The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Plaintiffs Joseph and Karen Durkee, acting on their own behalf and as representatives of their minor child M.D., bring this action pursuant to the Individuals in Education with Disabilities Act seeking a declaratory judgment and injunction against defendants Livonia Central School District ("the School District") and Scott Bischoping, the Superintendent of the School District. Specifically, the plaintiffs, who home-school their child, and who have refused publicly-funded special education services for their child, seek a declaration that they are not required to submit their child to a State evaluation for purposes of determining whether or not their child is eligible for publicly-funded education services. Plaintiffs contend that because they have already refused the offer of publicly-funded special education assistance, there is neither any reason nor legal basis for forcing their child to be subjected to an evaluation which would determine whether or not they are entitled to such assistance.
By motion dated November 3, 2006, plaintiffs move for summary judgment on grounds that there are no material issues of fact in dispute, and that they are entitled to judgment in their favor as a matter of law. Defendants oppose plaintiffs' motion, and cross-move for summary judgment, seeking a declaration that the School District is entitled to request a hearing before an impartial examiner for the purpose of determining whether or not a special-education evaluation is appropriate.
For the reasons set forth above, I grant the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, and deny defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiffs Joseph and Karen Durkee are the parents of M.D., their infant child who was born in 1991. As a result of their religious beliefs, plaintiffs have home-schooled all of their children, including M.D.
In 2004, M.D.'s grandparents allegedly sent a letter to the then-Superintendent of the Livonia Central School District suggesting that M.D. may suffer from a learning disability. As a result, the School District requested that M.D. be evaluated for purposes of determining whether or not M.D. qualified as a student with a disability, and accordingly, would be entitled to publicly-funded special education services. After the plaintiffs declined the request for an evaluation on grounds that the plaintiffs would not seek or accept publicly-funded education services, defendants informed plaintiffs that it believed that the School District was compelled to conduct an evaluation, despite recognizing that the plaintiffs would not be required to accept any publicly-funded education or special education services. After the plaintiffs again refused to submit their child to a State evaluation, the School District initiated a due process proceeding pursuant to the Individuals in Education with Disabilities Act ("IDEA") for the purpose of determining whether or not M.D. should be subjected to an evaluation. After plaintiffs' motion to dismiss that proceeding was denied, an Impartial Hearing Officer determined that M.D. should be evaluated for determination of whether or not M.D. suffers from a learning disability. Plaintiffs' request for review of the Hearing Officer's determination was denied, and on June 14, 2006, plaintiffs filed the instant Complaint.
I. Summary Judgment Standard
Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if 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 judgment as a matter of law." When considering a motion for summary judgment, all inferences and ambiguities must be resolved in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54 (2nd Cir. 1997). If, after considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court finds that no rational jury could find in favor of that party, a grant of summary judgment is appropriate. Annis v. County of Westchester, 136 F.3d 239, 247 (2nd Cir. 1998).
II. Statutory Requirements under the IDEA
The IDEA is a comprehensive statute designed to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free, appropriate public education. 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(a). In order to ensure that students with disabilities receive services to which they are entitled under the IDEA, the IDEA mandates that state or local educational agencies (hereinafter "school districts") enact programs to identify and evaluate those students who may need special education services. 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(3); 20 U.S.C. § 1414. Specifically, where it has come to the attention of a school district that a child may be eligible for special-education services, and neither the parent nor child has requested a determination of eligibility, the school district may request that an "initial evaluation" be conducted to determine if the child qualifies as a student with a disability. 20 U.S.C. § 1414(a)(1). In cases where the school district requests an initial evaluation, the district must seek the permission of the child's parent or guardian prior to conducting the evaluation. 20 U.S.C. § 1414(a)(1)(D). If the parent or guardian refuses to consent to an evaluation, the IDEA provides that a school district may initiate proceedings before an impartial hearing officer to obtain authority to conduct the evaluation over the objection of a parent or guardian. 20 U.S.C. 1414(a)(1)(D)(ii)(I). While the IDEA provides that the school district may seek authority to conduct an evaluation over the objection of a parent or guardian, the Act explicitly recognizes that a parent or guardian is free to refuse any publicly-funded special education services offered by the district. 20 U.S.C. 1414(a)(1)(D)(ii)(II).
III. The IDEA does not Require that a Child be Evaluated for Eligibility for Special Educations Services where the Parents of ...