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Board of Education of Community High School District No. 218 v. Illinois State Board of Education

December 23, 1996

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF COMMUNITY HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 218, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, JOSEPH A. SPAGNOLO, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ILLINOIS STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, ANN PATLA, AS ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, MR. AND MRS. B., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENTS AND NEXT FRIENDS OF J.B., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 95 C 5705

Before POSNER, Chief Judge, FLAUM and EVANS, Circuit Judges.

FLAUM, Circuit Judge.

George W. Lindberg, Judge.

ARGUED OCTOBER 31, 1996

DECIDED DECEMBER 23, 1996

This appeal is from a preliminary injunction, issued within the context of a suit brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. sec. 1400 et seq. (1996). The underlying suit involves a dispute over who is to pay for the residential education of J.B., an emotionally disturbed, sexually aggressive minor, who resides in the appellant high school district. The instant appeal concerns where J.B. is to be housed and educated pending the outcome of the school district's suit. In the spring of this year, J.B. wore out his welcome at his current residential placement. The district court placed the burden of finding a suitable substitute placement on the school district. The school district made no efforts to find a new residential school for J.B. With evident frustration, the district court judge ordered that J.B. be placed at the school district's expense in a private placement secured by his parents. The injunction invited the school district to repetition the court if an alternative appropriate facility were found. Rather than find an unobjectionable facility, the school district appealed the injunction. We affirm the district court order and sustain the preliminary injunction.

I.

The IDEA seeks to provide all children with disabilities with "a free appropriate public education which emphasizes special education and related services to meet their unique needs." 20 U.S.C. sec. 1400. To assure that an educational program is tailored to the specific needs of the disabled child, the parents, teacher, and a representative of the local education agency collaborate to design an "individualized education program" (IEP) for the child. 20 U.S.C. secs. 1401(19), 1414(a)(5). The IEP, which sets forth the child's educational level, performance, and goals, is the governing document for all educational decisions concerning the child. See Rodiriecus L. and Betty H. v. Waukegan Sch. Dist. No. 60, 90 F.3d 249, 252 (7th Cir. 1996). To protect the rights of the parents and child, the IDEA contains a set of procedural safe-guards, including notice to the parents and the opportunity for a hearing whenever there is a change in a child's "educational placement." 20 U.S.C. sec. 1415. In addition, to ensure that the educational needs of a child are met during the pendency of any proceedings conducted pursuant to the IDEA, the IDEA's "stay-put" provision mandates that the child remain in his current educational placement, unless the education agency and the parents otherwise agree. 20 U.S.C. sec. 1415(e)(3). See Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305 (1988); Board of Educ. of Oak Park & River Forest High Sch. Dist. 200 v. Illinois State Bd. of Educ., 79 F.3d 654 (7th Cir. 1996).

When J.B. was in grade school, his parents sought to have him placed in a residential program paid for by the state pursuant to the IDEA. During the pendency of this first hearing, the parents placed J.B. in Kid's Peace, a Pennsylvania facility specializing in treating sexually aggressive children. The hearing officer found that Kid's Peace was the appropriate facility for J.B. In June 1994, the school district worked out a financial plan with Kid's Peace, and J.B.'s parents, Kid's Peace, and the school district developed an IEP for J.B.

When J.B. reached high school age, the high school district assumed financial responsibility for him. The high school district, concerned about the cost of Kid's Peace, notified J.B.'s parents of its intention to reevaluate J.B.'s placement and IEP. The parents sought an administrative hearing and invoked the "stay-put" provision, so that J.B. could remain at Kid's Peace. Subsequently, the parents prevailed at both levels of administrative hearings, so that J.B. was able to continue at Kid's Peace. In October 1995, arguing that J.B.'s treatment is motivated by management of his psychiatric condition, rather than by his educational needs, the high school district filed suit in district court to have the burden of paying for J.B.'s treatment shifted from it to, presumably, a mental health agency.

At roughly the same time as the initiation of this suit, J.B. outgrew his current program at Kid's Peace and became eligible for a costlier Kid's Peace program. The high school district refused to pay. The parents found an alternate residential placement for J.B. at Interventions, an Illinois program. J.B. moved to Interventions. In November 1995, J.B.'s IEP was revised to incorporate Interventions, but retained the same goals as his original IEP, developed in June 1994 at Kid's Peace. In March 1996, the director of Interventions announced that J.B. was no longer welcome at his facility--J.B. posed too much of a threat to the other children. The parents pleaded for time to find J.B. another placement because keeping J.B. at home for any intervening period was not an option. Interventions agreed to keep him until May 31, 1996.

In late April 1996, the parents filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction in district court. They requested that the court enforce the stay-put provision and that the school district cooperate with them to find a mutually agreeable residential placement. On April 30, the court heard argument from counsel and ordered the school district to find an appropriate residential placement for J.B. Fearing that the school district was failing to act in time, the parents went ahead and applied to various programs. On May 9, the school filed a motion to reconsider the order and requested an evidentiary hearing. The court granted the school district's request for a continuance. In the mean time, the parents applied to all the placements mentioned by the school district, with the exception of those not approved by the state. On May 14, the court held another hearing and it was revealed that the school district had yet to apply for any placements. The court ordered the school district to move J.B. to Kid's Peace, which could implement J.B.'s IEP, on June 2. The court order provided that the school district could repetition if it found an alternative placement. Presumably to allow the school district an opportunity to do so, the court ordered the parties to return on the twenty-eighth. On May 28, the school district asked for an extension because it had found no other residential programs to accept J.B. The parents reported that, of all their applications, only Kid's Peace had accepted J.B. The court again ordered that J.B. be placed at Kid's Peace at the school district's expense.

The school district appeals the preliminary injunction on two grounds: (1) the district court held no evidentiary hearing before issuing the injunction; and (2) neither the reasons nor the instructions of the district court are clear enough to support its order in violation of Federal ...


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