United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
J.N., a minor, by his parents and natural guardians, J.N. and C.N., Plaintiff,
PENN-DELCO SCHOOL DISTRICT Defendant.
EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.
an action brought under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (“IDEA” or “the Act”),
20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1466, on behalf of Plaintiff J.N.
(“Plaintiff” or “J.N.”), a minor
diagnosed with severe childhood apraxia of speech, by his
parents, J.N. and C.N. (“the Parents”). The
Parents allege that J.N.'s school district has failed to
provide a free, appropriate public education for J.N. in
accordance with the requirements of the Act, and they seek
reimbursement for J.N.'s tuition, transportation, and
other costs of attendance at a private school. The parties
have reached a settlement, which must be approved by the
Court pursuant to Local Rule 41.2. Plaintiff filed a motion
for approval of the settlement agreement, which Defendant
does not oppose. For the reasons discussed below, the Court
will grant Plaintiff's motion.
J.N. is a ten-year-old student who was diagnosed with severe
childhood apraxia of speech. J.N. and his parents allege
that, for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, Defendant
Penn-Delco School District (“the District”)
offered J.N. Individualized Education Programs
(“IEPs”) that were inadequate to meet J.N.'s
needs. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5, ECF No. 14. Those IEPs
placed J.N. in a “Multiple Disabilities Support”
(“MDS”) classroom, which Plaintiff alleges is
designed to serve children who have vastly different needs
from those of J.N. Id. ¶¶ 105-15.
According to Plaintiff, J.N. has significant difficulties
with the motor skills necessary for speech, but he has
“normal intelligence and is highly motivated to
communicate, ” distinguishing him from the other
children in an MDS classroom. Id. ¶¶ 1,
32, 33, 105.
alleges that the Parents worked extensively with the District
to find an appropriate solution for J.N.'s educational
needs without success, and subsequently placed J.N. in a
private school specializing in his disability, the TALK
Institute (“TALK”). Id. ¶ 52-60.
After rejecting the District's IEP for the 2013-14 school
year, the Parents sought reimbursement from the District for
J.N.'s placement at TALK for that school
year. Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 115. The
District claimed that the Parents were not entitled to
reimbursement. Am. Compl. Ex. A at 2, ECF No. 1-1. The
dispute regarding the District's 2013-14 IEP for J.N. and
the Parents' request for reimbursement for that school
year proceeded to a hearing before a Pennsylvania Special
Education Hearing Officer. Id. After a nine-session
hearing, the Hearing Officer concluded that the District was
able to provide an appropriate educational placement for
J.N., but that it needed “to take steps to alleviate
[the] Parents' concerns” regarding the adequacy of
speech and language services. Id. Having concluded
that the District's placement was appropriate, the
Hearing Officer denied Plaintiff's tuition reimbursement
Parents subsequently rejected the District's IEP for J.N.
for the 2014-15 school year, which the Parents allege is
nearly identical to his IEP for the 2013-14 school year, and
kept J.N. in the same private school placement. Am. Compl.
commenced this action on March 19, 2014, appealing the
Hearing Officer's decision and bringing claims under the
IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i); the Rehabilitation Act, 29
U.S.C. § 794; and the Americans with Disabilities Act,
42 U.S.C. § 12131. ECF No. 1. The District answered the
complaint on May 16, 2014. ECF No. 3. Plaintiff filed a
motion to amend the complaint on August 22, 2014, seeking to
add claims related to the District's IEP for J.N. for the
2014-15 school year. ECF No. 9. The Court granted the motion
on November 7, 2014, ECF No. 13, and Plaintiff filed an
amended complaint the same day, ECF No. 14. The District
answered the amended complaint on November 25, 2014. ECF No.
16. The Court subsequently held a status and scheduling
conference and issued a scheduling order. ECF No. 18.
a settlement conference with Magistrate Judge Thomas J.
Rueter on January 13, 2015, the Court placed the action in
suspense pending the filing of a petition for final approval
of settlement. ECF No. 22. On October 31, 2016, the parties
having failed to file a petition for final approval of
settlement, the Court issued a Rule to Show Cause why the
action should not be dismissed for lack of prosecution. ECF
No. 23. The Rule was returnable in writing on or before
November 18, 2016. Id.
filed a Motion for Approval of Settlement Agreement on
November 18, 2016, attaching a draft of the parties'
settlement (the “Settlement Agreement”). ECF No.
24. Plaintiff argues that the settlement is in the best
interests of J.N. and that the attorneys' fees included
in the settlement are reasonable. Id. Plaintiff also
filed a response to the Rule to Show Cause the same day. ECF
District responded to Plaintiff's motion on December 1,
2016. ECF No. 27. The District does not object to the relief
sought in Plaintiff's motion. The District agrees that
the Settlement Agreement is fair, reasonable, and in the best
interests of J.N., and that it should be approved by the
Court. Id. at 1. The District does, however, object
to certain statements in Plaintiff's motion regarding
J.N.'s progress and the market rate for special education
Court held a hearing and is now ready to rule on
THE TERMS OF THE SETTLEMENT
the terms of the Settlement Agreement, the District agrees to
make a direct payment of tuition to a parentally selected and
properly accredited private school of the ...