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Doe v. Belchertown Public Schools

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 28, 2017

JANE DOE, a minor, David Piquette and Debra Piquette, as Grandparents and Legal Guardians of Minor Child Jane Doe, Plaintiffs,
v.
BELCHERTOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS and BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO SUPPLEMENT AND MOTION FOR MISCELLANEOUS RELIEF- MOTION TO SUPPLEMENT THE ADMINISTRATIVE RECORD (Dkt. Nos. 25, 46)

          KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON, United States Magistrate Judge

         Pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., Jane Doe (“Jane” or “Plaintiff”), by and through her grandparents and legal guardians, Debra Piquette (“Jane's grandmother”) and David Piquette (“Jane's grandfather”) (collectively, “Jane's grandparents” and, with Jane, “Plaintiffs”), seeks judicial review of a September 23, 2016 decision by the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (“BSEA”). Jane contests the BSEA conclusion that during the 2014-2015, 2015-2016, and 2016-2017 school years, Belchertown Public Schools (“BPS”) offered Jane an Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) reasonably calculated to afford Jane a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) as required by the IDEA. Jane also seeks reimbursement of the funds expended by her grandparents for her education at Wilbraham Monson Academy (“WMA”), where they unilaterally placed Jane in October 2014 at their own expense.

         Plaintiffs have filed two motions to supplement the administrative record pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415 (i)(2)(c)(ii) (Dkt. Nos. 25, 46). Plaintiffs seek to add (1) a report of psychological, speech and language, and educational testing of Jane that occurred after the BSEA hearing and decision, (2) a report regarding a visit by Jane to the emergency room that occurred several months before the BSEA hearing, (3) two letters from June 2010 regarding agreements between BPS and Jane's grandparents relative to their sons' Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), which purportedly included reimbursement payments by BPS to the Piquettes for payments made to WMA; and (4) an affidavit from Debra Piquette regarding a payment she made to WMA after the BSEA hearing. BPS and the BSEA (collectively, Defendants”) oppose Plaintiffs' motion, with the exception of the affidavit from Debra Piquette, which only BPS opposes. For the reasons that follow, the court DENIES Jane's motion without prejudice to Jane filing a renewed motion seeking to supplement the record with a revised affidavit that responds to the concerns raised by BPS in its opposition.

         I. Background

         A. The Existing Record

         On April 30, 2014, Jane, a special education eligible student who was receiving services under an IEP, met with her IEP team to prepare for the 2014-2015 school year (Dkt. No. 4-5 at 4-6). At the time, Jane was finishing up her eighth-grade year at Curtis Blake Day School, a private, out-of-district day school focused on teaching students with learning disabilities (id. at 5). Following the meeting, BPS offered an IEP calling for Jane's placement in a substantially separate program at Belchertown High School for the 2014-2015 school year (id. at 6). Jane's grandmother rejected the proposed IEP and placement, and requested a team meeting to discuss the rejection (id. at 7). BPS, after learning that Curtis Blake Day School would not have a ninth grade class for the 2014-2015 school year, offered White Oak School as a “stay-put placement” pending resolution of the parties' dispute (id. at 8). On September 2, 2014, Jane began attending ninth grade at White Oak School (id.).

         In mid-September 2014, BPS personnel conducted psychological and speech and language evaluations of Jane, and a team meeting was held on September 24, 2014 to go over the results of the assessments (id. at 9-10). Shortly thereafter, on October 6, 2014, Jane's grandparents unilaterally enrolled Jane in WMA, effective October 20, 2014 (id. at 12). The following day, October 7, 2014, BPS forwarded an IEP to Jane's grandparents offering Jane placement at White Oak School for the 2014-2015 school year (id. at 11). Jane's grandmother accepted the IEP, but rejected the placement at White Oak School, and, on October 10, 2014, Jane's attorney informed BPS of Jane's grandparents' unilateral placement of Jane at WMA (id. at 11-12). BPS advised Jane's grandparents that it would not fund Jane's placement at WMA (id. at 12). Nevertheless, Jane left White Oak School on October 17, 2014, and began attending classes at WMA on October 20, 2014, where she completed her ninth grade year (id. at 12-13).

         On August 14, 2015, Jane's grandparents advised BPS that they would continue Jane's unilateral placement at WMA for the 2015-2016 school year and noted that they would be seeking retroactive reimbursement for the placement (id. at 14). BPS again advised Jane's grandparents that it would not fund Jane's unilateral placement at WMA (id.). On September 22, 2015, a team meeting was held, following which BPS forwarded Jane's grandparents a proposed IEP offering Jane a partial inclusion program at Belchertown High School for the 2015-2016 school year (id. at 14-15). While Jane's grandparents took no action on this IEP, Jane's father rejected it, and Jane continued to attend WMA for the remainder of her tenth grade year (id. at 15).

         On December 22, 2015, Jane's grandparents filed a Hearing Request with the BSEA (id.). In April and May 2016, BPS personnel conducted psychological and speech and language reevaluations of Jane (id. at 16-17). On May 26, 2016, a team meeting was held, and BPS issued a proposed IEP again offering Jane a partial inclusion program at Belchertown High School for the 2016-2017 school year (id. at 18). Jane's grandparents did not respond to the proposed IEP (id. at 19).

         The BSEA hearing was conducted over several days in June and July 2016, and the BSEA issued its decision rejecting Jane's appeal on September 23, 2016 (id. at 1-2, 32). BPS's 2014 and 2015 psychological and speech and language evaluations are part of the record, and the clinician who performed the psychological evaluations for BPS in 2014 and 2016, Dr. Joseph Silverman, Ph. D., NCSP, testified at the hearing (id. at 9, 16-17). Jane and her grandparents did not present any expert opinion at the hearing.

         B. Jane's Subsequent Withdrawal from WMA

         After the BSEA issued its decision, in October 2016, Jane's withdrew from WMA and enrolled in TEC Connections Academy Commonwealth Virtual School (“TECCA”), which is its own public school district and local educational agency (“LEA”) responsible for providing special education services to its students (Dkt. No. 39).

         C. Proposed ...


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