Among the accomodations made to address Andrew L.'s processing weaknesses were access to a computer for written language, (R. Level I at 211); the use of a writing process involving webbing, pre-writing, and editing, (R. Level I at 219); the taping of reading lessons, (R. Level I at 211); the systematic performance of oral comprehension checks (R. Level I at 211); and multi-sensory techniques for the whole class, such as overheads, filmstrips, chalkboard, and artwork, (R. Level I at 158). Plans were also in place for Andrew L.'s special education teacher to consult regularly with his regular education reading teacher on successful strategies for helping him with the curriculum. (R. Level I at 155, 210). The record does not reflect that these accommodations would have been removed under the November, 1992 IEP. Andrew L.'s mother had no doubt that the November, 1992 IEP would be implemented properly if it ever went into effect. (R. Level I at 102).
The law is well settled concerning a district court's consideration of a motion for summary judgment. Summary judgment is appropriate only when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986); Kennedy v. United States, 965 F.2d 413, 417 (7th Cir. 1992). Summary judgment is a common vehicle for addressing the merits of an IDEA case in the district court. See Hunger v. Leininger, 15 F.3d 664, 669 (7th Cir. 1994). "Judicial review of administrative action, even when the reviewing court is a single federal district judge rather than a panel of appellate judges, is ordinarily conducted on the basis of the record compiled in the administrative proceeding." Id.
We pause briefly to consider a question that neither party has raised, yet that this Court feels it must address. The educational program in dispute is the November, 1992 program The School District created to guide Andrew L.'s education during the 1992-93 school year, his fifth grade year. Andrew L. is about to enter the eighth grade. Is this case moot?
Other courts have addressed the question under similar circumstances. See, e.g., Murray v. Montrose County School Dist., 51 F.3d 921, 931 (10th Cir. 1995); Sacramento City Unified School District. v. Rachel H., 14 F.3d 1398, 1403 (9th Cir. 1994); Daniel R.R. v. Board of Educ., 874 F.2d 1036, 1040 (5th Cir. 1989). We agree with the conclusion reached by most courts: this case is not moot.
Even if this Court cannot determine what would be the appropriate placement for Andrew L. at this time, "this case presents a live controversy, because the conduct giving rise to the suit 'is capable of repetition, yet evading review.'" Rachel H., 14 F.3d at 1403 (quoting Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 318, 98 L. Ed. 2d 686, 108 S. Ct. 592 (1988)). The school district and the parents of Andrew L. have conflicting educational philosophies and perceptions of the mainstreaming and methodological requirements under the IDEA. See id. "This conflict is a continuing one and will arise frequently." Id. We believe we can adequately inform the parties of the contours of their continuing relationship under the IDEA.
B. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
1. State Requirements under the IDEA
The IDEA provides federal funds to states for the education of disabled children. Board of Educ. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 179, 73 L. Ed. 2d 690, 102 S. Ct. 3034 (1982). If a state elects to receive these funds, the state must adopt certain procedures and practices in the education of the disabled pursuant to the IDEA. The IDEA requires that each disabled child in a cooperating state be provided a "free appropriate education." 20 U.S.C. § 1412(1); see Rowley, 458 U.S. at 181; Board of Educ. of Murphysboro Community Unit School District No. 186 v. Illinois State Board of Educ., 41 F.3d 1162, 1166 (7th Cir. 1994); see also 105 ILCS 5/14-8.02. The act further contains what is known as a mainstreaming preference, mandating that states educate disabled children along side non-disabled children "to the maximum extent appropriate." 20 U.S.C. § 1412(5); See Illinois State Board of Educ., 41 F.3d at 1168; Daniel R.R. v. State Board of Educ., 874 F.2d 1036, 1044 (5th Cir. 1989); Daniel H. Melvin II, Comment, The Desegregation of Children with Disabilities, 44 DePaul L. Rev. 599, 626-43 (1995). The Department of Education has crafted regulations outlining the obligations of local and state educational agencies with respect to the mainstreaming preference, specifying that such agencies must make available a continuum of alternative placements so that disabled children may be placed appropriately in the least restrictive educational environment that would satisfy their educational needs. See 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.550 - 300.556 (1994). The mainstreaming preference requires that "special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily." 20 U.S.C. § 1412(5)(B); see Illinois State Board of Educ., 41 F.3d at 1167-68; Oberti v. Board of Educ., 995 F.2d 1204, 1213 (3d Cir. 1993).
An IEP provides the guiding framework under the IDEA for the education of a child with disabilities. Local and state agencies must fashion yearly evaluations of the educational program of those children identified as disabled to aid the formation of each child's IEP. 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.340 - 300.350; see Daniel R.R., 874 F.2d at 1040. The IEP is a document that must include statements of the child's present levels of educational performance; annual goals, including short-term instructional objectives; the specific special education and related services to be provided to the child and the extent that the child will be able to participate in regular educational programs; dates for the presentation of services; and appropriate evaluation criteria and procedures for ascertaining the program's success. 20 C.F.R. § 300.346.
The IDEA affords several procedural safeguards to insure that a disabled child receives an IEP that will provide a free appropriate education, as defined under the Act. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415; 34 C.F.R. § 300.500 et seq.; Rowley, 458 U.S. at 182-83. These include requiring that parents be allowed to participate in the formation of the IEP; requiring proper notice be given to parents about any proposed initiation or change to an IEP; and requiring an opportunity for parents to present complaints on any matter relating to the "identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free appropriate public education to such child." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(1). When a parent has any complaint about a child's IEP, the states must give parents the opportunity to present the complaint to an impartial due process hearing officer. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(1)(E). It is the decision of the hearing officer that comes before us for review.
2. Standard of Review
We have jurisdiction under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2). The standard of review of administrative agency decisions under the IDEA is provided by 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2):
In any action brought under this paragraph the court shall receive the records of the administrative proceedings, shall hear additional evidence at the request of a party, and, basing its decision on the preponderance of the evidence, shall grant such relief as the court determines is appropriate.