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J.N. v. Penn-Delco Sch. Dist.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 7, 2014

J.N., A MINOR, BY HIS PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS, J.N. AND C.N., Plaintiffs,
v.
PENN-DELCO SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant

For J.N., A MINOR, BY HIS PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS, J.N. AND C.N., Plaintiff: JUDITH A. GRAN, LEAD ATTORNEY, Freeman Carolla Reisman & Gran LLC, Haddonfield, N.J. USA.

For Penn-Delco School District, Defendant: GABRIELLE C. SERENI, RAFFAELE & PUPPIO LLP, Media, PA USA.

Page 476

MEMORANDUM

EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.

I. BACKGROUND

This action is being brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (" IDEA" ), 20 U.S.C. § 1400, on behalf of Plaintiff J.N., an eight-year-old student diagnosed with severe childhood apraxia of speech, by his parents, J.N. and C.N. (collectively, " Plaintiffs" ). Plaintiffs claim that Defendant Penn-Delco School District (" the District" ) offered J.N. an Individualized Education Program (" IEP" )[1] for the 2013-14 school year that was inadequate to meet his needs,[2] and that the District is thus required to reimburse Plaintiffs for J.N.'s placement at TALK, a private school specializing in his disability. Compl. ¶ ¶ 4-5.

After the 2013-14 school year came to an end, the District offered an IEP for the 2014-15 school year on July 9, 2014. Mot. Amend Compl. 3, ECF No. 9. According to the Plaintiffs, however, the District's new IEP is virtually the same as the former IEP. Id. at 4. J.N.'s parents thus rejected it and informed the District that they would maintain J.N.'s placement at TALK for the coming school year and seek reimbursement of the costs of that placement from the District. Id. Plaintiffs now move to amend the Complaint to seek reimbursement for tuition and associated costs for the 2014-15 school year. Defendant contends that this Court does not possess jurisdiction over this proposed amendment to the claim, given that the claim for the 2014-15 year has not been separately exhausted through administrative proceedings. Plaintiffs disagree, arguing that the claim has already been exhausted and does not require reexhaustion, given that--because the new IEP is virtually identical to the old, inadequate IEP--the Complaint remains substantively the same.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The dispute over the District's IEP and tuition reimbursement proceeded to Pennsylvania's Office of Dispute Resolution. After a nine-session hearing, the Hearing Officer concluded that the District was able to provide an appropriate education placement for J.N., but that it needed " to take steps to alleviate [the] Parents' concerns" regarding the adequacy of speech/language services. Compl. Ex. A, Hearing Officer Decision, at 2. The Hearing

Page 477

Officer denied Plaintiffs' tuition reimbursement claim.

Plaintiffs appealed that decision by filing the instant Complaint[3] on March 19, 2014, bringing claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400; the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794; and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131. The District answered on May 6, 2014. Plaintiffs filed a motion to amend the Complaint on August 22, 2014, and Defendant submitted a memorandum in opposition to Plaintiffs' motion to amend the Complaint on September 5, 2014. Most recently, Plaintiffs filed a reply memorandum in support of the motion to amend the Complaint on September 23, 2014.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), a court " should freely give leave" for a party to amend its pleading " when justice so requires." Thus, the United States Supreme Court has stated that:

[i]n the absence of any apparent or declared reason--such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, ...

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