COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW APPEALS
BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS
In re: Student v. Springfield Public Schools
BSEA # 2208440
RULING ON PARENT’S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY
AND PARENT’S REQUEST FOR CLARIFICATION AND ORDER FOR EVIDENCE
This matter comes before the Hearing Officer on Parent’s Motion to Compel Discovery (the Motion), filed with the BSEA on October 12, 2022.1 In it, Parent asserts that she had made her discovery requests on September 17, 2022 and that the Springfield Public Schools (Springfield or the District) has failed to comply. Parent argues that she opposes any extension and requests sanctions for late delivery of discovery. In addition, on October 21, Parent filed Parent’s Request for Clarification and Order for Evidence (Request)2 asserting that the District’s response to the parent’s discovery requests was late and that the District “knowingly violated discovery rules.” Parent further asserted that the District should not be allowed to request an extension to the discovery timeline via email and that “[t]hese … violations of rules [are] extremely prejudicing the parent.” Parent requested “an Order directing the District to produce evidence by end of day Monday o[r] be sanctioned and admonished.”
On October 24, 2022, Springfield filed Springfield Public Schools’ Motion for Brief Extension of Time to Fully Respond to Discovery Requests. In it, the District requested until Friday, October 28, 2022 to provide all requested documents still outstanding.
Neither party has requested a hearing on the Motion or the Request. Because neither testimony nor oral argument would advance the Hearing Officer’s understanding of the issues involved, this Ruling is issued without a hearing, pursuant to Bureau of Special Education Appeals Hearing Rule VII(D).
For the reasons articulated below, Parent’s Motion is ALLOWED and the District is ordered to produce the requested documents by the close of business day on October 25, 2022. Parent’s Request is hereby DENIED.
RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY3
On April 26, 2022, Parent filed a Request for Hearing in this matter. On September 15, 2022, Parent sent the District her discovery requests, seeking the following:
“1. Emails regarding [Student], [Student’s Parent], [Advocate] in his case dating back two years from today.
2. Text messages regarding [Student], [Student’s Parent], [Advocate] dating back two years
3. Redacted IEP’s[sic] for all students in the Springfield Kiley SEBBS[sic] program
4. Ms. Harris’s Title IX certification
5. Title IX trainings in the district dating back two years
6. [R]edacted title IX complaints for 2021-2022 school year
7. [C]opy of student access log for his special education file[.]”
On September 19, 2022, the District filed a motion seeking a protective order relative to Requests No. 5 and 6. The motion for protective order was subsequently granted via Ruling on Multiple Motions, on October 21, 2022. Said October 21, 2022 Ruling also instructed the parties to file all subsequent pleadings in accordance with BSEA Hearing Rules.
On October 13, 2022, the District provided parent with the redacted IEPs in accordance with Request No. 3. On October 18, 2022, the District provided Parent with the student’s access logs in accordance with Request No. 7.
Via email on October 20, 2022, the District indicated that the emails are the only outstanding item. The District has accumulated the emails, but they require a high level of redaction as to attorney/client privilege and names of other students. Via email on October 21, 2022, the District indicated that the District does not issue work cell phones, and that only Directors and Principals receive stipends for the use of their phones for work related matters. In any event, it was not anticipated that there were any texts responsive to the request.
Rule V of the BSEA Hearing Rules governs the discovery process before the BSEA. Rule V(A) advises that “the parties are encouraged to exchange information cooperatively and by agreement prior to the hearing.” Additionally, parties can request of other parties that they produce documents or answer up to 25 interrogatories within thirty (30) calendar days of being served such requests, unless a Hearing Officer orders otherwise.4 Objections to any discovery requests can be made within ten (10) calendar days of service of the request, or parties can move for a protective order within that timeframe as well.5
Furthermore, 801 CMR 1.01(8)(i) 6 authorizes parties who do not receive some or all the requested discovery responses or answers to file a Motion for an Order Compelling Discovery. It further authorizes a Hearing Officer, in situations for which good cause does not exist to justify failure to comply with an Order granted pursuant to a Motion to Compel, to issue further orders regarding such failure,
“… as are just, including one or more of the following:
1. An order that designated facts shall be established adversely to the Party failing to comply with the order; or
2. An order refusing to allow the disobedient Party to support or oppose designated claims or defenses, or prohibiting him or her from introducing evidence on designated matters.”
APPLICATION OF LEGAL STANDARDS
Pursuant to BSEA Hearing Rule V(C), the District was required to respond to Parent’s discovery requests by October 15, 2022. The District failed to do so. In addition, when it became clear to the District that it could not comply with Parent’s discovery requests within the appropriate timeline, the District failed to request an extension. Hence, the District has failed to comply with discovery timelines.7 Thus, Parent’s Motion is hereby ALLOWED, and the District is Ordered to fully respond to all of Parent’s Discovery Requests on or before the close of business on October 25, 2022.8
With regard to Parent’s assertion that the District not be allowed to file its motions or requests via email, I note that Parent has done same. In fact, both parties were admonished in the October 21, 2022 Ruling on Multiple Motions to file their pleadings in accordance with BSEA Hearing Rules, which require written motions to be served on all parties and the Hearing Officer simultaneously and to “submit a signed statement that he/she has sent a copy of the motion to the opposing party(ies). The statement must indicate the method (e.g., fax, mail, hand-delivery) by which the copy was sent.”9 However, as the Hearing Officer has not issued any rulings based on motions or requests made via email communications, I cannot find that Parent has been prejudiced by the District’s actions.
Parent’s Request is DENIED. However, I will entertain Parent’s request for sanctions should the District fail to comply with this Order.
Parent’s Motion is ALLOWED and the District is ordered to produce the requested documents by the close of business day on October 25, 2022.
Parent’s Request is hereby DENIED.
Both parties are instructed to submit all future filings in accordance with the BSEA Hearing Rules.
By the Hearing Officer,
Alina Kantor Nir
Date: October 24, 2022