C.D., by and through her Parents and Next Friends, M.D. and P.D.; M.D.; P.D., Plaintiffs, Appellants,
NATICK PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT; BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS, Defendants, Appellees.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. F. Dennis Saylor, IV, U.S. District
Benjamin J. Wish, with whom Todd & Weld, LLP, Laurie R.
Martucci, and Martucci Law Associates were on brief, for
Almazan-Altobelli and Ellen Saideman on brief for Council of
Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc., amicus curiae.
Burnim, Lewis Bossing, Elizabeth B. McCallum, Paul E. Poirot,
William T. DeVinney, and Baker Hostetler, LLP on brief for
the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law,
Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Disability
Law Center, National Center for Learning Disabilities,
National Center for Youth Law, National Disability Rights
Network, and National Down Syndrome Congress, amici curiae.
Felicia S. Vasudevan, with whom Murphy, Hesse, Toomey &
Lehane, LLP was on brief, for Natick Public School District.
Rachel Dray-Siegel, Assistant Attorney General, with whom
Maura Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts, was on
brief, for Bureau of Special Education Appeals.
Michael J. Long and Long & DiPietro, LLP on brief for the
Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, amicus
Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., Cristine M.D. Goldman,
Colleen Shea, Colby Brunt, and Stoneman, Chandler &
Miller, LLP on brief for National School Boards Association
and Massachusetts Association of School Committees, amici
Torruella, Lynch, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires
that students with certain disabilities be provided a
"[f]ree appropriate public education" (FAPE) in the
"[l]east restrictive environment" (LRE) appropriate
for each student. 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1), (5). Under the
IDEA and Massachusetts law, the individualized education
programs (IEPs) of certain disabled students must also
contain postsecondary transition goals and services based on
age-appropriate assessments. Id. §
1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII); Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71B, § 2.
are C.D., a resident of Natick, Massachusetts, who qualified
as a child with a disability under the IDEA, and her parents.
They challenge this circuit's prior interpretations of
these IDEA requirements as incomplete or as inconsistent with
the IDEA and current Supreme Court case law. The parents seek
reimbursement for at least three years of C.D.'s
education in a specialized private school. Rejecting these
challenges, we affirm the district court, which upheld a
decision of the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education
Appeals (BSEA) ruling that the Natick Public School District
(Natick) had complied with the FAPE, LRE, and transition
requirements in proposed IEPs for C.D. See C.D. v. Natick
Pub. Sch. Dist. (C.D. II), No. 15-13617-FDS, 2018 WL
3510291, at *1 (D. Mass. July 20, 2018); C.D. v. Natick
Pub. Sch. Dist. (C.D. I), No. 15-13617-FDS, 2017 WL
3122654, at *1 (D. Mass. July 21, 2017).
IDEA offers states federal funds for the education of
children with disabilities in exchange for the states'
commitments to comply with the IDEA's directives,
including its FAPE and LRE requirements. See Arlington
Cent. Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Murphy, 548 U.S. 291,
"comprises 'special education and related
services' -- both 'instruction' tailored to meet
a child's 'unique needs' and sufficient
'supportive services' to permit the child to benefit
from that instruction." Fry v. Napoleon Cmty.
Sch., 137 S.Ct. 743, 748-49 (2017) (quoting 20 U.S.C.
§ 1401(9), (26), (29)). "The primary vehicle for
delivery of a FAPE is an IEP." D.B. ex rel.
Elizabeth B. v. Esposito, 675 F.3d 26, 34 (1st Cir.
2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). IEPs are
"comprehensive plan[s]" that are developed by the
child's "IEP Team (which includes teachers, school
officials, and the child's parents)" and that
"must be drafted in compliance with a detailed set of
procedures." Endrew F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist.
RE-1, 137 S.Ct. 988, 994 (2017) (internal quotation
marks omitted). Under the Supreme Court's recent decision
in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1,
137 S.Ct. 988 (2017), the services offered in an IEP amount
to a FAPE if they are "reasonably calculated to enable a
child to make progress appropriate in light of the
child's circumstances." Id. at 1001.
IDEA also requires states receiving federal funds to educate
disabled children in the "[l]east restrictive
environment" appropriate for each child. 20 U.S.C.
§ 1412(a)(5). The statute mandates at §
To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities
. . . are educated with children who are not disabled, and
special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of
children with disabilities from the regular educational
environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the
disability of a child is such that education in regular
classes with the use of supplementary aids and services
cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
Id. The Supreme Court has characterized this LRE
mandate as embodying a "preference" for
"mainstreaming" students with disabilities in
"the regular classrooms of a public school system."
Bd. of Educ. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 202-03 (1982);
see also Endrew F., 137 S.Ct. at 999 ("[T]he
IDEA requires that children with disabilities receive
education in the regular classroom 'whenever
possible'" (quoting Rowley, 458 U.S. at
202)). But the IDEA's preference for mainstreaming
"is not absolute." T.M. ex rel. A.M. v.
Cornwall Cent. Sch. Dist., 752 F.3d 145, 162 (2d Cir.
2014); see also Rowley, 458 U.S. at 197 n.21
("The Act's use of the word 'appropriate' .
. . reflect[s] Congress' recognition that some settings
simply are not suitable environments for . . . some
handicapped children."). Instead, as we explained in
Roland M. v. Concord School Committee, 910 F.2d 983
(1st Cir. 1990), "the desirability of mainstreaming must
be weighed in concert with the Act's mandate for
educational improvement." Id. at 993.
final IDEA requirement at issue here is the instruction at
§ 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII) that certain students' IEPs
"include . . . appropriate measurable postsecondary
goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments
related to training, education, employment, and . . .
independent living skills" along with "the
transition services (including courses of study) needed to
assist the child in reaching those goals." 20 U.S.C.
§ 1414 (d) (1) (A) (i) (VIII)(aa)-(bb). Massachusetts
has made these transition requirements applicable starting at
age fourteen. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71B, § 2; see
also 20 U.S.C. § 1414 (d) (1) (A) (i) (VIII)
(making this requirement applicable "beginning not later
than the first IEP to be in effect when the child is
16"). Because C.D. was fourteen or older when the IEPs
at issue were proposed, these requirements applied.
has borderline intellectual functioning and significant
deficits in language ability. She attended public school in
Natick through fifth grade. For middle school, she attended
McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School in Framingham,
Massachusetts, where she took all of her classes except math
in a regular classroom setting. To assist C.D., two private
tutors hired by C.D.'s parents attended C.D.'s middle
school classes with her.
summer before C.D. entered high school, her parents worked
with Natick to develop an IEP for C.D.'s ninth grade year
at Natick High School. C.D.'s parents wanted C.D. to
continue her education in a regular classroom setting, with
the help of the same private tutors. School officials