Justia.com Opinion Summary:
Appellants, a child with a learning disability and his parents, sued the Special School District No. 1 ("School District") in Minneapolis, Minnesota alleging that the School District violated his rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. 1400, by denying him a free appropriate public education. At issue was whether the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the School District when it determined that the parents were not entitled to reimbursement from the School District for one year of private tuition when they transferred the child to a private education institution ("institution"). The court reversed the district court's decision and held that appellants were not precluded from reimbursement for tuition for the 2008-2009 academic year where the institution was a proper placement for the child and where the institution did not need to satisfy the least-restrictive environment requirement to be "proper" under the IDEA.Receive FREE Daily Opinion Summaries by Email
Civil Case - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Decision holding the school district failed to satisfy the substantive requirements of the IDEA by failing to make available to C.B. a free and appropriate public education during the fourth and fifth grades is upheld. District court's denial of reimbursement of private tuition is reversed, as private placement need not satisfy a least-restrictive environment to be "proper" under the Act and placement in private school was proper.
United States Court of Appeals
FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
C.B., by and through his parents, B.B.
Special School District No. 1,
* Appeal from the United States
* District Court for the
* District of Minnesota.
Submitted: May 13, 2010
Filed: April 21, 2011
Before WOLLMAN, SMITH, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.
COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.
C.B. is a child with a learning disability who resides within the Special School
District No. 1 (“School District”) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. C.B. and his parents
allege that the School District violated his rights under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., by denying him a free
appropriate public education to which he is entitled under the statute. C.B.
transferred to a private educational institution, and he and his parents claim that they
are entitled to reimbursement from the School District for one year of private tuition.
The district court ruled that the School District had failed to provide a free
appropriate public education to C.B., but granted summary judgment in favor of the
School District on the ground that C.B. and his parents were not entitled to
reimbursement for private tuition. C.B. and his parents appeal. We reverse and
remand for further proceedings.
C.B. began kindergarten in 2002 at Hale Elementary School, a public school
in Minneapolis for students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Within weeks of
his enrollment, C.B.’s teacher noticed that he did not know many letters and sounds
and was making slow progress in reading. C.B.’s mother also recognized her son’s
difficulty and expressed concern to his teacher that C.B. might be dyslexic.
By the time C.B. reached first grade, the School District determined that a
special education evaluation was necessary. As part of the evaluation, C.B. took the
Woodcock-Johnson III Achievement Test and placed in just the first percentile for
reading skills. C.B. was diagnosed with a learning disability in reading and writing,
and the School District determined that he was eligible for special education services.
The School District assembled a team of teachers and other officials qualified
in special education who developed an individualized educational program (“IEP”)
for C.B. in January 2004, in accordance with the requirements of the IDEA. See 20
U.S.C. § 1414(d). The IEP set an annual goal to “increase his reading skills from a
readiness level to a first grade level.” C.B. was placed in a regular classroom, but he
was also provided with thirty minutes of special reading instruction per day in a group
At the time of the initial IEP, C.B. could read first grade material at a rate of
three words per minute. C.B.’s measured reading rate increased to thirteen words per
minute by the end of the school year, but remained far below the sixty words per
minute expected of students finishing first grade. The School District characterized
C.B.’s progress in a June 2004 report as “slight.”
The School District formulated C.B.’s second grade IEP in September 2004,
and reiterated the goal of the initial IEP to “increase his reading skills . . . to a first
grade level.” Periodic evaluations continued to indicate “slight progress” in reading,
but by the end of second grade, C.B.’s reading rate for first grade material was still
far short of expectations. Records from C.B.’s third grade year exhibit few changes.
The annual reading skills goal in his third grade IEP was the same as in prior years,
but the District determined that an additional sixty minutes per week of special
education in writing were appropriate. Periodic reports showed the same “slight
progress,” and testing at the end of third grade indicated a reading rate of thirty-two
words per minute.
During the summer between third and fourth grade, C.B.’s special education
instructor at Hale, Lynda Kelley, invited him to attend a program in which the OrtonGillingham reading method would be used. This program was not sponsored by the
School District. After a total of nine one-hour sessions, Kelley reported significant
increases in C.B.’s reading and spelling scores, and noted that the intervention was
more successful than any she had used.
By the time C.B. started fourth grade, however, much of the progress he made
during the summer sessions had been lost. Kelley attributed this setback to a lack of
continuous instruction. Concerned about C.B.’s regression, Kelley recommended that
the student’s three-year special education re-evaluation be conducted in October
2006, three months earlier than scheduled. The evaluation showed that C.B.’s
response to prior interventions was “[i]nadequate,” and that he was “severely
underachieving” in reading and writing. On one broad measure of reading ability on
the Woodcock-Johnson III test, for example, C.B.’s scores declined to the 0.10
percentile. The evaluation also noted a “severe discrepancy” between C.B.’s
intellectual ability, which measured in the “average range,” and his underachievement
Following the re-evaluation, team members met to prepare an IEP for C.B.’s
fourth grade year. Notes from this meeting indicate that C.B. was socialized and well
behaved, but he continued to struggle with word recognition. According to Kelley,
District officials discussed with C.B.’s mother the possibility of transferring her son
to another public school in Minneapolis that offered the Coordinated Learning for
Academic and Social Success (“CLASS”) program. The CLASS program is designed
to help students with disabilities, including secondary behavioral problems, who are
in need of intensive special education services. One teacher is assigned to every
twelve to fifteen students in the program, and more than sixty percent of each school
day is devoted to specialized instruction focusing on basic academic, social, and
problem-solving skills. C.B.’s mother was not interested in the CLASS program at
that time because she was concerned that such a move would hurt her son’s selfesteem and social skills. Neither the IEP conference notes nor the fourth grade IEP
reference the CLASS program.
The annual reading goal established in C.B.’s fourth grade IEP was to “increase
his reading skills from a beginning first grade level, to an end of first grade level.”
The School District increased his special reading instruction to sixty minutes per day.
During the academic year, one of C.B.’s teachers expressed concern about the
student’s inability to focus in class, and recommended to C.B.’s mother that she look
into Groves Academy as an alternative placement. Groves is a private school in St.
Louis Park, Minnesota, that specializes in educating children with learning
disabilities. By the end of fourth grade, C.B.’s reading level was less than what he
had achieved the previous summer, and far below the fluency expected of a student
at the end of fourth grade.
In the fall of 2007, C.B. began attending fifth grade at Field Middle School in
Minneapolis, another public school near the student’s home. An evaluation at the
beginning of the school year indicated that C.B.’s reading fluency had again
decreased over the summer. Members of the IEP team met in September 2007 to
create a new IEP, and again discussed the CLASS program. Notes summarizing the
IEP conference indicate that the CLASS program was one of three options reviewed
with C.B.’s mother. C.B.’s mother was concerned that the CLASS program was
designed for students with behavioral problems and would not be a good fit for her
son. C.B.’s mother also wanted him to attend school with his friends, one of whom
helped him with his homework by reading materials to him. Therefore, she agreed
to an option proposed by the District that permitted C.B. to stay at Field.
C.B.’s fifth grade IEP acknowledged growing concern from his parents and
teachers about his “slow progress” in reading, and set a goal to “increase his reading
skills from a first grade level to a second grade level.” A report at the end of fifth
grade, however, indicated only “slight” and “moderate” progress, and C.B.’s reading
fluency for second grade material was measured at fifty-five words per minute, well
below the reading ability of his peers.
Because of their son’s continued lack of progress, C.B.’s parents arranged for
him to meet with Dr. Susan Storti, a neurocognitive psychologist and language
specialist, in June 2008. Dr. Storti administered a series of cognitive and behavioral
tests, including the Woodcock-Johnson III test, which indicated that C.B.’s reading
skills remained in the first percentile. Dr. Storti concluded that C.B. presented with
“average” intelligence and appeared to be a “positive and resilient young man.” Dr.
Storti diagnosed C.B. with an auditory processing disorder and severe dyslexia and
dysgraphia. She advised C.B.’s parents to consider placing their son at Groves
C.B.’s mother then began the process of enrolling C.B. at Groves. In July
2008, C.B.’s parents notified the School District by letter of their intention to enroll
C.B. at Groves and requested that the District pay his private school tuition. They
stated in the letter that their decision to seek a private placement was based on the fact
that their son’s special education program “continues to remain the same with little
change year after year to the goals and objectives.” C.B.’s parents also noted the fact
that their son had “made no demonstrable progress” in his years in Minneapolis
public schools, and expressed their belief that he had not “been provided with the
right interventions to address his disabilities.”
The School District refused the request to pay C.B.’s private school tuition.
The District stated that C.B. was making “slow but steady progress” in public school,
and that the amount of special education services he received had increased every
year to meet his needs. The District also said that it had suggested during C.B.’s
fourth and fifth grade years that he enroll in the District’s CLASS program for
additional help with reading and writing, but that C.B.’s parents were not in favor of
such a move.
Despite the School District’s refusal to pay, C.B. enrolled at Groves Academy
in the fall of 2008. The cost of tuition for the 2008-2009 school year, after
accounting for a scholarship that C.B. received, was $6800.
In September 2008, C.B.’s parents requested an administrative hearing to
review the School District’s decision to deny reimbursement. See 20 U.S.C.
§ 1415(f)(1)(A). An administrative law judge (“ALJ”) served as the independent
hearing officer and held hearings in November 2008. C.B.’s mother, along with
several teachers and specialists from the School District and from Groves, testified
at those hearings. The ALJ also received extensive documentary evidence, including
C.B.’s annual IEPs and evaluations. The ALJ determined that C.B. was entitled to
reimbursement for the $6800 in tuition, because the School District had failed to
make available to C.B. a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) under the IDEA,
and because Groves was an appropriate placement under the statute.
C.B. then brought an action in the district court, seeking attorney’s fees and
costs arising from the administrative hearing. The School District counterclaimed,
challenging the decision of the ALJ, see 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2), and both parties
moved for summary judgment. The district court denied C.B.’s motion, granted the
School District’s motion, and reversed the ALJ’s order granting reimbursement. See
C.B. v. Special Sch. Dist. No. 1, 641 F. Supp. 2d 850, 854 (D. Minn. 2009).
The court agreed with the ALJ that the School District had failed to make
available a FAPE for C.B., id. at 856, but determined that Groves was not an
“appropriate placement” under the IDEA, and that C.B.’s family was therefore not
entitled to reimbursement for private school tuition. Id. at 856-57. The court
reasoned that a primary objective of the IDEA is to educate children with disabilities
in the “[l]east restrictive environment,” see 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(5), and that such
children “must be educated in a classroom along with children who are not disabled
to the maximum extent possible.” C.B., 641 F. Supp. 2d at 856 (internal quotation
omitted). Because nearly all of the students at Groves have learning disabilities and
receive special education services, the court found that Groves was a segregated
learning environment. The court further determined that C.B.’s disability could be
addressed adequately in a less restrictive public school setting, because the CLASS
program in the public schools offered educational services similar to Groves in a less
restrictive environment. The court thus concluded that “Groves is not an appropriate
placement for C.B. because it does not offer him an education in the least restrictive
C.B. and his parents challenge the district court’s decision to set aside the
decision of the hearing officer to award reimbursement of his private school tuition
for the 2008-2009 school year. To evaluate this contention, it is helpful first to
review the basic statutory framework, as set forth in the governing statutes and
decisions of the Supreme Court.
The IDEA provides that a local educational agency that receives federal funds
shall establish procedures “to ensure that children with disabilities and their parents
are guaranteed procedural safeguards with respect to the provision of a free
appropriate public education by such agencies.” 20 U.S.C. § 1415(a). These
procedures must include an opportunity for any party to make a complaint with
respect to the provision of a free appropriate public education to a child with
disabilities. Id. § 1415(b)(6). When parents file such a complaint, they are entitled
to an “impartial due process hearing” to be conducted by the local educational agency
or the state educational agency. Id. § 1415(f). A hearing officer presides and makes
“a determination of whether the child received a free appropriate public education.”
Id. § 1415(f)(3)(E)(i).
Any party aggrieved by the decision of a hearing officer has a right to bring a
civil action in a federal district court. Id. § 1415(i)(2)(A). The court in such an action
is directed to “grant such relief as the court determines is appropriate.” 20 U.S.C.
§ 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii). In School Committee of Burlington v. Department of Education,
471 U.S. 359 (1985), the Supreme Court held that a federal court’s authority to grant
“appropriate” relief includes “the power to order school authorities to reimburse
parents for their expenditures on private special education for a child if the court
ultimately determines that such placement, rather than a proposed IEP, is proper
under the Act.” Id. at 369. The original version of § 1415 did not address the
authority of hearing officers to order reimbursement, but the Supreme Court later
stated in Forest Grove School District v. T.A., 129 S. Ct. 2484 (2009), that Burlington
“interpreted § 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii) to authorize hearing officers as well as courts to
award reimbursement notwithstanding the provision’s silence with regard to hearing
officers.” Id. at 2494 n.11.
In 1997, Congress amended the IDEA and included a subsection that directly
addresses the availability of reimbursement for private school placement. See
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, Pub. L. No. 10517, 111 Stat. 37, 63. That provision, now codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii),
If the parents of a child with a disability, who previously received
special education and related services under the authority of a public
agency, enroll the child in a private elementary school or secondary
school without the consent of or referral by the public agency, a court or
a hearing officer may require the agency to reimburse the parents for the
cost of that enrollment if the court or hearing officer finds that the
agency had not made a free appropriate public education available to the
child in a timely manner prior to that enrollment.
In Forest Grove, the Supreme Court held that § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) did not alter the
meaning of § 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii), as interpreted in Burlington, and that the IDEA
authorizes reimbursement even in cases where a child had not previously received
special education and related services through the public school. See Forest Grove,
129 S. Ct. at 2496. The Court also stated that by declining to alter § 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii)
in 1997, Congress implicitly adopted the view that hearing officers are empowered
to order reimbursement of expenditures on private special education in appropriate
cases. Id. at 2494 n.11.
The Court in Forest Grove also addressed the requirements that must be met
before a court or hearing officer may order reimbursement for private school
placement. Burlington held that courts may grant reimbursement only when (1) a
school district fails to provide a FAPE, and (2) the private-school placement is
appropriate, that is, “proper under the Act.” Forest Grove, 129 S. Ct. at 2493 n.9; see
Florence Cnty. Sch. Dist. Four v. Carter, 510 U.S. 7, 15 (1993). Although the 1997
amendment provides that a court or hearing officer may order reimbursement after
finding that a public school district had not made a FAPE available in a timely
manner, without any mention of a determination that the private-school placement
was appropriate, 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii), the Court declined to read the statute
as eliminating that second requirement. Instead, the Court opined that “[t]he latter
requirement is essential to ensuring that reimbursement awards are granted only when
such relief furthers the purposes of the Act,” and inferred that the new provision was
designed merely to “augment” § 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii) and Burlington, not to supplant the
original provision. Forest Grove, 129 S. Ct. at 2493 & n.9. In other words, as we
understand Forest Grove, parents of a child with a disability who previously received
special education and related services must meet the twin requirements of Burlington
to obtain reimbursement for expenditures on private special education, whether the
parents invoke § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) or § 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii). Accord id. at 2499 n.2
(Souter, J., dissenting).
The School District contends that C.B. and his parents fail to satisfy either
requirement for reimbursement and urges that we affirm the judgment of the district
court on either ground. We therefore consider the two requirements in turn,
beginning with the matter of a free appropriate public education.
Whether a school district has made available a free appropriate public
education is a mixed question of law and fact that we review de novo. Fort Zumwalt
Sch. Dist. v. Clynes, 119 F.3d 607, 611 (8th Cir. 1997). Judicial review of
administrative proceedings under the IDEA is limited, because “judges are not trained
educators.” E.S. v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 196, 135 F.3d 566, 569 (8th Cir. 1998). A
district court is to render an independent decision based on a preponderance of the
evidence in the administrative record, but the court also must give “due weight” to
the results of the administrative proceedings and not substitute its “own notions of
sound educational policy for those of the school authorities which they review.” Bd.
of Educ. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 205-06 (1982). We review the district court’s
decision de novo.
A primary purpose of the IDEA is “to ensure that all children with disabilities
have available to them a free appropriate public education.” 20 U.S.C.
§ 1400(d)(1)(A). A FAPE must be provided in accordance with the individualized
educational program required under 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d). The IEP, in turn, is a
“comprehensive statement of the educational needs of [the] handicapped child and
the specially designed instruction and related services to be employed to meet those
needs.” Burlington, 471 U.S. at 368. In developing a child’s IEP each academic
year, the school district must comply with the procedures set forth in the IDEA, and
ensure that the IEP is “reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational
benefits.” Rowley, 458 U.S. at 206-07.
The dispute here focuses on the “reasonably calculated” element of this
requirement. What a school district must do to ensure that an IEP is reasonably
calculated to provide educational benefit is determined on a case-by-case basis. The
IDEA requires public school districts to educate “a wide spectrum of handicapped
children,” and the benefits obtainable by children at different ends of the spectrum
will “differ dramatically.” Id. at 202. The statute does not require a school district
to “‘maximize a student’s potential or provide the best possible education at public
expense.’” Neosho R-V Sch. Dist. v. Clark, 315 F.3d 1022, 1027 (8th Cir. 2003)
(quoting Fort Zumwalt, 119 F.3d at 612). Specific results are not required, CJN v.
Minneapolis Pub. Sch., 323 F.3d 630, 642 (8th Cir. 2003), but a student’s academic
progress can be an “important factor” in determining whether an IEP complies with
the IDEA. See Rowley, 458 U.S. at 203; CJN, 323 F.3d at 642. “The IDEA’s
requirements thus are satisfied when a school district provides individualized
education and services sufficient to provide disabled children with ‘some educational
benefit.’” Blackmon ex rel. Blackmon v. Springfield R-XII Sch. Dist., 198 F.3d 648,
658 (8th Cir. 1999) (quoting Rowley, 458 U.S. at 200); see also Clark, 315 F.3d at
Given the IDEA’s two-year statute of limitations, see 20 U.S.C.
§ 1415(f)(3)(C), C.B. challenged the special education services provided by the
School District in fourth and fifth grade. The hearing officer recognized the “very
minimal” standard against which the District’s performance was measured under
Rowley, but nonetheless concluded that C.B. showed by a preponderance of the
evidence that the District did not fashion an IEP that was reasonably calculated to
provide some educational benefit. The hearing officer found that “[y]ear after year,
the School District set trifling goals for the Student and failed to help him achieve
even those insignificant goals.” The record supports this conclusion.
The School District argues that it made a free appropriate public education
available to C.B., because the IEPs were reasonably calculated to provide him with
some educational benefit. The District contends that C.B.’s progress in reading is
proof that the IEPs were sufficient to satisfy the statute. In particular, the District
argues that the educational program it designed permitted C.B. to make progress in
reading “at the same rate that his typical peers increased their skills.” The District
points out that C.B. maintained the same standard reading score on WoodcockJohnson tests administered at the beginning of fourth grade and at the end of fifth
grade when the student was evaluated by Dr. Storti. These results necessarily
indicate, the District asserts, that C.B. made progress in reading during fourth and
fifth grade. The District further suggests that C.B.’s satisfactory performance in other
academic subjects, like science and math, demonstrates his reading progress.
The District’s argument is unconvincing in light of the evidence presented at
the administrative hearing. As the ALJ noted, C.B.’s special education teacher at
Hale, Lynda Kelley, acknowledged that the student’s progress was not adequate.
Kelley also confirmed that C.B.’s IEP team was aware that the gap in reading fluency
between C.B. and his peers was increasing each year. Testing conducted upon C.B.’s
entry at Groves in sixth grade confirmed that the student was reading at
approximately a first grade level. Only when materials were read aloud to him did
C.B.’s reading comprehension scores improve. Otherwise, his understanding of
written materials generally measured in the single-digit percentiles.
There may be instances in which an educational program that results in such
slight progress is sufficient to comply with the statute in light of the student’s
disability, but this is not such a case. C.B.’s intellectual ability consistently measured
in the average range, and evaluations concluded that he was socialized, well behaved,
and persistent when confronted with difficult tasks. Cf. Fort Zumwalt, 119 F.3d at
612. During the summer between the third and fourth grades, after working with a
teacher for only nine hours with a new teaching method, C.B.’s reading scores
improved significantly. Yet despite C.B.’s average intellectual ability, positive
attitude, and willingness to work, the School District’s educational program was not
reasonably calculated to assist C.B. in making progress in reading during fourth and
We have no reason to quarrel with the hearing officer’s observation that the
staff of the School District “genuinely wanted to help the Student progress,” but the
record also supports the conclusion that the District failed to satisfy the substantive
requirements of the IDEA. We therefore uphold the decisions of the hearing officer
and the district court that the School District failed to make available to C.B. a free
appropriate public education during the fourth and fifth grades.
Although the district court concluded that the School District failed to provide
C.B. with a free appropriate public education, the court set aside the hearing officer’s
order for reimbursement of private tuition on the ground that private placement at
Groves was not “appropriate” under the statute. The court observed that the IDEA
expresses a preference for children with disabilities to be educated in the “[l]east
restrictive environment,” and provides that “[t]o the maximum extent appropriate,”
children with disabilities should be educated with children who are not disabled. 20
U.S.C. § 1412(a)(5)(A). It was undisputed that ninety percent of the students at
Groves have IEPs, and that Groves therefore offered education in an environment that
was largely restricted to students with disabilities. The district court found that the
CLASS program available in the public schools “offered educational services similar
to Groves but in a less restricted environment,” that C.B. benefitted from the social
opportunities available in the general educational environment, and that the evidence
did not establish that C.B. required “a totally segregated, private school environment”
to make educational progress. The court thus concluded that Groves was not an
“appropriate” placement, because it did not offer C.B. an education in the least
We conclude that the mainstreaming preference of the IDEA does not make
Groves an inappropriate private placement under the circumstances. The statute calls
for educating children with disabilities together with children who are not disabled
“[t]o the maximum extent appropriate.” Id. (emphasis added). Here, the School
District failed to develop an IEP that made available a free appropriate public
education. At that point, C.B.’s parents had a “right of unilateral withdrawal,”
Florence Cnty., 510 U.S. at 13, and a right to reimbursement for private tuition, so
long as the placement was “proper under the Act,” Burlington, 471 U.S. at 369, and
the award “furthers the purposes of the Act.” Forest Grove, 129 S. Ct. at 2493 n.9.
The overriding purpose of the Act is to provide an education for disabled
children that is both free and appropriate. The Act was designed, as the hearing
officer noted, “to open the door of public education to handicapped children on
appropriate terms.” Rowley, 458 U.S. at 192. But once the School District failed to
fashion an IEP that made available a free appropriate public education, it did not
frustrate the purposes of the Act for C.B.’s parents to enroll him at Groves, where he
could receive the educational benefit that was lacking in the public schools.
The parents were not required to allow the District another opportunity to try
yet again with a different IEP that featured the CLASS program when the District did
not propose that alternative in any of the IEPs that preceded C.B.’s withdrawal.
Reimbursement for the costs of enrollment in a private school is authorized if the
hearing officer finds that the District “had not made a free appropriate public
education available to the child in a timely manner prior to that enrollment.” 20
U.S.C. § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii)(emphasis added). A less restrictive environment is the
ideal, but C.B.’s move to Groves after years of frustration in the public schools is a
far cry from “the apparently widespread practice of relegating handicapped children
to private institutions or warehousing them in special classes” that concerned
Congress. See Burlington, 471 U.S. at 373. We thus join the Third and Sixth Circuits
in concluding that a private placement need not satisfy a least-restrictive environment
requirement to be “proper” under the Act. See Warren G. v. Cumberland Cnty. Sch.
Dist., 190 F.3d 80, 83-84 (3d Cir. 1999); Cleveland Heights-Univ. Heights City Sch.
Dist. v. Boss, 144 F.3d 391, 399-400 (6th Cir. 1998).
Aside from the concern that Groves educates primarily children with
disabilities, there is no doubt that it was a proper placement for C.B. As the hearing
Groves offers the Student teaching methods and programs that the
School District has not provided. In addition to these methods and
programs, the ability to group and re-group students throughout the day
to ensure reading skills are reinforced across subjects sets Grove[s]
apart. Moreover, the District’s own teachers thought that Groves is an
appropriate place for the Student. His mother has seen an “explosion”
of learning since the Student entered Groves.
We conclude that the placement at Groves was proper under the Act, and that
reimbursement for tuition paid by C.B.’s parents to Groves for the 2008-2009
academic year is not precluded by the statute’s preference for education in the least
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court is reversed, and the
case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
C.B. and his parents also appeal the district court’s denial of their motion to
supplement the administrative record with additional information regarding the
student’s performance at Groves. Because we conclude that the evidence in the
record is sufficient to show that Groves was a proper placement, any error in denying
the motion was harmless.