United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
LAWRENCE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF LAWRENCE COUNTY, ARKANSAS PLAINTIFF
MARION MCDANIEL, Individually and as Parent of CM DEFENDANT
Lawrence County School District's motion for summary
judgment [Doc. No. 22] is denied as to the IDEA appeal and
granted as to the non-IDEA counterclaims, except as to the
issue of attorney's fees. The Arkansas Department of
Education's administrative order is affirmed.
See Compl. Ex. A, Doc. No. 1. Defendant Marion
McDaniel's motion for leave to file a reply to the
response to notice of additional authority [Doc. 36] is
denied as moot. Lawrence County School District's motion
to supplement its motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 42]
CM is a
fifth-grade student in the Lawrence County School District
(“LCSD”). Compl. ¶ 4. He has attended
elementary school in LCSD since 2014. Id.
diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(“ADHD”) and autism spectrum disorder
(“ASD”). Id. at ¶ 5; Mot.
Prelim. Inj. Ex. B ¶ 2, Doc. No. 16. CM's
father, Marion McDaniel, initially noticed CM's symptoms
when CM was three years old, which included difficulties with
speech and bladder control. Mot. Prelim. Inj. Ex. B
¶ 2; Compl. Ex. A (“Hr'g
Officer's Decision”) at 18. As CM aged, he
displayed other behaviors consistent with ASD. Hr'g
Officer's Decision at 18.
a number of social and behavioral issues stemming from his
ASD. When he was in kindergarten, CM would spin in circles,
avoid human contact, and have tantrums. Id. He would
also pull out his hair as a response to his anxiety. Prelim.
Inj. Hr'g Tr. at 36. Today, CM struggles with social
interactions and using appropriate social skills. He finds
transitions in his routines, finishing tasks, understanding
boundaries, and maintaining eye contact to be challenging.
Mot. Prelim. Inj. Ex. B ¶¶ 2-3. He is also
impulsive and has difficulty paying attention. Id.
at ¶ 2. CM gets into trouble in class, blurts out
answers, and argues with his teacher. Id. He is
unable to understand abstract concepts and to express his
thoughts on paper. Prelim. Inj. Hr'g Tr. at 50. CM also
has certain fine motor deficits and ASD-related tics, such as
picking at his fingers and toes and making noise when
fidgeting. Id. at 36. He often has difficulties
interacting with his peers on the playground and is
frequently teased and called names. Id. at 38-39.
however, appears to be doing well academically. LCSD reports
that CM is performing at grade level and generally earns high
grades in his classes. Hr'g Officer's Decision at 14.
Indeed, CM has been recognized as an honors student and was
recommended for LCSD's gifted and talented program.
Id. The principal at CM's school noted that
CM's standardized test scores were high in English and
reading, and CM scored proficiently in science and math.
Prelim. Inj. Hr'g Tr. at 115, 117-18. CM's only
current academic deficiency is in writing. Id. at
believes that CM needs special education services,
notwithstanding CM's academic success in school, because
CM's ASD impairs his ability to learn important social
skills and interact with his peers and teachers. See
Id. at 65-68; Mot. Prelim. Inj. Ex. B ¶ 6. McDaniel
has attempted to obtain special education services for CM
three times since 2014, including services in speech therapy.
Hr'g Officer's Decision at 27-28. After each of
McDaniel's requests, it was determined that CM's
educational needs were adequately met by his 504
accommodation plan and that he did not meet the eligibility
criteria for special education services. Id.
Moreover, it was found that CM's behavior and conduct in
school was acceptable, and his ASD was not hindering his
filed a due process complaint against LCSD under the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. section 1400, et.
seq., on May 10, 2016, alleging that CM was denied a
“free appropriate public education”
(“FAPE”). Id. at 2. A due process
hearing before the Arkansas Department of Education
(“ADE”) was conducted and post-hearing briefs
were ordered on whether CM was eligible for evaluation for an
individualized education plan (“IEP”). Hr'g
Officer's Decision at 1. Testimony was given by CM's
special education teacher, a school psychologist who
evaluated CM, the principal of CM's school, a speech and
language pathologist who evaluated CM, McDaniel, and CM's
mental health therapist.
hearing officer determined that LCSD failed to provide CM a
FAPE when it failed to adequately evaluate CM for special
education services. Id. at 29-30. LCSD was ordered
to secure and utilize the service of a behavioral analyst in
conducting a functional behavioral assessment and IEP if
necessary; to conduct an evaluation on CM's pragmatic
language deficits, adaptive behavior deficits, and functional
impairments; to secure and utilize the services of a
healthcare aid for CM, if necessary; and to allow CM's
mental health professionals to observe CM at school.
Id. at 30.
filed this lawsuit appealing the hearing officer's
decision. See Compl. ¶ 20. McDaniel
counterclaimed for damages and reasonable attorney's
fees. Following a hearing, a preliminary injunction was
entered ordering LCSD to implement the hearing officer's
decision pending the resolution of the appeal. Doc. No. 37.
LCSD now moves for summary judgment.
judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
249-50 (1986). Once the moving party demonstrates that there
is no genuine dispute of material fact, the non-moving party
may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials in his
pleadings. Holden v. Hirner, 663 F.3d 336, 340 (8th
Cir. 2011). Instead, the non-moving party must produce
admissible evidence demonstrating a genuine factual dispute
that must be resolved at trial. Id. Importantly,
when considering a motion for summary judgment, all
reasonable inferences must be drawn in a light most favorable
to the non-moving party. Holland v. Sam's Club,
487 F.3d 641, 643 (8th Cir. 2007). Additionally, the evidence
is not weighed, and no credibility determinations are made.
Jenkins v. Winter, 540 F.3d 742, 750 (8th Cir.