Genn v. New Haven Bd. of Educ., Case No. 3:12–cv–00704 (CSH)

Decision Date30 November 2016
Docket NumberCase No. 3:12–cv–00704 (CSH)
Citation219 F.Supp.3d 296
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
Parties Nancy GENN, On her behalf and on behalf of her daughter, Sarah Elizabeth (Katie) Genn, Plaintiffs, v. NEW HAVEN BOARD OF EDUCATION; Reginald Mayo, Superintendent of Schools; Typhanie Jackson, Director of Special Services; Patricia Moore, Supervisor of Special Services; and Kathryn Carbone, Public Health Nurse Director, Defendants.

Rose Longo–McLean John R. Williams & Associates, LLC New Haven, CT, for Plaintiff.

Brian W. Smith Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C. Milford, CT, for Defendant.

RULING ON CROSS–MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

HAIGHT, Senior District Judge:

Plaintiffs, Nancy Genn (the "Parent") and Sarah Elizabeth (Katie) Genn (the "Student"), together bring this action against the Defendant New Haven Board of Education and several individuals who were a part of the New Haven school system. Plaintiffs bring suit pursuant to several statutes, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 –1482 ("IDEA"); the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12117 ("ADA"), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 ; and several Connecticut Statutes, to appeal a decision and order of an independent hearing officer (the "IHO") of the State of Connecticut's Department of Education. Both parties have cross-moved for summary judgment. (Doc. 36 and Doc. 37). This Ruling resolves both motions.

I. BACKGROUND

The Student was born in 1995. B–2.1 Beginning at a young age, she suffered a myriad of serious symptoms that were initially diagnosed as bipolar disorder

, attention deficit disorder, asthma, and several other serious medical conditions. Id. As a result of these medical conditions, the New Haven Board of Education (the "Board") determined that the Student was in need of a special education at a Placement and Planning Team meeting ("PPT") on January 4, 2006. B–14. A PPT, or a "planning and placement team," is a body comprised of school officials and others structured pursuant to Connecticut law (and the IDEA) to make determinations with respect to the special educational needs of students. Regs. Conn. State Agencies § 10–76a–1(14). At that meeting, the Student was designated to receive special education services, as the result of having an Other Health Impairment ("OHI"). B–14.

Thereafter, several PPT meetings were held to formulate and adjust the Student's Individual Education Program ("IEP"). On May 10, 2006, a PPT was convened to review her IEP. B–16. During that PPT meeting, an assistive technology ("AT") evaluation was arranged for June 19, 2006. B–19. The recommendations included access to special computer software to help the Student with her work. Id. On June 20, 2006, another PPT meeting was convened to approve the assistive technology software and to revise the Student's reading goal. B–20.

On December 19, 2006, a PPT meeting was held to discuss the Student's progress with academic and emotional issues. B–24. She was then in a regular education classroom and receiving counseling. Id. Another PPT meeting was not convened until September 25, 2007, where the team re-evaluated the Student's academic and socialization goals. B–27. Increased support was added for her reading and organizational skills, and her counseling was continued. Id. On October 23, 2007, the Student's IEP was modified to address her anxiety related to testing. B–30. Additionally, the Student received another AT consultation in October 2007, which resulted in a recommendation of additional software and training for the Student and the school staff. B–31. These AT recommendations were implemented in a PPT meeting held on November 19, 2007. B–35. Her IEP was also updated during that meeting. Id. During the month of November, a review also took place showing that the Student had made progress on her organization and reading goals, and that her self-image was increasing. Id.

In January 2008, the Student underwent a Triennial Psychological evaluation. B–37. The evaluation produced numerous recommendations, including: continued instruction to increase reading fluency, increased feedback to make the Student feel more encouraged, frequent checks to ensure the Student understood the instruction, stress management, the assignment of a supportive partner for group activities, a "keep calm" activity, and regular communication between the school staff, the parent, and the Student's psychiatrist. Id. At a follow up PPT meeting on January 29, 2008, the Student's IEP was revised after reviewing the Triennial Psychological evaluation. B–38. Her weaknesses were identified as written expression and mathematical calculations. Id. The Student also reported having social difficulties with forming friendships. Id. The revised IEP contained several accommodations and modifications intended to help the Student meet her IEP goals, including several software programs, testing modifications such as open notes and extra time, organizational help, and daily feedback. Id. The PPT met again on October 14, 2008, and added a plan to help meet the organizational goal already in the IEP. B–41.

The next PPT meeting was on January 27, 2009, when the team conducted an annual review. B–43. Noted areas of concern included her completion of homework, her ability to focus for long periods of times, emotional outbursts, and tests. Id. Her strengths included her creative ability, enthusiasm, and her computation skills. Id. The team also changed the Student's social and behavioral goals to help her deal with her frustration and anxiety. Id.

On May 19, 2009, a PPT meeting was held to plan the Student's transition to high school at Cooperative Arts & Humanities ("CO–OP"). B–44. The meeting covered what accommodations would continue while she was in high school and how the staff at CO–OP could be trained and prepared for the Student's transition. Id. A second PPT meeting was convened on June 16, 2009 to further discuss what accommodation would be provided at CO–OP and what training would be provided to the staff there. B–45.

In August of 2009, the Parent exchanged emails with CO–OP staff members concerning the Student's scheduled courses, along with several other issues concerning the Student's education. B–47. The Parent was concerned that Spanish and Social Studies had been left off of her daughter's schedule, and that no counseling had been scheduled. Id.

The PPT met on October 27, 2009 to discuss further accommodations for testing and to set a goal to encourage increased attendance. B–46. The Parent also agreed to furnish medical documentation to the PPT. Id. The Student's attendance goal was set up in monthly stages, and was aimed at achieving 95% attendance. Id. On October 29, 2009, the Parent emailed Andrea Sauerbrunn, a school administrator, and noted that the IEP changes should not be implemented and no district wide assessments should be given to the Student before the Parent could consult the Student's doctors. B–47. The Parent, in this email, and in several prior emails, laid out her frustration with the implementation of the Student's IEP at CO–OP. Id.

On November 1, 2009, the Parent emailed the PPT Chair to request help in gathering the Student's possessions from the school and to discuss transferring the Student to a different high school. Id. The Parent also noted that the Student would be staying home due to illness, and reiterated her desire to have the Student's assignments submitted by email. Id. On November 2, 2009, Dr. Dolores Garcia–Blocker emailed to note that the Student's teachers would not be sending or receiving assignments via email, and that the Student would be marked absent. Id. Dr. Garcia–Blocker also noted that paperwork would be filed with "the court" regarding the number of times the Student had been absent from school. Id. The Parent responded that the Student was ill, and she had called her daughter in as sick each day that she had missed class. B–47. The Parent continued to note her frustrations with the school's implementation of her daughter's IEP. Id. The Parent also alleged that Dr. Garcia–Blocker had thrown a testing booklet at the Student and humiliated the Student in front of her classmates. Id. The same day, Patricia Moore, the Student Services Supervisor, responded to several of the Parent's emails to inquire as to whether the Parent was refusing the IEP. Id.

A PPT meeting was convened shortly thereafter, on November 5, 2009. B–48. The Parent stated that she was not refusing the IEP, and also brought an attorney to the meeting. Id. The PPT meeting was adjourned until the Board could also be represented by counsel. Id. Some areas of concern noted at the PPT before the adjournment were the Student's attendance and ability to complete assignments due to her emotional state. Id.

Another PPT meeting was convened on December 22, 2009. B–49. Before the PPT meeting, the Student transferred to High School in the Community (HSC). Id. The Student was offered a modified day schedule beginning around 9:30 a.m. Id. The Student was also to be provided with social work services when available. Id. The Parent agreed to provide more information about the Student's health after a medical consultation at Massachusetts General Hospital. Id.

On January 11, 2010, the Student's pediatrician, Dr. Flaherty Hewitt, wrote to HSC to request homebound instruction for the Student. B–50. The note from Dr. Hewitt described her medical history, and included a new movement disorder, which was being investigated by Massachusetts General Hospital. Id. The movement disorder was resulting in prolonged periods of blindness, coughing, trouble swallowing, among other serious symptoms. Id. The Student was admitted to the Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven on January 20, 2010, and was discharged on February 1, 2010. B–53.

The PPT held a meeting on January 26, 2010 with the Board's Counsel. B–54. The...

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