United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
STEPHANIE JOHNSON, individually and on behalf of A.J., a child with a disability, Plaintiff,
CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUC., Defendant.
COGBURN, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion
to Consider Additional Evidence. (Doc. No. 16).
a civil action brought under the Individuals with
Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) and corresponding state
law seeking review of an Administrative Law Judge's
decision to grant a motion for summary judgment in the
underlying administrative proceeding. The motion for summary
judgment was granted in favor of Defendant and disposed of
all claims against Defendant before a due process hearing.
(Final Decision, R. Section 12-1, pp. 108-110).
ALJ's summary judgment decision was based on the
arguments of counsel at the summary judgment hearing,
applicable law, and the following documents, all of which are
already part of the administrative record filed in this
a. Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment along with
the affidavits of Erin Barksdale, principal; Michelle Collis,
speech/language pathologist; Courtney Faithfull, school
psychologist; Rhonda Gomez, special education administrator
Kimberly Morris, accountability specialist; and Meghan Ross,
itinerant coordinating teacher and accompanying Exhibits; and
b. Petitioner's Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment
and Memorandum of Law in Support along with the affidavit of
Petitioner S.J. and accompanying Exhibits.
(Final Decision, R Section 12-1 p. 108).
the second layer of administrative review at the Department
of Public Instruction (“DPI”), Plaintiff made a
motion to the State Review Hearing Officer
(“SHRO”) to supplement the record with additional
evidence not presented to the ALJ at the time of hearing. The
SHRO at DPI denied Plaintiff's motion and affirmed the
ALJ's decision on summary judgment based on the
administrative record received from the Office of
Administrative Hearings and facts drawn from “the
motions, responses, and transcript of the hearing on Summary
Judgment.” (Notice of Filing of Supplement to
Administrative Record, Ex. A, pp. 1, Doc. No. 15).
Plaintiff now brings the pending motion for additional
evidence, in which Plaintiff seeks to present additional
evidence, including Exhibits 1-3, 8-9 and 19-20, which are
certain psychological and medical records of A.J, and
Exhibits 4-7 and 10-18, which are A.J.'s student records.
opposing Plaintiff's motion for the court to consider new
evidence, Defendant contends that this Court's review of
the ALJ's summary judgment decision should be limited to
the same record from the administrative proceeding that the
ALJ and SHRO relied on in reaching their final decisions. For
the following reasons, the Court agrees.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
IDEA provides that a federal court reviewing a state
administrative decision “(i) shall receive the records
of the administrative proceedings; (ii) shall hear additional
evidence at the request of a party; and (iii) basing its
decision on the preponderance of the evidence, shall grant
such relief as the court determines is appropriate.” 20
U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(C) (emphasis added).” R.S.
v. Bd. of Dirs. of Woods Charter Sch. Co., No.
1:16cv119, 2017 WL 354270, at **3-4 (M.D. N.C. Jan. 24,
2017). “To avoid undermining the administrative
proceeding, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has construed
the term ‘additional evidence' narrowly.”
Id. at *4 (citing Springer v. Fairfax Cty. Sch.
Bd., 134 F.3d 659, 667 (4th Cir. 1998)).
Springer, the Fourth Circuit explained that
‘[a] lax interpretation of ‘additional
evidence' would reduce the proceedings before the state
agency to a mere dress rehearsal by allowing appellants to
transform the [IDEA]'s judicial review mechanism into an
unrestricted trial de novo.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted). “The Springer Court
further explained that ‘[a] lenient standard for
additional evidence would [thus] have the consequence of
making the whole IDEA process more time consuming, as parties
scrambled to use the federal court proceeding to patch up
holes in their administrative case.'” Id.
“The Springer Court therefore reasoned that
the exclusion of evidence available during the administrative
proceeding ‘properly encourages thorough administrative
review of special education disputes,' ‘facilitates
the resolution of these disputes sooner rather than
later,' and ‘advances the aims of Congress in
District courts “routinely limit the introduction of
‘additional evidence' to address circumstances that
remained beyond a party's ...