Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

KACZMARSKI v. WHEATON COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT

May 3, 2004.

SANDY KACZMARSKI, as mother and best friend of CODY RODMAN, a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
WHEATON COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT #200, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN GOTTSCHALL, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Sandy Kaczmarski, on behalf of her son, Cody Rodman, has sued Wheaton Community Unit School District #200 (the "District"), Cody's principal, Sandy Niemiera, and two other District officials, pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq., challenging her son's removal from Washington Elementary School ("Washington") in Wheaton, Illinois. Cody has been diagnosed as emotionally disabled and has been receiving special education services from the District pursuant to the IDEA. Until recently, Cody was allowed to attend classes at Washington with non-disabled children. However, on March 26, 2004, Cody was suspended for three days for bringing a weapon (a letter opener) to school. After Cody served his suspension, the school informed Kaczmarski that Cody must attend classes in an alternative setting until the school could assess whether he posed a danger to the school community. Later, after convening a meeting to discuss Cody's conduct, District officials determined that Cody should attend classes at a therapeutic alternative day school. Kaczmarski claims that defendants did not adhere to the IDEA's procedural safeguards in deciding to remove Cody from his mainstream classes. Kaczmarski has moved the court for a temporary restraining order, requesting that the court require defendants to return Cody to Washington pending an administrative hearing on this dispute. For the reasons stated below, Kaczmarski's complaint is dismissed without prejudice and her motion for temporary restraining order is denied.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  Cody Rodman is a fifth-grade student who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Cody qualifies as "emotionally disabled" under the IDEA and has been receiving special education services from the District since April of 2002. Pursuant to the IDEA, Cody's parents and school officials developed an individualized education plan ("IEP") for Cody that provided Cody counseling support and a "behavior intervention plan" designed to address potential misbehavior.*fn1 Although Cody was originally required to attend classes with other learning and emotionally disabled children, the school returned Cody to a mainstream classroom setting at Washington in the Fall of 2003.

  Cody attended classes at Washington with non-disabled students until March 26, 2004. On that date, Cody threatened two children with a letter opener that he had brought to school. When Niemiera intervened and confiscated the letter opener, Cody allegedly attempted to wrestle the opener away from her and yelled that he wanted to kill himself and one of the students he had been accused of threatening.*fn2 As a result of Cody's conduct, Niemiera suspended Cody for three days. The school sent a letter to Kaczmarski, informing her of the suspension and stating that "Cody has been referred for a safety evaluation with [a counselor]. Cody will not be able to return to school until the safety evaluation has been completed. An alternative to suspension place (sic) will be offered."

  On April 7, 2004, the last day of Cody's suspension,*fn3 Niemiera sent Kaczmarski a second letter, reiterating that Cody could not return to school until he completed the safety evaluation. Niemiera's letter offered that, in the meantime, Kaczmarski could choose between two "alternative education settings" for Cody: "a therapeutic day school or a homebound tutor for 10 hours each week." Kaczmarski rejected both options and insisted that Cody be returned to a mainstream class setting. However, Kaczmarski allowed Cody to submit to the safety evaluation.

  On April 14, 2004, the District sent Kaczmarski a "notification of conference," indicating that, on April 20, 2004, Cody's IEP Team would meet to (1) review Cody's IEP, (2) evaluate whether Cody's misconduct was related to his disability, (3) review Cody's behavior intervention plan, (4) review Cody's interim alternative educational setting, and (5) discuss Cody's safety evaluation. Kaczmarski's husband attended the April 20, 2004 meeting along with the rest of the IEP Team. At the IEP meeting, the school members of the IEP team determined that the March 26 incident was a manifestation of Cody's emotional disability and that Cody's placement should be changed to a therapeutic alternative day school.

  Kaczmarski disagreed with the District's decision and refused to consent to the new placement. On April 27, 2004, Kaczmarski filed this lawsuit requesting (a) a judicial declaration that defendants' actions violated the IDEA, and (b) a preliminary injunction ordering defendants to return Cody to his mainstream classes pending an expedited due process hearing by an independent hearing officer.

  ANALYSIS

  Kaczmarski has filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order, repeating her complaint's request that the court require defendants to return Cody to classes at Washington "until such time as an expedited due process hearing can be held" by an independent hearing officer. However, because Kaczmarski has not yet exhausted her administrative remedies, and because the temporary relief Kaczmarski seeks is both premature and contrary to the express "stay-put" provisions of the IDEA, Kaczmarski's motion for a TRO is denied.

 I. The IDEA

  Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act "to assure that all handicapped children have available to them . . . a free appropriate public education which emphasizes special education . . . [and] to assure that the rights of handicapped children and their parents or guardians are protected." 20 U.S.C. § 1400(c).

  The primary vehicle for implementing those goals is the "individualized education program" (IEP), which the IDEA mandates for each disabled child. The IEP sets out annual and short-term objectives for improvements in class performance, and describes the class setting and specially designed instruction that will enable the child to meet those objectives. 20 U.S.C. § 1401(19). The IEP Team must review and, where necessary, revise the IEP at least once a year to ensure that local agencies tailor instruction to each child's unique needs. 20 U.S.C. § 1414(a)(5).

  The IDEA includes several procedural safeguards to protect the rights of the disabled child and the parents. Among other protections, the IDEA sets clear limits on a school's authority to unilaterally discipline a disabled student for violating school rules. 20 U.S.C. § 1415. Specifically, the IDEA contemplates the scenario at issue here, allowing school officials to order a change in a child's educational placement for up to 45 days if the child brings a weapon to school. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(k)(1)(A)(ii); 34 C.F.R. § 300.520(a)(2)(i). The child's 45-day "interim alternative placement" must be determined by the IEP team.*fn4 34 C.F.R. § 300.522(a). If the parents ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.