opt out of activities are educationally appropriate.
8. General Appropriateness of District's Accommodations
As can be seen from the Court's description of plaintiffs' arguments,
plaintiffs' position that the District's Section 504 Service Agreement was
not educationally appropriate relies heavily on Dr. Berberian's
testimony. In their final objection to the District's proposed
accommodations, plaintiffs cite to Dr. Berberian's global evaluation of
the Service Agreement: "I don't think that these [accommodations] are
appropriate and that Molly would make meaningful educational progress were
these accommodations in place." R. at 205.
Dr. Berberian's statement is of no assistance to plaintiffs because the
Court has already rejected the reasoning behind the conclusion —
that "Molly is not going to be participating in activities that are a
necessary part of elementary school, including lunch, recess, art,
assembly and that to have her removed from the activities or sit out
activities is not appropriate." R. at 204. As the Court has concluded
throughout this discussion, see supra §§ III.B.1-7., Dr. Berberian's
concerns about Molly's participation in school activities are
Additionally, further examination of Dr. Berberian's testimony
demonstrates that her opinions as to the appropriateness of the
District's proposals are based on an improper understanding of the
District's burden under the Rehabilitation Act. As stated above, see
supra § III.A.1., an "appropriate" education is not necessarily one
that "maximize[s] the potential of a disabled student." Ridgewood, 172
F.3d at 247. The District is not required to provide Molly with the best
possible education. See Carlisle, 62 F.3d at 533-34 ("Districts need not
provide the optimal level of services."). Dr. Berberian's testimony,
however, demonstrates that her view — and, plaintiffs' view
— of an appropriate education is an overly idealized one.
Specifically, Dr. Berberian appears to consider the District's
accommodations educationally inappropriate merely because, in her view,
GMS provided an education better suited to Molly's disabilities. See R.
at 205-10 (Dr. Berberian's testimony about her observations of Molly in a
Assuming that Dr. Berberian could credibly compare the two educational
programs,*fn7 whether GMS's educational program might be objectively
viewed as "better" than the District's is irrelevant to the Court's
analysis. Under the Rehabilitation Act, the Court does not even begin to
look at the appropriateness of a private school placement unless it
concludes that the public school district has failed to provide an
appropriate education. See Ridgewood, 172 F.3d at 248. Thus, Dr.
Berberian's testimony concerning the merits of the GMS program does not
advance plaintiffs' cause.
For the reasons stated in this section, the Court finds that each of
the District's proposed accommodations that plaintiffs challenge in this
case is appropriate. Upon a review of the record, the Court concludes
that the District's nineteen-accommodation Section 504 Service
Agreement, as amended by the Hearing Officer's decision, provides a
holistic approach to accommodating Molly's disabilities. In short, the
District has shown that its plan
provides the "significant learning" and
confers the "meaningful benefit" embodied in the Rehabilitation Act's
free appropriate public education requirement. Accordingly, plaintiffs
are not entitled to reimbursement of the tuition they paid to GMS.
Because the Court concludes that the District has met its burden of
demonstrating the appropriateness of its Section 504 Service Agreement,
the Court does not consider the District's additional arguments that GMS
provided an inappropriate education, that the equities of the case favor
the District, and that GMS's educational program violates the
For the foregoing reasons, the Court denies Plaintiffs' Motion for
Summary Judgment on the Administrative Record Below, and grants
Defendant's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment. As a result, the Court
also denies plaintiffs' requests for attorney's fees and independent
An appropriate Order follows.
AND NOW, this 2nd day of April, 2002, upon consideration of Plaintiffs'
Motion for Summary Judgment on the Administrative Record Below (Document
No. 7, filed September 18, 2001), Defendant's Response to Plaintiffs'
Motion for Summary Judgment and Cross Motion for Summary Judgment
(Document No. 8, filed September 28, 2001), and the administrative
record, for the reasons stated in the foregoing Memorandum, IT IS
ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment on the
Administrative Record Below is DENIED; Defendant's Cross Motion for
Summary Judgment is GRANTED; and JUDGMENT IS ENTERED in FAVOR of
defendant Lower Merion School District and AGAINST plaintiffs Molly L.,
by and through her natural parents and next friends, B.L. and M.L.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs' requests for attorney's
fees and independent evaluation fees are DENIED.