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E. L. v. Chapel Hill-Carrboro Bd. of Educ.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 3, 2014

E. L., by and through her parents, Gina Lorsson and Devin Lorsson, Plaintiff -- Appellant,
v.
CHAPEL HILL-CARRBORO BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant -- Appellee. NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION, Amicus Supporting Appellee

Argued September 16, 2014

Page 510

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 511

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, at Greensboro. Thomas D. Schroeder, District Judge. (1:12-cv-00029-TDS-JEP). Judge Diaz wrote the opinion, in which Judge Duncan and Judge Agee joined.

ARGUED:

Robert Christopher Ekstrand, EKSTRAND & EKSTRAND LLP, Durham, North Carolina, for Appellant.

Kenneth Alexander Soo, THARRINGTON SMITH LLP, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Stefanie A. Smith, EKSTRAND & EKSTRAND LLP, Durham, North Carolina, for Appellant.

Colin A. Shive, THARRINGTON SMITH LLP, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

Allison B. Schafer, Christine T. Scheef, NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Amicus Supporting Appellee.

Before DUNCAN, AGEE, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 512

DIAZ, Circuit Judge:

E.L. is a nine-year-old girl with autism. This appeal arises out of her parents' dissatisfaction with the special education services provided to her by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education (" the school board" ), and their administrative complaint under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (the " IDEA" ), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.. An administrative law judge determined that the school board violated the IDEA by failing to provide E.L. required speech therapy; however, in all other respects, the ALJ found her special education program appropriate. On the school board's appeal, a state review officer reversed the ALJ's conclusion regarding E.L.'s speech therapy, determining that the school board did not violate the IDEA.

In her civil action seeking judicial review of the administrative proceeding, E.L. for the first time appealed the ALJ's conclusion that, except for its failure to provide required speech therapy for parts of the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, the school board did not violate the IDEA. Despite failing to contest the ALJ's adverse decision before the state review officer, E.L. contends that she properly exhausted her administrative remedies under the IDEA. We conclude that E.L. did not exhaust her administrative remedies and that the school board did not violate the IDEA. We therefore affirm the district court's judgment.

I.

E.L. suffers from autism, which is compounded by complex motor and speech disabilities, resulting in global developmental delays. These significant disabilities led her parents to seek early childhood intervention services from the school board. The school board provided E.L. with an individualized education program when she turned three years old, which placed her in the partial-day preschool program at the University of North Carolina's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (the " Institute" ).

E.L.'s individualized education program for the 2008-09 school year afforded her a range of services, including speech, physical, and occupational therapy, all of which E.L. received onsite at the Institute. E.L.'s 2009-10 program included a split placement, with E.L. attending the Institute for two partial days per week and The Mariposa School[1] for three partial days per week. In March 2010, E.L.'s parents withdrew her from the Institute entirely

Page 513

and enrolled her at Mariposa for all ...


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