United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
A.A., by and through his Parents and Next Friends, E.A. and M.A., Plaintiffs,
Walled Lake Consolidated Schools, Defendant.
OPINION & ORDER
F. Cox United States District Court Judge
A.A. (“the Student”), by and through his Parents
and Next Friends, E.A. and M.A. (“the Parents”)
(collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed this action
against Defendant Walled Lake Consolidated Schools (the
“District”). Plaintiffs are a young child with
Down syndrome and his parents. After having litigated a
dispute over the proper placement of the Student in the
Defendant school district before an administrative law judge,
Plaintiffs filed this action against the District under the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §
1401 et seq. (“the IDEA”).
following motions are currently pending before the Court: 1)
Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike Third-Party Complaint; 2)
the Michigan Department of Education (“MDE”) and
Terri Chapman's Motion to Strike Third-Party Complaint
Or, in the Alternative, Dismiss it; 3) the District's
Motion for Leave to File an Amended Third Party Complaint;
and 4) the District's Motion to Realign the Student as a
Third Party Plaintiff. The issues have been extensively
briefed by the parties and the Court concludes that oral
argument is not necessary. See Local Rule 7.1(f)(2),
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan.
reasons that follow, the Court shall DENY the District's
Motion to Realign A.A. As A Third Party Plaintiff. In
addition, the Court shall STRIKE the District's purported
Third-Party Complaint filed on June 22, 2017, and DENY the
District's motion seeking leave to file its proposed
Amended Third-Party Complaint because they do not actually
assert a third-party claim against the MDE or Chapman.
Rather, the District is merely asserting independent claims
that arise out of the same set of facts.
the above rulings, the Court shall also DENY AS MOOT the
MDE/Chapman's Motion for Protective Order and the
District's Motion to Compel Discovery from the
live within the District's geographical boundaries. The
Student is a young child with a disability. He has Down
syndrome and Speech Apraxia.
of 2015, the District addressed the Student's placement
and services for the 2015-2016 school year. The
District's May 2015 IEP placed the Student in a classroom
for cognitively impaired students at the District's
Meadowbrook Elementary School (a “CI Classroom”).
The Student's Parents disagreed with that IEP and wanted
the Student to be placed in a general education classroom at
the District's Keith Elementary School (ie., the Parents
want him “mainstreamed”).
District and the Parents then entered into a “trial
placement agreement, ” under which the Student would be
placed in a general education classroom at Keith. The Student
then began the 2015-2016 school year in the general education
classroom at Keith.
later, however, the District determined that the Student
should be moved to the CI Classroom, despite the Parents'
Parent's Complaint About Trial Placement Agreement To The
the Student was still attending Keith, his Parents filed a
state administrative complaint with the MDE, alleging that
the District circumvented the IEP placement process by
proposing a trial placement agreement, and proposing an
arbitration agreement, instead of convening an IEP team
meeting. (See D.E. No. 6-3 at Pg ID 162). By the
time that complaint had been filed, the Student had been
attending Keith for more than half of the school year, and
was still there.
letter dated February 11, 2016, the MDE confirmed that it had
received Plaintiffs' complaint against the District. That
The OSE has determined that the district must return the
student to the educational status, program placement, and
services as they existed at Keith Elementary School during
the “trial placement” until the conclusion of the
investigation of this state complaint. In the judgment of the
department, not doing so would constitute a violation of the
student's due process protections.
(D.E. No. 6-2 at Pg ID 158-59).
the complaint filed by the Parents, the MDE ultimately
concluded that the District's use of a trial placement
agreement, under the circumstances it was used, was not in
compliance with the IDEA and the District was directed to
discontinue the practice. (See D.E. No. 6-3). But
that did not resolve the dispute over where the Student would
District's Due Process Complaint Concerning The
Student's Placement And The ALJ's Rulings On
April 1, 2016, after the Parents had filed their complaint
about the trial placement agreement, the District filed for a
due process hearing, to resolve the dispute over the
the District believed that the MDE would not decide the
matter impartially, the District requested a hearing before
an administrative law judge. (See D.E. No. 58 at 2
District's due process complaint was forwarded to the
Michigan Administrative Hearing System for hearing and was
assigned to Administrative Law Judge Kandra Robbins. The only
parties to that proceeding were Plaintiffs and the District.
April 18, 2016 - near the end of the school year - the
District filed a motion with the ALJ asking her to issue an
order that would require the Student to “stay
put” in the CI Classroom at Meadowbrook Elementary (the
school the Student had not yet attended). In an order issued
on May 13, 2016, the ALJ concluded that the “Stay-Put
placement for Student should be the May 13, 2015 IEP, ”
that had placed him in the CI Classroom at Meadowbrook. (D.E.
No. 6-4 at Pg ID 176). But the ALJ did not order that,
However, in light of the fact that Student has never been in
the Mod. CI classroom called for in the May 13, 2015 IEP and
with only 23 school days remaining, Student's Stay-Put
placement for the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year
shall remain as set by OSE until further order of this
September 2, 2016, the ALJ issued her “Decision And
Order” wherein she noted that “the issue in this
case is limited to the appropriate educational
placement” for the Student. (D.E. No. 36-2 at Pg ID
1398). The ALJ agreed with the District that the
“Student's placement should have been in the CI
classroom” at Meadowbrook, as determined by the IEP
Team in May 2015 (Id. at Pg ID 1403) and the May
2016 IEP and the July 2016 amendment. (Id. at Pg ID
also found that the “Student's stay-put placement
during any further proceedings in this matter is the CI
classroom as called for in the May 2016 IEP as amended in
July 2016.” (Id. at Pg ID 1407). The ALJ's
fifty-six page decision also included the following
paragraphs, within the “Discussion” section:
Based on Student's significant behavioral and language
needs, which clearly were not met during the 2015/2016 school
year [while he was at Meadowbrook], I find that Student did
not receive a FAPE in the general education classroom.
Student's placement should have been in the CI classroom
as determined by the IEP Team in May 2015. The District
was not permitted to place Student in the CI classroom upon
his return to school in February because of an order by the
MDE. Therefore, although Student was not given FAPE, the
District is not liable for this error.
Although I find that Student did not receive a free
appropriate public education during the 2015/2016 school
year, I do not find that Student is entitled to any
compensatory education. District and parents agreed
to a temporary placement on a trial basis for the first
marking period. Student was absent from school beginning in
December for the school break through January as a result of
illness, and did not return to school until February at which
time, MDE ordered that the Student remain in the trial
placement. Therefore, the District was prohibited from
implementing the educational placement called for in the May
2015 IEP. Additionally, Dr. Lundblad testified that Student
would not benefit from any educational time beyond the
regular school day. [Tr. Vol. VIII, pgs, 1179-1180].
(D.E. No. 36-2 at Pg ID 1403) (emphasis added).
District's Due Process Complaint, Challenging Actions Of
addition to filing a complaint pertaining to the
Student's placement, the District also filed a due
process hearing request, wherein the District alleged that
the MDE violated the District's procedural and
substantive rights in several ways as to its dispute with
Plaintiffs, including “[i]mproper and prejudicial
communications between MDE and the Parents, the Parents'
advocate and the Parents attorney before and during MDE's
investigation.” (See D.E. No. 36-2) (wherein
the ALJ discusses the procedural errors alleged by the
District.). The MDE was named as a party to that due process
same ALJ that was handling the dispute over the Student's
placement, Kandra Robbins, was assigned to that matter.
granted the MDE's motion to dismiss that due process
complaint, explaining that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction
over those claims. The ALJ explained that a due process
hearing is only “proper when the dispute is with
respect to the identification, evaluation, or educational
placement of a student or whether FAPE has been offered to a
student. 20 USC 1415(b)(6).” (Id. at Pg ID
1416). Because the District's complaint about the
MDE's alleged actions did not involve that, it was
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.