RENEE J., as parent/guardian/next friend of C.J., a minor individual with a disability; CORNELIUS J., as parent/guardian/next friend of C.J., a minor individual with a disability, Plaintiffs - Appellants
HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant-Appellee
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Texas
JONES, CLEMENT, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.
H. ONES, Circuit Judge
district court ruled in favor of Houston Independent School
District ("HISD") on multiple claims brought by the
Appellants under the Individuals with Disabilities in
Education Act ("IDEA"). We find no procedural or
substantive violations of the law or its implementing
regulations. The judgment is AFFIRMED.
Appellants, parents of C.J., allege that HISD failed to
provide him with a Free Appropriate Public Education
("FAPE") as required by the IDEA.
a seventeen-year old male student who has been diagnosed with
Autism, intellectual disabilities including an IQ of 51, and
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD").
He received no formal diagnosis until he was twelve years old
and no specialized treatment plan until he was fifteen. He
currently reads at a first-grade level. C.J. also has
difficulty regulating his emotions and has allegedly been
bullied at school.
Individualized Education Program ("IEP") for the
2013-14 school year (his seventh-grade year) revealed that he
had not been tested at the district-wide level since third
grade and that his math and reading comprehension levels were
below those of the average second-grader. When C.J. began
eighth grade, however, his district-wide test results from
third grade were again carried over to his IEP. C.J.'s
"transition planning" program (a program required
for students receiving IEPs under the IDEA) focused on
preparing C.J. for a career as a police officer-as it did for
several years-even though C.J.'s autism and other
learning disabilities render such a career impossible.
January 2015, shortly after the beginning of the second
semester of the 2014-15 school year (C.J.'s eighth-grade
year), C.J. had an outburst at home that included repeatedly
banging his head and hitting himself in the face. C.J. told
his mother that two of the teacher's assistants in his
classroom were bullying him and mocking his disabilities.
parents wrote a formal complaint to the principal of
C.J.'s school, and school authorities arranged a meeting
the same day. At the meeting, C.J.'s parents requested
homebound instruction for C.J., and school administrators
provided C.J.'s parents with forms to complete that would
trigger a formal investigation. They also provided additional
information about homebound educational services. C.J. ceased
attending school altogether a few days later.
parties disagree about the events that took place after this
meeting. HISD requires a completed homebound services packet
and a physician's statement before an Admission, Review,
and Dismissal ("ARD") committee can meet and
recommend homebound services for students with IEPs. HISD
contends that C.J.'s parents delayed filling out the
paperwork necessary to certify his eligibility for homebound
care and voluntarily kept C.J. from attending school.
C.J.'s parents characterize these forms as procedural
irrelevancies and instead point to the initial documentation
they provided, which HISD rejected.
parents provided a note from C.J.'s physician on February
5, 2015 stating that C.J. suffered from "severe mental
illness" and recommending 2-6 weeks of immediate partial
hospitalization, followed by a 6-12-week trial period of
homebound instruction. After receiving the letter, HISD sent
a form to the family's physician that administrators said
was required to trigger an ARD meeting. Shortly after the
form arrived, C.J. underwent an unrelated surgery that
required a week of hospitalization. C.J. remained home from
school after his surgery, but neither his parents nor his
physician provided the requested documents to HISD until
mid-April. HISD officials repeatedly followed up with
C.J.'s parents, asking them to return him to school.
C.J.'s parents finally provided an updated letter from
his physician on April 10, 2015 stating that C.J.'s risk
factors put him at a "moderate" risk for suicide
and again recommending homebound instruction.
held an ARD Committee meeting on April 30 to evaluate
C.J.'s request for homebound instruction. The committee
denied the request because it concluded that C.J. was able to
attend school. School administrators questioned the sincerity
of the updated letter, partly because the physician wrote
that he was "told to specify other more severe reasons
as to why this patient required home bound schooling,"
and partly because the physician's medical license was
previously restricted "due to unprofessional or
dishonorable conduct" likely to deceive, defraud, or
injure the public.
returned to school for one day on May 1, 2015, and his
teachers reported that he appeared happy to be back.
Nevertheless, C.J. did not return to eighth grade after May
1. Overall, C.J. missed almost his entire second semester of
committee met on June 11, 2015 and approved C.J.'s
promotion to ninth grade but recommended that he participate
in Extended School Year ("ESY") classes over the
summer. C.J.'s parents were present at meetings when his
eligibility for ESY programming was discussed and were
formally notified by voicemail and email on June 18 that he
could begin ESY classes on June 22. By June 22, ...