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H.P. v. Naperville Community Unit School District #203

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 8, 2018

H.P., a minor, by and through her father, W.P., Plaintiff,
v.
NAPERVILLE COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT #203, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Jeffrey T. Gilbert, Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff H.P., by and through her father, W.P., has sued Defendant Naperville Community Unit School District 203 alleging that the District is discriminating against her as a person with a disability by refusing to waive its residency requirement and allow H.P. to attend high school in District 203 even though she no longer resides in that District. This matter is now before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on Count I of Plaintiff's Complaint (“Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment”) [ECF No. 93] and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on the Plaintiff's Complaint (“Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment”) [ECF No. 95]. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 93] is denied and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgement [ECF No. 95] is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Naperville Community Unit School District 203 (“Defendant”) is an Illinois public school district established and operated pursuant to the Illinois School Code. Defendant's Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Support of Its Motion for Summary Judgment on the Complaint (“Defendant's SoF”), [ECF No. 97], ¶ 7; Plaintiff's LR56.1(3) Statement of Material Facts (“Plaintiff's SoF”), [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 2.[1] One of the schools that Defendant operates is Naperville Central High School (“NCHS”). Plaintiff H.P. (“Plaintiff”), who is 17-years-old, was a student at NCHS during her freshman, sophomore, and junior years of high school. Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶¶ 1, 3; Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶¶ 17- 27, 29. For the 2017-18 academic year, Plaintiff enrolled at and is attending Downers Grove North High School (“DGNHS”), which is a public high school in Community High School District 99 (“District 99”). Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 24; Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 34.

         Plaintiff's change in schools was not voluntary. In fact, she wants to complete her secondary education at NCHS. Plaintiff changed schools because she moved out of District 203. From 2008 until roughly the middle of 2016, Plaintiff lived with her mother in Naperville, Illinois, which is part of District 203. Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 22; Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶¶ 9, 25. Then, after her mother's tragic death in May 2016, Plaintiff went to live with her father, W.P., in Lisle, Illinois, which is part of District 99, not part of District 203.[2]Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶¶ 2, 4-6, 24-25; Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶¶ 7, 23, 25. It seems Defendant did not find out about Plaintiff's change of residence at that time. See Affidavit of Bob Ross, [ECF No. 98-1], ¶ 4. So Plaintiff was able to spend her entire junior year at NCHS even though she lived in Lisle. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶¶ 26, 27. Defendant learned that Plaintiff no longer lived in District 203 before the start of the 2017-18 academic year and, when her father sought permission to enroll Plaintiff at NCHS for her senior year, Defendant refused. Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶¶ 26-27; Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 29.

         Defendant denied W.P.'s request because Plaintiff lived outside District 203. Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 27; Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 30. According to Defendant's Board Policy 7:60 Residence, “[a] student must establish residence within the School District's boundaries in order to attend a School District school.” Board Policy 7:60 Residence, [ECF No. 22-3]; see also Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 27. The Policy contains limited exceptions to the requirement of in-district residency for students who (1) move into District 203 within 60 days of the first day of attendance, (2) move out of District 203 during the school year, (3) change residence due to a legal custodian's military service obligation, (4) are homeless, or (5) are foreign exchange students. Board Policy 7:60 Residence, [ECF No. 22-3]; Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 28; Affidavit of Bob Ross, [ECF No. 98-1], ¶ 7.[3] It is undisputed that none of the exceptions to Defendant's “residency requirement, ” as the Court will refer to Defendant's policy, applies to Plaintiff.

         After Defendant's initial denial, W.P. subsequently asked Defendant to waive its residency requirement and let Plaintiff attend NCHS as an accommodation for her disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“the ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“the Rehabilitation Act”), 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 31; Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 31. Defendant again refused. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶¶ 31, 33; see also Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶¶ 32-33. It is this sequence of events that led Plaintiff to enroll at DGNHS even though W.P. and she believe and contend that DGNHS does not provide the academic, social, or emotional support that Plaintiff needs. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 35.

         To understand W.P.'s request for an accommodation under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, it is necessary to begin in 2008. That year, after her parents' separation and divorce, Plaintiff began to experience anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and seizures. Id. ¶ 10; see also Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 12. In August 2009, Plaintiff was diagnosed with epilepsy and subsequently prescribed Keppra for her seizures. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 11; Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 12. On nine days between September 2013 and February 2014, Plaintiff received treatment at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health for anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and school avoidance issues. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 12; Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 13. For seven of those days, Plaintiff was hospitalized. Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 13. Plaintiff also was prescribed Celexa and Melatonin for her anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 12; see also Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 14.

         In early 2014, Defendant found Plaintiff was eligible for special education and related services and prepared an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) for her. IEP (Conference Summary Report), [ECF No. 94-3]; Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 19. The IEP reflected, among other things, the following information. Plaintiff had been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and a seizure disorder. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 13. Defendant determined that Plaintiff had “limited strength, vitality, or alertness” and that her disability had a significant adverse impact on her educational performance, including in the areas of fatigue, concentration, attendance, math, and coping skills. Id. ¶¶ 14-16. Pursuant to this IEP, Defendant provided Plaintiff with special education classes and services during her freshman year of high school at NCHS. Id. ¶ 18; Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 20.

         In January 2015, Plaintiff and W.P. decided that it was in Plaintiff's best interest to enroll in general education classes. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 21. Although District 203 discouraged this change and told Plaintiff and W.P. that Plaintiff would not be eligible for any special education classes and services if she enrolled in general education classes, they went ahead. Id. ¶ 21; Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 20. Since then, Plaintiff has attended general education classes and has not participated in an IEP conference or received special education or related services. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶¶ 21, 22, 27; Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 21.[4] In her junior year at NCHS, Plaintiff attended an advanced placement class, became an active member and officer of Future Farmers of America, and obtained a teaching assistant position for the following school year. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 27.[5]

         In September 2017, after she switched to DGNHS, Plaintiff began seeing Melanie Bullock, a clinical counselor, because of increasing despondency over the impact of attending the new school. Id. ¶ 36; Defendant's SoF, [ECF No. 97], ¶ 17.[6] Bullock initially diagnosed H.P. with an adjustment disorder, which is a milder form of depression. Plaintiff's SoF, [ECF No. 94-1], ¶ 37. Bullock subsequently diagnosed her with Persistent Depressive Disorder and recommended that she see a psychologist. Id. ¶ 38. In December 2017, Bullock began assessing Plaintiff for a major depressive disorder because she observed, among other things, passive suicidal thoughts and an increase in apathy and hopelessness. Id. ¶ 39. Later that month, Plaintiff saw Dr. Petrit Ndrio, a psychologist, who confirmed the diagnosis of Persistent Depressive Disorder and prescribed Prozac and Adderall for Plaintiff's increasing anxiety and depression. Id. ¶ 41. Because attending DGNHS is causing her anxiety and mental stress, Plaintiff has decided that she would rather drop out of school and pursue a GED or High School Equivalency Certificate than complete her senior year at DGNHS. Id. ¶ 42.

         On July 21, 2017, Plaintiff filed a three-count Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (“Complaint”) [ECF No. 1]. On August 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction, [ECF No. 9]. On August 16, 2017, the Court held a preliminary injunction hearing and denied Plaintiff's motion in an oral ruling. Minute Entry Dated August 16, 2017, [ECF No. 32]. Two days later, Defendant moved to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, [ECF No. 36]. The Court dismissed part of Count I (a disparate impact claim) and all of Count II without prejudice, and dismissed Count III with prejudice. Memorandum Opinion and Order, [ECF No. 97]; see also H.P. v. Naperville Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist. #203, 2017 WL 5585627 (N.D.Ill. Nov. 20, 2017). The Court did not dismiss any other portion of Count I, including the claim that Defendant violated Title II of the ADA and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by refusing to accommodate Plaintiff's disability by waiving the residency requirement and allowing Plaintiff to attend NCHS even though she does not reside in District 203. Because Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint, only her claim under Title II and § 504 remain alive in this case.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper 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). A genuine issue of material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking ...


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