of school, however, the Carrs requested that their son be transferred to the New Glarus School District (“District”). The District accepted S.C, and he began attending the New Glarus High School as a junior in September 2015. At that time, the District also accepted S.C.'s August 2015 IEP created by the Oregon School District.

         The August 2015 IEP provided that S.C. would participate full-time with non-disabled peers in regular education classes, and he would receive special education services for 15 minutes once a week from special education staff. The special education services were described as “academic self-management” and focused on teaching S.C. “study skills and following up with organization and prioritization.” That same school year, the District joined many other school districts in the area in adopting a new math curriculum called College Preparatory Math (“CPM”), an approach that diverges from the tradition method focused on direct teacher instruction. Instead, CPM requires students to use deductive and inductive reasoning to work on math problems with their peers, and then receive feedback, assistance or redirection from the math teacher and their peers.

         In the first trimester of the 2015-2016 school year, SC was enrolled in a pre-calculus math class that used this CPM methodology. On September 23, 2015, plaintiff Melinda Carr emailed S.C.'s math teacher about CPM, specifically expressing concern that due to S.C.'s TBI, he has problems with organization and deductive reasoning, but responds well to information told directly to him. During an October 2015 parent-teacher conference, the Carrs learned that S.C.'s pre-calculus grade at that point was a “D.” After that conference, S.C.'s math teacher began meeting with S.C. directly to assist him with homework and provide instruction as needed. That teacher also began serving as S.C.'s coach for a free, on-line program that provides direct math instruction. S.C. ended the first trimester with a C grade.

         Due to the Carrs' concern that S.C. might not be eligible for calculus for his senior year, the District convened an IEP team meeting on December 2, 2015, to discuss S.C.'s math instruction. At that meeting, the team discussed changes to the IEP goals to provide S.C. more services for study skills and organization, as well as including math instruction services. However, Melinda Carr did not agree to any of the proposed changes, and afterward, she requested another IEP team meeting, which was scheduled for January.

         Beforehand, on December 18, 2015, Melinda met with the New Glarus High School principal and its special education director to discuss a distance-learning math class. Although not a formal IEP team meeting, the principal and special education director told Melinda that because the high school had a pre-calculus teacher who could meet S.C.'s math needs, there was no need to set up a distance-learning math program. From then until January 2016, the math teacher continued to provide S.C. additional support services and accommodations.

         On January 7, 2016, the rescheduled IEP team meeting was held. In attendance was Melinda, S.C.'s parent advocate, the high school principal, the special education director, the special education teacher/case manager, the math teacher, school psychologist (Jane O'Brien) and the special education director from the Belleville School District (where S.C. had previously gone to school). The focus of the meeting was S.C.'s math instruction, and Melinda requested a new math goal be added to the IEP. Melinda also requested that the IEP be changed to a “consultation, ” so that the only special education services would be a meeting with a special education teacher once per trimester. The team also discussed S.C.'s goals related ...


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