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Hansen v Republic R-III School District

Case No. 10-1514 (C.A. 8, Jan. 21, 2011)

This case presents the issue of whether J.H., a student at Republic R-III School District, is eligible for special education benefits under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482. After Republic’s administrative panel concluded that J.H. was not eligible, Larry Hansen, J.H.’s father, challenged the decision in the district court. Hansen and Republic filed cross motions for judgment on the administrative record, which the district court resolved in favor of Hansen. Republic appeals the district court’s order, and we affirm.

I.


The administrative record reflects that J.H., a ninth-grade student at Republic, struggles socially and academically at school. He has been diagnosed with conduct disorder, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Since he began attending Republic in the fifth grade, J.H. has been suspended numerous times for threatening his classmates and teachers, has made suicidal comments on multiple occasions, and has consistently performed poorly in his classes and on standardized tests.

At the end of J.H.’s fifth-grade year, Hansen initiated proceedings under the IDEA seeking special education services for J.H. He made a formal request with Republic for an eligibility evaluation, and when Republic determined J.H. did not qualify, Hansen exercised his statutory right to challenge the decision at an administrative due process hearing. The hearing was conducted before Republic’s Due Process Panel. After Hansen presented his case, Republic elected not to offer evidence and, relying on Hansen’s submissions, moved for a directed verdict. The panel granted Republic’s motion and issued a one paragraph opinion, concluding as a matter of law that J.H. did not qualify for special education services under the IDEA. Hansen sought judicial review of the panel’s decision in the district court under section 1415(i)(2) of the IDEA. Both Hansen and Republic filed motions for judgment on the administrative record. Based on the evidence in the record, the district court held that J.H. was disabled as defined by the IDEA and thus eligible for special education benefits. Republic appeals, asserting that the district court erred in holding that J.H. meets the statutory definition of a “child with a disability” based on the facts in the administrative record and, alternatively, that the district court erred in failing to remand the case to the panel for additional proceedings sua sponte.

Republic first argues that J.H. does not meet the statutory definition of a “child with a disability” based on the facts in the administrative record. The IDEA provides procedural safeguards to parents and guardians seeking to enforce a disabled child’s right to a “free appropriate public education.” See 20 U.S.C. §§ 1412 (a)(1)(A), 1415. One of those procedural safeguards is the right to bring a civil action to challenge the result of a due process hearing conducted pursuant to the statute. Id. § 1415(i)(2). In lawsuits filed under section 1415(i)(2), the district court is required to receive the records of the administrative proceedings, hear additional evidence at the request of a party, and independently determine the appropriate relief based on a preponderance of the evidence. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(C); Yankton Sch. Dist. v. Schramm, 93 F.3d 1369, 1373 (8th Cir. 1996).
 

 

Judge(s): Bobby Shepherd
Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
Related Categories: Administrative Law
 
Circuit Court Judge(s)
Myron Bright
Raymond Gruender
Bobby Shepherd

 
Trial Court Judge(s)
Richard Dorr

 
Appellant Lawyer(s) Appellant Law Firm(s)
Betsey Helfrich Mickes & Goldman
Alefia Mithaiwala Mickes & Goldman
Ernest Trakas Mickes & Goldman
Celynda Brasher Tueth & Keeney

 
Appellee Lawyer(s) Appellee Law Firm(s)
Chantel Alberhasky Law Office

 

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in contrast, j.h. received numerous disciplinary referrals over a four-year factual findings nor educational policy decisions." ante at 3. to the contrary, while therefore, i would conclude that the court should have afforded due weight to the due appellee, * on behalf of j.h., a minor, * records of the administrative proceedings, hear additional evidence at the request of it accords no deference whatsoever to the underlying administrative decision of the he began taking adhd medication. evidence that j.h. struggles with academic assignments. however, the court evidence and, relying on hansen's submissions, moved for a directed verdict. the pleasant, completed everything i asked him to do . . . [and] apologized for behaving resolved several underlying factual questions from conflicting evidence in the hansen argues that j.h. suffers from bipolar disorder and exhibits an "inability to appropriate relief, it must give due weight to the factual findings of the administrative do work, use profane language, and run around the room during their tutoring -8- j.h.'s hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive behavior severely impaired his ability due process panel's decision, i come to a different conclusion than the court on the ______________________________ the administrative record reflects that j.h., a ninth-grade student at republic, furthermore,thecourtoverlooksevidencewhichsupportsrepublic'sargument other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality, administrative record. 300.8(c)(4)(i). children who are only "socially maladjusted" and fail to exhibit at decision because "the administrative panel had an opportunity to observe the 20 u.s.c. 1401(3)(a)(i). suffered academically because of his diagnosed bipolar disorder. -7- least one of five listed characteristics "over a long period of time and to a marked before gruender, bright, and shepherd, circuit judges. proceedings of the due process panel and may not "substitute their own notions of a "rule-out" diagnosis, according to dr. hertel's testimony, means the patient agree with the due process panel's decision that j.h. does not suffer from "serious rule-out does not mean the person does not have the disorder. when you give it as a district of missouri. as the well-known "substantial evidence test that courts ordinarily apply in federal idea because he suffers from an "other health impairment" that adversely affects his submitted: september 21, 2010 dr. brian petrovich, each gave a rule-out diagnosis3 whether [a student] could maintain satisfactory relationships [with] testimony on both things that are much more internalizing. . . . they have faulty feelings. they have a hansen and republicfiled cross motions the honorable richard e. dorr, united states district judge for the western united states court of appeals prong because he is socially maladjusted rather than emotionally disturbed. matt disturbed. administrative record. for example, the district court's findings that "jh was unable points serves to illustrate that due weight should be given to the due process panel's the student was that he did not suffer from an emotional disturbance. id. at 665. administrative law cases," courts are instructed to give "due weight" to the not seek to present additional evidence to the district court and did not dispute the examined j.h. dr. hertel testified that, at the start of her examination, j.h. was * difficulty taking responsibility for their actions. they have very little or no remorse. -10- a party, and independently determine the appropriate relief based on a preponderance counselor, "had a very close relationship with [j.h.]." the court also overlooks the v. * district court for the weight shall be given to these proceedings." (emphasis added)); lathrop r-ii sch. * western district of missouri. threw his cell phone, smashed it into pieces." nevertheless, after "mr. hansen offered his peers and teachers with disrespect. after working with j.h., republic's school- -5- educational performance. as a result, i concur in the judgment of the court. gruender, circuit judge, concurring in the judgment. thought j.h. was not in need of special education services because "[t]he time that he (8th cir. 1985). reports and had no personal interactions with j.h. student continued to score in the average to superior range on standardized tests, but although this circuit has not been called upon to define "emotional due process panel. applying the proper standard, i also disagree with the court's to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers." conclusion that j.h. suffers from "serious emotional disturbance." psychiatrist,dr.colbywang,conclusivelydiagnosedhimwithadhd,andtwoother * appeal from the united states "extremely angry, [he] did not want to come back to the testing room willingly, [he] 1064, 1068 (8th cir. 2006). with the court that de novo review is appropriate, although i reach that conclusion by of the evidence. 20 u.s.c. 1415(i)(2)(c); yankton sch. dist. v. schramm, 93 f.3d from . . . adhd," hansen v. republic r-iii sch. dist., no. 09-3119, slip op. at 6, 9 v. henrico cnty. sch. bd., 326 f.3d 560, 566 (4th cir. 2003) ("[w]e need not defer was with me, he was one of my top students when he was in my classroom. . . . i due process panel. after hansen presented his case, republic elected not to offer decision, i agree with the district court that j.h. is a "child with a disability" under the panel, yankton sch. dist., 93 f.3d at 1376 n.6, and refrain from substituting its own in order to be eligible for special education services under the idea, a student to learn. further, j.h. initially failed the standardized test required for advancement taking the adhd medication prescribed by dr. wang. defazio similarly found that standard does not apply in this case because the due process panel made "neither conclusion that j.h.'s educational performance is adversely affected by adhd. first, because it was raised for the first time on appeal. ryder v. morris, 752 f.2d 327, 332 director of special services, matt white, who stated that j.h. did well with some -11- 932, 944, 945 (9th cir. 2007) (where there was "conflicting evidence regarding heard no new evidence and made its determinations after reviewing only the record judgment as to educational policy for that of school authorities. indep. sch. dist. no. reaching its ultimate legal conclusion that j.h. suffers from a "serious emotional definition of the "emotional disturbance" and "other health impairment" categories. preponderance of the evidence . . . .'" (quoting 1415(e)(2)). the court identifies principle of affording due weight to a due process panel's decision is not premised state bd. of educ., 210 f.3d 954, 958 (8th cir. 2000)). affording due weight to the (w.d. mo. feb. 5, 2010), can only be characterized as factual findings because the one of those procedural safeguards is the right to bring a civil action to challenge the build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers," -12- nevertheless, even giving due weight to the due process panel's decision to made no independent factual findings, we conclude that the de novo review of the adversely affects his educational performance. in particular, j.h.'s treating law based on the facts presented in hansen's case-in-chief. moreover, the parties did administrative record, disputing only the legal conclusion to be drawn from the facts filed: january 21, 2011 or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, to the seventh grade but passed when allowed to retake the test on adhd medication. holding that j.h. meets the statutory definition of a "child with a disability" based on times for threatening his classmates and teachers, has made suicidal comments on several independent indications that j.h.'s educational performance improved after diagnosis, evidence that j.h. was disrespectful toward figures of authority, and teachers but not well with others. however, white based his opinion on behavior relationships with peers or teachers and that j.h. was not merely socially maladjusted. in conclusion, i disagree with the court's holding that due weight need not be mm ex rel. dm v. sch. dist. of greenville cnty., 303 f.3d 523, 530-31 (4th cir. administrative panel concluded that j.h. was not eligible, larry hansen, j.h.'s father, the conclusion that adhd does not adversely affect j.h.'s educational performance. ___________ i. support the conclusion that j.h. was incapable of forming and maintaining while review of an administrative decision under the idea is not as deferential evidence supports its finding that j.h. suffers from an "other health impairment" that conclusions from settled facts in the administrative record. i disagree. before -6- some evidence in the record that supports j.h.'s claim, such as j.h.'s bipolar of hansen. republic appeals the district court's order, and we affirm. experts assigned him an adhd rule-out diagnosis. dr. hertel testified that j.h. appropriate for the district court's factual findings as well. see jh ex rel. jd and ss provides 13 categories of eligibility, and hansen argues that j.h. meets the statutory a different path. the court indicates that the district court merely drew legal in such a manner." gone very well" before he began taking medication for adhd. moreover, there are no. 10-1514 sessions. doubleday stated that she and j.h. had "quite a few sessions that had not hyperactivity disorder . . . ; and must first be a "child with a disability" as defined in section 1401(3). the statute although republic correctly states that a diagnosis of adhd alone does not entitle struggles socially and academically at school. he has been diagnosed with conduct skipping school, and using marijuana and alcohol. id. at 661. at that point, the rule-out, it means there's a very good likelihood the person has the disorder." a number of items that he would purchase [for j.h.] if he would just complete the based on the undisputed facts in the administrative record, j.h. meets the [teachers] and not well with others." white stated that joni ragain, a republic disabilities education act (idea), 20 u.s.c. 1400-1482. after republic's the facts in the administrative record and, alternatively, that the district court erred in [state] administrative proceedings' carries with it the implied requirement that due doubleday, j.h.'s republic-provided tutor, testified that j.h. often would refuse to republic contends that j.h. is primarily socially maladjusted rather than emotionally blackmon ex rel. blackmon v. springfield r-xii sch. dist., 198 f.3d 648, 654-55 (8th improperly discounts the testimony of matt white, the director of special services for affirm the district court's order granting hansen's motion for judgment on the that j.h. is ineligible for idea services under the "serious emotional disturbance" affected by adhd. j.h.'s tutor, renee doubleday, testified that j.h. had difficulty (7th cir. 2010); muller v. comm. on special educ. of the east islip union free sch. failing to remand the case to the panel for additional proceedings sua sponte. statutory definition of a "child with a disability" under the idea. accordingly, we district court is appropriate."). 3 republic first argues that j.h. does not meet the statutory definition of a "child 1369, 1373 (8th cir. 1996). this case presents the issue of whether j.h., a student at republic r-iii school in support of its argument that j.h. did not exhibit an inability to build or white testified that the republic idea eligibility team determined that j.h. exhibited ii. for clear error, the clear error standard of review is not implicated here because we republic for an eligibility evaluation, and when republic determined j.h. did not out and would not be comfortable diagnosing it at that time. dr. hertel stated, "the standardized tests. process panel's decision, i would find that the preponderance of the evidence does not pachl v. seagren, 453 f.3d due to his limited social skills and terminated their relationship because he threatened although the district court makes an independent determination as to the we agree with the district court that the administrative record supports the for adhd. defazio also found multiple occasions, and has consistently performed poorly in his classes and on positive relationships with teachers and peers, and had participated in extracurricular control is evident in the testimony of dr. anna ross hertel, a psychologist who meets some criteria for the disorder, but the doctor needs more information to rule it see rowley, 458 u.s. at 205 ("[a] court `shall . . . bas[e] its decision on the focusing during tutoring sessions and that his concentration improved after j.h. began idea seeking special education services for j.h. he made a formal request with second, the record reflects that j.h.'s educational performance is adversely is by design, and they use their behavior to manipulate the situation to get their needs with regard to our standard of review of the district court's decision, i agree for the eighth circuit -4- never had any behavior problems with [j.h.]." appellant. * met." in contrast, white stated that "[e]motionally disturbed kids typically have which adversely affects his educational performance. id. 300.8(c)(4)(i)(b). additionally,"theoverwhelmingconsensus" among the psychologists who examined (ii) adversely affects a child's educational performance. after considering the entire record de novo and giving due weight to the due least one of the five provided characteristics do not qualify. id. 300.8(c)(4)(ii). we agree with the district court's conclusion that j.h. meets the eligibility therefore, i cannot conclude that j.h. suffers from "serious emotional disturbance" ("the fact that 1415(e) requires that the reviewing court `receive the records of the procedural safeguards to parents and guardians seeking to enforce a disabled child's regulations provides that "emotional disturbance" means a condition exhibiting at judgment on the administrative record. based on the evidence in the record, the 2002))); see also reaves v. mo. dep't of elementary & secondary educ., 422 f.3d the record reflects that j.h. was diagnosed with adhd. j.h.'s treating psychiatrist, disorder,bipolardisorder,andattentiondeficithyperactivitydisorder(adhd). since district court held that j.h. was disabled as defined by the idea and thus eligible for services. review only the district court's legal conclusion. performance. instead, the parties filed cross motions for judgment on the republic, who stated that j.h. has "demonstrated to us [republic staff] that he can j.h. suffers from "serious emotional disturbance" because he displays an "inability record contains evidence to the contrary on both points. because the district court is a "child with a disability" under the idea, 20 u.s.c. 1401(3), because he suffers determined only that j.h. was ineligible for special education services as a matter of deny idea benefits to j.h., i agree with the court that the preponderance of the record his grades suffered due to skipping class and failing to complete assignments. id. demeanor of the witnesses." lathrop r-ii, 611 f.3d at 427 (quoting strawn v. mo. cnty. v. rowley, 458 u.s. 176, 206 (1982)). the court holds that the "due weight" of the due process panel proceeding, however, i conclude that de novo review is lot of guilt and a lot of remorse. sometimes they have delusions and hallucinations." requirements for "emotional disturbance" under the idea. the code of federal services to j.h. surely falls within the ambit of educational policy. in any event, the sides," the court found that the student "was not eligible for idea relief under this j.h. had been able to form relationships with his teachers: "he did well with some result of a due process hearing conducted pursuant to the statute. id. 1415(i)(2). in disturbance" and from an "other health impairment," the district court necessarily must accord due weight to the administrative panel's decision." (emphasis added)). qualify, hansen exercised his statutory right to challenge the decision at an were absent from the panel's initial decision. we decline to address this argument reflected neither factual findings nor educational policy decisions. the panel adhd and that a diagnosis of adhd alone does not entitle j.h. to special education psychologist who first evaluated j.h., dr. anna hertel, and the school's psychologist, question of whether a preponderance of the record evidence supports the finding that dist., 145 f.3d 95, 102 (2d cir. 1998). likewise, we review the district court's legal they know the rules but still continue to want to break them. they -- their behavior j.h. to special education services, it fails to cite any evidence in the record supporting 675, 681 (8th cir. 2005) ("[w]here the district court received no new evidence and based mental health clinician, peggy defazio, described him as socially unsuccessful the panel may not have provided detailed findings of fact, its decision to deny idea ___________ prong"). panel granted republic's motion and issued a one paragraph opinion, concluding as school board, 134 f.3d 659 (4th cir. 1998), the student at issue was found to be underlying facts as to j.h.'s diagnosis, symptoms, behavior, and academic at the end of j.h.'s fifth-grade year, hansen initiated proceedings under the to factual recitations made by a district court from the administrative record, because sound educational policy for those of the school authorities which they review." ___________ activities until the eleventh grade when he began stealing, sneaking out of his house, cir. 1999) (quoting bd. of educ. of hendrick hudson cent. sch. dist., westchester narrowly on the presence of express findings of fact. see rowley, 458 u.s. at 206 conclusion based on the administrative record de novo.2 dr. colby wang, diagnosed adhd and prescribed medication for the disorder. the 283 v. s.d., 88 f.3d 556, 561 (8th cir. 1996). here, however, the panel's decision he began attending republic in the fifth grade, j.h. has been suspended numerous shepherd, circuit judge. a matter of law that j.h. did not qualify for special education services under the idea. republic contends that the evidence does not support a conclusive diagnosis of under the idea. see r.b. ex rel. f.b. v. napa valley unified sch. dist., 496 f.3d ___________ "[j.h.] controls his behavior. he turns it on and turns it off." an example of such conclusions de novo. see marshall joint sch. dist. no. 2 v. c.d., 616 f.3d 632, 636 the case to the panel sua sponte with instructions to make the factual findings that 2 class and refused to turn in assignments but continued to perform above average on her. unlike the student in springer who started to fail his courses because he skipped that court stands in no better position than do we in reviewing the record." (quoting to build and maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships" and "jh suffered hansen sought judicial review of the panel's decision in the district court under republic alternatively argues that the district court erred in failing to remand once j.h. had accepted his father's proposal, dr. hertel stated that "he was compliant, ___________ larry hansen, * requirements for "other health impairment" under the idea. the code of federal regulations provides: district, is eligible for special education benefits under the individuals with standardized test he was required to pass for advancement to the seventh grade, and 1 lawsuits filed under section 1415(i)(2), the district court is required to receive the -2- administrative due process hearing. the hearing was conducted before republic's that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational with a disability" based on the facts in the administrative record. the idea provides behavior results from adhd and adversely affects his educational performance. challenged the decision in the district court.1 environment, that-- j.h.'s hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive behavior to be consistent with adhd. for judgment on the administrative record, which the district court resolved in favor degree that adversely affects a child's educational performance." 34 c.f.r. emotional disturbance." however, even giving due weight to the due process panel's merely socially maladjusted rather than emotionally disturbed. the evidence showed white described socially maladjusted students as the "kinds of kids that have the existence of conflicting testimony in the administrative record on key -3- standardized tests, j.h. consistently struggled to pass his classes, failed the the district court. nevertheless, i disagree with the court's analysis to the extent that although the parties assert that we review the district court's findings of fact in the record. accordingly, the district court was free to consider the panel's legal section 1415(i)(2) of the idea. both hansen and republic filed motions for from an "other health impairment," and, therefore, i concur in the judgment affirming republic r-iii school district, * (i) is due to chronic or acute health problems such as . . . attention deficit testing," including "a laptop from best buy," j.h. agreed to continue the examination. * 34 c.f.r. 300.8(c)(9). hansen argues that j.h.'s inability to focus and hyperactive testimony of mary newby, j.h.'s sixth grade math teacher, who stated that she disturbance," a fourth circuit case is informative. in springer v. fairfax county develop appropriate relationships. he's doing it right now." white also testified that process panel's decision. behaviors more akin to social maladjustment than emotional disturbance because i agree with the district court that the record supports the conclusion that j.h. maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships, republic cites the testimony of its dist. v. gray ex. rel. d.g., 611 f.3d 419, 423 (8th cir. 2010) ("[t]he district court displayed "hyperactivity, impulsivity, [and] difficulty concentrating." renee afforded to the underlying administrative decision of the due process panel. i also special education benefits. republic appeals, asserting that the district court erred in period for threatening students and teachers, fighting with other students, and treating -9- we also agree with the district court's conclusion that j.h. meets the eligibility that the student had progressed successfully from grade to grade, had maintained right to a "free appropriate public education." see 20 u.s.c. 1412 (a)(1)(a), 1415.


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