Light v. Parkway C-2 School Dist., C-2

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Citation41 F.3d 1223
Docket NumberNo. 94-2333,C-2,94-2333
Parties96 Ed. Law Rep. 98, 8 A.D.D. 373 Martin LIGHT; Diane Light; Lauren Light, a minor by and through Martin and Diane Light, her next friends; Appellants; v. PARKWAYSCHOOL DISTRICT; Special School District of St. Louis County; Appellees.
Decision Date11 January 1995

Page 1223

41 F.3d 1223
96 Ed. Law Rep. 98, 8 A.D.D. 373
Martin LIGHT; Diane Light; Lauren Light, a minor by and
through Martin and Diane Light, her next friends;
PARKWAY C-2 SCHOOL DISTRICT; Special School District of St.
Louis County; Appellees.
No. 94-2333.
United States Court of Appeals,
Eighth Circuit.
Submitted Sept. 12, 1994.
Decided Dec. 2, 1994.
Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing En Banc Denied Jan. 11, 1995.

Page 1224

Michael H. Finkelstein, Jefferson City, MO, argued (Kevin Thompson and Sara Thompson, on the brief), for appellants.

James G. Thomeczek, St. Louis, MO, argued (Teri Goldman, on the brief), for appellees.

Before FAGG, Circuit Judge, HEANEY, Senior Circuit Judge, and BOWMAN, Circuit Judge.

HEANEY, Senior Circuit Judge.

This appeal concerns a school district's attempt to change the educational placement of an allegedly dangerous mentally disabled child. Two issues are raised on appeal: (1) whether the Supreme Court's holding in Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 108 S.Ct. 592, 98 L.Ed.2d 686 (1988), requires a district court to find that a child is not only "substantially likely to cause injury" but also "truly dangerous" before sanctioning a transfer, and (2) whether a school district must make a reasonable accommodation of the child's disability before it can change her placement. We reject the former contention, but agree with the latter. We hold that the district court in this case erred by refusing to consider whether Lauren Light's disabilities had been reasonably accommodated. Nevertheless, based upon our independent review of the record, we conclude that a reasonable accommodation was made, and we affirm the court's order that Lauren Light be removed from her current placement.


Lauren Light is a thirteen-year-old child with multiple mental disabilities. She has been diagnosed at various times as demonstrating behavioral disorder, conduct disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, mild to moderate mental retardation, certain features of autism, language impairment, and organic brain syndrome. Behind these diagnostic labels stands a child whose condition leaves her prone to impulsive, unpredictable,

Page 1225

and aggressive behavior. According to her parents, Lauren is "sometimes defiant, easily frustrated, irritable, impulsive, and easily distracted." Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order at 2. Moreover, Lauren "sometimes exhibits aggressive behaviors such as kicking, biting, hitting and throwing objects." Id.

For the 1993-94 school year, Lauren was enrolled in a self-contained classroom for students with mental disabilities at Parkway Central Middle School, a public middle school in Chesterfield, Missouri. The classroom is operated by the Special School District ("SSD") of St. Louis County, a public entity devoted to educating children with special needs. During the prior school year, Lauren had been placed in a self-contained classroom at Riverbend Elementary School. Seeking greater educational opportunities for Lauren, her parents advocated for and obtained a transfer to Parkway Central Middle School, arguing that Lauren's behavior might improve amid similarly-aged peers.

Federal law requires disabled children like Lauren to be educated pursuant to an Individualized Education Program ("IEP"), a comprehensive document which sets forth objectives, policies, and guidelines and which governs their day-to-day schooling. Developed by a team of educators, specialists, consultants, administrators, and her parents, Lauren's IEP outlined an extensive set of duties on the part of the SSD to accommodate Lauren's disabilities. Lauren's IEP required that she have two-on-one staff support at all times. Thus, in addition to the classroom teacher assigned to her room, Lauren was accompanied by one full-time teacher, Jane Galownia, and one full-time teacher's assistant, Lynn Wilson, throughout the school day. Both Galownia and Wilson have been certified by the State of Missouri to teach students with mental handicaps, behavioral disorders, and learning disabilities.

In addition, the SSD provided special training to members of the staff who regularly came into contact with Lauren, including training in behavior management, inclusion, and crisis prevention and intervention. To ease the transition from Riverbend, the SSD agreed to retain the services of a consultant selected by the Lights, Mary Granville of the Judevine Center for Autistic Children. Granville had worked with Lauren at Riverbend to facilitate her inclusion in the regular school environment, and performed a similar role in planning for and assisting with Lauren's transition to Parkway Central Middle School. Lauren's curriculum included speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, instruction in daily living skills, adapted physical education, functional academics, and weekly community access opportunities. Lauren's teachers kept daily logs of her activities and behavior and provided daily reports to her parents. Outside of the special education classroom, Lauren was enrolled in several courses in the regular classroom setting with her nondisabled peers, including physical education, art, computer lab, home economics, and library. The SSD provided staff support for Lauren to participate in after-school activities. In September of 1993, the SSD agreed to a request by Lauren's parents that she be provided music therapy twice a week. When Lauren's music therapist became ill, the SSD hired a replacement and increased the frequency of the lessons to three a week to make up for lost instructional time. No other SSD student was provided with music therapy.

At Parkway Central Middle School, Lauren exhibited a steady stream of aggressive and disruptive behaviors, such as biting, hitting, kicking and poking persons, throwing objects, and turning over furniture. School records document that in the two years prior to her suspension Lauren committed eleven to nineteen aggressive acts per week, with a mean of fifteen per week. Her daily tally of aggressive acts ranged from zero to nine, with a mean of three per day. Of these incidents, approximately thirty required the attention of the school nurse.

The record suggests that Lauren's aggressive behaviors had a negative effect on the educational progress of the five other special education students in Lauren's program. The teacher in charge of the self-contained classroom, Suzanne Seibel, reported that the class was rarely able to complete lesson plans due to Lauren's frequently disruptive behavior. In letters to the director of special

Page 1226

education for the SSD, parents of some of the other students in Seibel's class expressed concerns that the classroom environment had become tense and stressful, that their children's academic and social progress had slowed or halted, and that the class's field trip schedule had been significantly curtailed. One student required after-school academic support to compensate for the disruptions caused by Lauren's behavior.

Beginning in November 1993, members of Lauren's IEP team began a process of re-evaluation. Together with Lauren's parents and their attorney, the IEP team met for a full day on March 23, 1994. The team concluded that a change of placement was in Lauren's best interest. Also on the agenda was the request of Lauren's art teacher that Lauren be removed from the art class due to her consistently disruptive behavior toward the other students. The Lights objected to any such removal and requested an administrative hearing on that issue. As a result, the Lights invoked the "stay-put" provision of 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1415(e), which stayed any change in Lauren's placement pending the resolution of the administrative proceedings. The team, the Lights and their attorney reconvened on April 6, 1994, to complete the proposed revision of Lauren's IEP, and to address the team's conclusion that Lauren should be moved to a self-contained classroom for children with autism in a neighboring school district. Lauren's parents disagreed with any change in her placement and exercised their procedural due process rights under federal and Missouri law.

On April 12, during art class, Lauren grabbed and tugged the hand of another special education student. With her free hand, Lauren then hit the student three times on the head. Later that day, following an informal hearing at which neither of Lauren's parents was present, the principal of Parkway Central Middle School imposed a ten-day suspension on Lauren for her behavior. Under federal and Missouri law, a suspension of ten days or less does not constitute a change of placement, and thus will not invoke the stay-put requirement. Mo.Rev.Stat. Sec. 167.171 (1986).


Lauren's parents brought this action in the district court seeking to have the suspension lifted because Lauren was not afforded due process. Parkway School District and the SSD counterclaimed and invoked the court's equitable power to remove Lauren from Parkway pending the resolution of the Lights' administrative challenge to the proposed revisions to Lauren's IEP, including the proposed change in placement. 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1415(e)(2). Parkway and the SSD argued that Lauren's aggressive behaviors presented a substantial risk of injury to herself and others in her current educational placement. After one day of testimony, the district court ruled that Lauren had been denied due process and granted the Light's motion for a temporary restraining order. Noting that her parents were not specifically informed of the suspension hearing, the court apparently believed that Lauren's disabilities rendered her unable to advocate on her own behalf and unable to understand why she was being suspended. Following two additional days of testimony, however, the court vacated the temporary restraining order and instead granted the school districts' motion for an injunction...

To continue reading

Request your trial
27 cases
  • RAYMOND S. v. Ramirez, C 95-3027.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 4, 1996
    ...v. Department of Educ. of Mass, 471 U.S. 359, 373, 105 S.Ct. 1996, 2004, 85 L.Ed.2d 385 (1985) (same); Light v. Parkway C-2 Sch. Dist., 41 F.3d 1223, 1226 ((8th Cir.19 Cir.1994) (quoting § 1400(c) of the IDEA as codifying Congress's goal), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 115 S.Ct. 2557, 132 L.E......
  • Curtis K. By Delores K. v. Sioux City Community Sch. Dist., 94-4085 to 94-4091.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • June 29, 1995
    ...v. Department of Educ. of Mass., 471 U.S. 359, 373, 105 S.Ct. 1996, 2004, 85 L.Ed.2d 385 (1985) (same); Light v. Parkway C-2 Sch. Dist., 41 F.3d 1223, 1226 (8th Cir.1994) (quoting § 1400(c) of the IDEA as codifying Congress's goal), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 115 S.Ct. 2557, 132 L.Ed.2d 81......
  • Independent School Dist. No. 283 v. S.D. by J.D., Civil No. 3-93-SC-662.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • May 16, 1995
    ...their child. Id.; Dellmuth v. Muth, 491 U.S. 223, 225, 109 S.Ct. 2397, 2398, 105 L.Ed.2d 181 (1989); Light v. Parkway C-2 School District, 41 F.3d 1223, 1227 (8th Cir. 1994). Included among these safeguards is the conduct of a "conciliation conference" at which the parties' educational disp......
  • D.L. v. Waukee Community School Dist., 4:07-cv-00458.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • September 26, 2008
    ...In addition to reimbursement and attorney's fees, injunctive relief is generally available. See Light v. Parkway C-2 Sch. Dist., 41 F.3d 1223, 1228 (8th Cir.1994) ("Where injury remains substantially likely to result ..., the district court may issue an injunction ordering that the child's ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT