Brennan v. Regional School Dist. No. Bd. of Educ.

Decision Date04 January 2008
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 3:07-CV-867 (JCH).,Civil Action No. 3:06-CV-1410 (JCH).
Citation531 F.Supp.2d 245
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
PartiesJoseph BRENNAN and Chris Brennan, on their behalf and on the behalf of their son Joshua Brennan, Plaintiffs/Consolidated Defendants v. REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 BOARD OF EDUCATION; Patricia Chamberlain, Superintendent of Schools:, Regional School District No. 1; Theresa Terry, Pupil Services Director, Regional School District No. 1, Defendants/Consolidated Plaintiffs.

Deborah G. Stevenson, Southbury, CT, Craig S. Meuser, Chinni & Meuser LLC, Avon, CT, for Plaintiffs.

Christine L. Chinni, Craig S. Meuser, Chinni & Meuser LLC, Avon, CT, for Defendants.


JANET C. HALL, District Judge.

This case involves two consolidated actions, both of which arise primarily under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. Joseph Brennan and Chris Brennan, on their own behalf and on behalf of their son J.B., brought an administrative proceeding against the Regional School District No. 1 Board of Education ("District 1"). The Brennans argued that District 1 did not comply with IDEA because it failed to provide a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") for J.B. The Hearing Officer ("HO") agreed in part: she concluded that District 1 had not provided J.B. with a FAPE during the 2003-2004 school year, as well as during two summers. However, the HO also concluded that District 1 had provided a FAPE during the 2002-2003 school year and during the 2004-2005 school year.

Shortly after the HO's decision was issued, the parents filed suit in this court seeking, inter alia, to appeal the portions of the decision that were adverse to them, and to enforce the portions of the decision that were favorable to them. Doc. No. 1 Nine months later, District 1 filed its own action in this court, purporting to appeal the portions of the administrative decision (as later clarified by the HO) that were favorable to the parents. Doc. No. 2 in Case No. 07-cv-867.

The parents have filed three different motions for summary judgment on their Complaint, while District 1 has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. Additionally, the parents have filed what they term a "Motion to Strike" the Complaint in the District's suit. For the reasons that follow, the court treats the parents'"Motion to Strike" as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss and GRANTS that motion. The court DENIES the parents' first motion for summary judgment and instead DISMISSES the parents' enforcement claim due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the parents' second motion for summary judgment. The court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART District 1's cross-motion for summary judgments The court DENIES the parents' third motion for summary judgment.


At all times pertinent to this lawsuit, J.B. and his parents resided in Salisbury, Connecticut, By virtue of his residence, J.B. was a student, in District 1's public schools from pre-kindergarten through his freshman year of high school. J.B. is and was mentally disabled at all relevant times. Specifically, J.B. has been diagnosed as having an intellectual disability, right brain impairment, and pervasive developmental delays. These affect J.B.'s ability to process spatial information, to do linguistic processing, to do social/emotional processing, and to integrate visual and verbal information. The parties agree that J.B.'s disability renders him eligible for special education and related services under IDEA. District 1 accordingly provided J.B. with special education services throughout his educational career.

Under Connecticut and federal law, a Planning and Placement Team ("PPT") is the entity empowered to make educational decisions for J.B. Pursuant to a recommendation from the PPT, and with the agreement of his parents, J.B. spent the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 school years in a specialized "TOTAL" program, at the Sharon Central School that is specifically designed for special education students. "TOTAL" is an acronym that stands for "Teaching Opportunities To All Learners;" students in TOTAL take academic classes together taught by a special education teacher. 7/12/05 Hearing Tr. at 56-61. The TOTAL program provides students with pragmatic language skills and speech therapy throughout the day. 7/22/05 Hearing Tr. at 91-92. The school district describes the TOTAL program as a "multi-age nongraded program," and it contends that the children in the TOTAL program span the fourth through eighth grades. See District 1's 8/1/07 Loc. R. 56(a)(2) Statement ("District 8/1 56(a)(2) Stat.") at ¶ 14.

On May 31, 2002, the PPT met and created an Individualized Education Program (IEP) recommending that J.B. again participate in the TOTAL program for the upcoming 2002-2003 school year. J.B. did so, and his academic classes were in the self-contained TOTAL classroom. Hearing Exh. B-7 at 1, 30. Within the TOTAL program, J.B. was also given 30 minutes per week of motor planning from an occupational therapist. 7/8/05 Hearing Tr. at 65-66; Hearing Exh. B-7 at 30. Outside the TOTAL program, J.B. took mainstream classes in Band, Music, Art, and Gym. Hearing Exh. B-7 at 1. The parents believe that during this year J.B. was enrolled in the sixth grade. See Parents' 6/20/07 Loc. R. 56(a)(1) Statement ("Parents' 6/20 56(a)(1) Stat.") at ¶ 14. J.B. was born in October 1987; by Spring 2003 he was 15 years old.

Towards the end of the 2002-2003 school year, the PPT met on at least two occasions to discuss J.B. Those meetings took place on April 25, 2003 and June 9, 2003, and they concerned J.B.'s IEP for 2003-2004. The PPT's recommendations from those meetings do not expressly include a statement that J.B. should be transferred to the Housatonic Valley Regional High School ("HVRHS"), although the IEP plainly contemplated such a transfer for 2003-2004. See Hearing Exh. B-10 at 1-2; Hearing Exh. B-12 at 1. The PPT did not offer J.B. any placement for Summer 2003. Id. at 12.

J.B. went on to attend HVRHS for 2003-2004, taking a modified ninth grade curriculum. He received special education instruction in English, Math, and Social Studies. Additionally, J.B. was enrolled in an Agricultural Technology course at HVRHS that included a "supervised agricultural experience." Hearing Exh. B-12 at 12. The remainder of his schedule involved mainstream courses, as well as additional time for academic support in a self-contained resource room. See District 1's Loc. R. 56(a)(1) Statement ("District 1's 56(a)(1) Stat.") at ¶ 27; Parents' Loc. R. 56(a)(2) Statement ("Parents' 56(a)(2) Stat.") at ¶ 27; Hearing Exh. B-10 at 1-2; Hearing Exh. B-12 at 1-2, 12. The 2003-2004 IEP did not have a formal speech and language component.

In March 2004, the parents notified school officials that they believed that J.B. had been the subject of bullying at HVRHS. 8/10/05 Hearing Tr. at 25. School officials investigated, and based on this investigation they concluded that no bullying was taking place. See District 1's 56(a)(1) Stat. at ¶ 28.1 The parents were apparently not satisfied with the school's response, and they continued to believe that J.B. was at risk of being subjected to future bullying incidents.

On April 19, 2004, the PPT convened for another meeting regarding J.B. The parents asked District 1 to place J.B. at a private school for Summer 2004, and for the 2004-2005 school year. Specifically, the parents requested that J.B. be placed at the Maplebrook School in Amenia, NY; Maplebrook is a school specifically designed for students with disabilities, and most students who attend there suffer from ADD or ADHD. See Hearing Tr. 5/23/05 at 113; District 1's 56(a)(1) Stat. at ¶ 54; Parents 56(a)(2) Stat. at ¶ 54. The parents informed District 1 that, if their request was denied, they would unilaterally enroll J.B. at Maplebrook. The PPT denied the parents' request.

Nonetheless, in April and May 2004, District 1 proceeded to examine additional reports and to conduct additional testing on J.B. The PPT then reconvened on June 10, 2004, and it offered to place J.B. in a four week summer program at the Litchfield County Association of Retarded Citizens. It also proposed a new IEP for J.B. at HVRHS for the 2004-2005 regular academic year that contained a significant amount of special education services — approximately 18.75 hours a week, which was more than J.B. had been given under his previous IEP. See District 1's 56(a)(1) Stat. at ¶¶ 37, 39; Parents 56(a)(2) Stat. at ¶¶ 37, 39. The only regular education classes on J.B.'s schedule would be Biology, Vocational Education, Physical Education, and Lunch. Hearing Exh. B-25 at 42. The proposal also contained 45 minutes a week of speech and language services, id., and it required that an occupational therapist and a physical therapist consult with J.B.'s teachers for one hour each month. Id. at 1, 45. In all classes, J.B. was to be given a number of special modifications, including specially modified testing, modified lesson content, and modified instructional methods designed to reduce reliance on visual information. Id. at 45.

The parents were apparently unsatisfied with this IEP, and at the June 10 meeting the parents again requested that J.B. be placed at the Maplebrook School. District 1 again refused.

The next day, June 11, 2004, the parents sent school officials a...

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