United States District Court, D. Connecticut
D.J., through his parent O.W., on behalf of a class of those similarly situated, Plaintiff,
CONNECTICUT STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendants.
RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. Senior United States District Judge
D.J. ("Plaintiff" or "D.J."), through his
parent O.W. ("O.W."), brings this putative class
action against the Connecticut State Board of Educ ation
("De fendant" or the "Board"), alleging
violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a). Pursuant to
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) and 16(b)(4),
Plaintiff has moved the Court for an Order granting leave to
file an Amended Complaint [Doc. 57], which would
substitute a new plaintiff in place of D.J. acting
through his parent O.W.
D.J. is an individual with a disability who turned 21 years
old on May 29, 2016. Doc. 1 (Compl.) ¶ 1. D.J. had been
receiving a free appropriate public education
("FAPE") through the Hartford School District until
June 30, 2016, the end date of the school year in which he
turned 21. Id. D.J. and co-Plaintiff O.W., his
parent and guardian, brought this purported class action
"to establish the rights of Plaintiff D.J. and the class
he seeks to represent to a free appropriate public education
("FAPE") under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act ("IDEA")" until the age of 22.
Id. ¶¶ 1, 8.
Connecticut law, a student who has not yet received a regular
high school diploma remains eligible for special education
through the end of the school year in which that student
turns 21 years of age. See Conn. Gen. Stat §
10-76d(b); Conn. Agencies Regs. § 10-76d-1(a)(4). The
IDEA and its implementing regulations state that the
obligation to provide a free appropriate public education to
children with disabilities "between the ages of 3 and
21, inclusive," 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1)(A), does not
apply to children with disabilities "who have graduated
from high school with a regular high school diploma," 34
C.F.R. § 300.102(a)(3)(i). Such a diploma must be
"fully aligned with State standards[.]"
Id. at (a)(3)(iv).
filed a Complaint on July 15, 2016, alleging that he had
"not received a high school diploma," and that the
FAPE he had been receiving pursuant to the IDEA had
terminated at the end of the school year in which he turned
21. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 17, 20. Plaintiff seeks to certify
a class of all individuals who would have otherwise qualified
to continue receiving a FAPE but for turning 21,
"because they have not or had not yet earned a regular
high school diploma." Id. ¶ 36. Plaintiff
also seeks a declaration that the Connecticut laws which
terminate the entitlement of Connecticut students receiving a
FAPE under the IDEA at the end of the school year in which
the student turns 21 are inconsistent with the IDEA
"because they apply only to special education students
and not to non-special education students." Id.
concluded in August 2017, and in September 2017 Plaintiff
filed a motion seeking class certification and a motion for
summary judgment. See Docs. 25, 28, 29. The motion
for summary judgment was accompanied by an affidavit from
O.W., D.J.'s parent, stating that "D.J.
a diploma from Hartford Public High School in or about 2013.
However, he continued to receive educational and related
services from Hartford Public High School until on or about
June 30, 2016." Doc. 29-9 (O.W. Aff. I) ¶ 5. This
statement appeared to contradict Plaintiff's allegation
in the Complaint that D.J. had "not received a high
school diploma." Compl. ¶ 17. On the basis of
O.W.'s sworn statement, the Board challenged
Plaintiff's class certification and summary judgment
motions, arguing that D.J.'s claims are moot because he
obtained a high school diploma and that, for the same reason,
he was not an adequate class representative. See
Docs. 33, 40. In response, Plaintiff submitted a second
affidavit from O.W. stating that:
[o]fficials at Hartford High School offered D.J. a high
school diploma from Hartford Public High School in or about
2013. When D.J was offered this diploma, as his guardian, I
refused to accept it. D.J. was taking programs through
Hartford High School . . . I was told that if D.J. accepted
the diploma he would not be able to continue with those
programs. I understood that the diploma was kept in the
school office. Even though Hartford High School said that he
could graduate, I knew that he had not learned any skills
that would allow him to live independently or to support
himself. . . . Starting in or about 2015, D.J. no longer
attended classes at Hartford High School.
37-4 (O.W. Aff. II) ¶¶ 5-7.
light of the facts that had surfaced regarding
Plaintiff's possible receipt of a diploma, the Court
issued a Memorandum and Order on March 23, 2018 that raised
the issue of standing sua
sponte. See Doc. 41. We concluded that
the present record was insufficient to determine Plaintiff s
standing to bring suit, and authorized further discovery on
the issue for further consideration at an evidentiary
hearing. Id. at 6-7. Consistent with this ruling,
Plaintiff deposed Hartford Board of Education employee Dr.
June M. Sellers. Doc. 57-1 (Pl. Br.) at 2-3.
before the scheduled evidentiary hearing, Plaintiffs counsel
informed the Court and counsel for the Board that, "in
an effort to resolve the standing issue raised by this Court
sua sponte" they intended "to seek to
substitute the current plaintiff with a different
individual" and would "also seek to file an amended
complaint." Doc. 51. The Board would not consent to
permit amendment. Doc. 57-2 (Kim Decl. I)
¶ 6. However, the Board indicated
"general agreement" that if the amendment were
allowed, the current briefing would still apply. Doc. 57-5 at
1. On June 15, 2018, the parties informed the court that the
parties had not reached agreement and that Plaintiff would
prepare a motion for leave to file the Amended Complaint.
motion to amend has now been filed by Plaintiff [Doc. 57],
and is the subject of this Ruling.