I.Z.M., by and through his parents and natural guardians, et al. Plaintiffs - Appellants
Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools, Independent School District No. 196, et al. Defendants - Appellees Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. Amicus on Behalf of Appellants
Submitted: February 8, 2017
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - Minneapolis
LOKEN, COLLOTON, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
suffers from severe vision problems, a disability entitling
him to a "free appropriate public education"
("FAPE") under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400
et seq. For ninth grade, I.Z.M. attended Eastview
High School, part of Independent School District No. 196
("the District"), consisting of the public schools
in Rosemount, Apple Valley, and Eagan, Minnesota. One FAPE
requirement is "special education and related services .
. . provided in conformity with the [child's]
individualized education program" ("IEP"). 20
U.S.C. § 1401(9)(D). I.Z.M.'s IEP provided that he
"will use Braille for all classroom assignments and
instruction" and specified other supplemental aids and
services to be provided. See §
1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(IV), (d)(3)(B)(iii). Upset with the
District's perceived failures in providing these
services, I.Z.M. and his parents, L.M. and T.M.,
filed a complaint with the Minnesota
Department of Education. After a four-day evidentiary
hearing, a state Administrative Law Judge issued a
thirty-nine-page Order and supporting Memorandum concluding
that the District provided I.Z.M. a FAPE and dismissing the
then filed this action in federal court for judicial review
of the ALJ's decision, as the IDEA authorizes.
See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2). The Complaint
joined non-IDEA claims for relief under Title II of the
Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C.
§ 12131 et seq., and § 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794. The
district court granted the District's motions for
judgment on the administrative record on the IDEA claim and
for summary judgment on the non-IDEA claims. I.Z.M. appeals,
arguing the court committed errors of law in dismissing each
claim. Reviewing these issues of law de novo, we
rejected I.Z.M.'s claim that the District failed to
provide a FAPE in five distinct ways. In the district court,
I.Z.M. challenged the ALJ's decision on only two issues,
so the others need not be considered. The ALJ stated the two
Whether the School District consistently provided accessible,
accurate and timely instructional material, especially in
Braille, such that the lack of materials denied the Student
access to involvement and the ability to make progress in the
general education curriculum and to make progress on his IEP
Whether the School District timely provided functioning
assistive technology devices and maintained, repaired or
replaced those devices as needed such that the lack of
assistive technology denied the Student access to involvement
and the ability to make progress in the general education
curriculum and to make progress on his IEP goals.
and his parents testified that the District failed to provide
accessible instructional materials to I.Z.M. in a timely
manner as well as instruction enabling him to improve his
Braille skills. In her thirty-nine page decision, the ALJ
explained at length why I.Z.M. failed to meet his burden to
prove the denial of a FAPE by a preponderance of the
evidence. See M.M. ex rel. L.R. v. Special Sch. Dist. No.
1, 512 F.3d 455, 458-59 (8th Cir.), cert.
denied, 555 U.S. 979 (2008). The ALJ found that
"the provisions in the IEP were largely, although not
perfectly, implemented." Regarding access to Braille
materials, although the District did not provide I.Z.M.
Brailled materials one hundred percent of the time, the ALJ
found "very little evidence of times when materials were
not available in some accessible format." Most failures
involved not entire textbooks, but short assignments within
I.Z.M.'s capacity to read with alternative aids and even
large print. Regarding provision of assistive technology, the
ALJ found that, although problems arose, "[t]he number
of issues the Student had could be expected given the number
and complexity of the devices the Student was provided,
" and District staff "were almost always
immediately responsive to the issues."
findings were critical to the ALJ's determination. The
ALJ found that I.Z.M. "tended to generalize and . . .
exaggerat[e] the issues that he had at school." The ALJ
found there were "times when acrimony and accusations
[by L.M.] depleted staff time and energy and took time away
from supporting the student." When witness testimony
conflicted, the ALJ credited the District's witnesses.
Based on this testimony, the ALJ found that I.Z.M. was
capable of reading Braille, but often chose not to do so, and
concluded his lack of progress in reading
Braille did "not negate the fact that he
received significant educational benefit from his
participation and progress in his classes at the School
District." I.Z.M. "continued to make progress in
the regular education curriculum and even in Honors classes,
" and "met, and often exceeded, the
ability to communicate with the proficiency of his
found "that the School District implemented the
Student's IEP such that the Student received educational
benefit." The District "took all reasonable steps
to provide instructional materials to the Student in
accessible formats and at the same time as the other children
received instructional materials." I.Z.M. failed to
prove that any lack of accessible materials denied him
"access to involvement and the ability to make progress
in the general educational curriculum and to make progress on
his IEP goals." Based on these detailed findings, the
ALJ concluded that the ...