SUSAN GIANNINI as parent and natural guardian on behalf of G. DOE, a minor
COUNCIL ON ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION, EVA-MARIE MANCUSO, AMY BARETTA, COLLEEN A. CALLAGHAN, KARIN L. FORBES, JO EVA GAINES, PATRICK A. GUIDA, LAWRENCE PURTILL, MATHIES J. SANTOS, JOYCE STEVOS, in their official capacities as members of the RHODE ISLAND BOARD OF EDUCATION, COUNCIL ON ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION, and CUMBERLAND SCHOOL DEPARTMENT
County Superior Court.
Plaintiff: Veronika Kot, Esq.; Nora Salomon, Esq.
Defendant: Paul V. Sullivan, Esq.; Stephen Adams, Esq.
the Court is a request for fees and costs under Chapter 92 of
title 42, entitled "Equal Access to Justice Act"
(EAJA) filed by Plaintiff Susan Giannini as parent and
natural guardian of G. Doe, her minor son. Previously, this
Court ruled in her favor with respect to an appeal from the
denial of her request for a waiver of fees for summer school
classes. Jurisdiction is pursuant to the EAJA.
following is a summary of the facts and travel of this case.
A more detailed recitation may be found in Giannini v.
Council on Elementary and Secondary Educ., No. PC
2014-5240 (Decision, Mar. 30, 2016).
end of the 2011-2012 school year, Plaintiff's son, G.
Doe, needed three credits in core courses to advance into the
tenth grade at Cumberland High School. As a result, G. Doe
was faced with a Hobson's choice: repeat ninth grade or
make up the missing credits during the summer. G. Doe decided
to make up the credits through the Cumberland Learning
Academy for School Success Credit Recovery Program (summer
school) at a cost of $700.
of limited means, Plaintiff sent a request to the
Superintendent of the Cumberland School Department for a
waiver of the summer school fees so that her son could attend
the classes. While awaiting a response to her request,
Plaintiff paid the fees. In the meantime, she contacted Rhode
Island Legal Services (Legal Services) for assistance in her
quest for fee reimbursement. It was at this point that
Plaintiff, through Legal Services, questioned the legality of
summer school fees in the first instance by asserting that
they were violative of the free nature of a public school
education. The School Department ultimately refused, without
explanation, to reimburse Plaintiff the cost of her son's
summer school classes.
Plaintiff appealed the School Department's decision to
the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. In
doing so, Plaintiff sought a determination that school
committees do not have any legal authority to charge fees for
hearing, the parties agreed that the issue on appeal was
purely a legal matter because the underlying facts were
undisputed. Plaintiff took the position that the fee was
illegal because G. Doe had to attend summer school in order
to pass into the tenth grade. In response, the School
Department alleged that the fee was not mandatory because G.
Doe could have chosen to repeat ninth grade or to attend a
different, Department-approved summer program.
rather than addressing the legality of summer school fees,
the Commissioner ordered the taking of evidence on a matter
not raised by Plaintiff. The Plaintiff appealed the
Commissioner's decision to the Rhode Island Board of
Education (Board), which later remanded the matter to the
Commissioner to determine whether school districts could
charge fees for summer school. In doing so, the Board
observed that an unresolved factual issue existed as to
whether summer school classes were mandatory or optional.
remand, the Commissioner found that Cumberland's summer
school program was discretionary and outside the scope of the
school year because it was not subject to the requirements
set forth in the Rhode Island Department of Education's
Basic Education Program (BEP) Manual. As a result, the
Commissioner concluded that the Cumberland School District
had authority to legally charge a fee for summer school
classes. Defendant Council on Elementary and Secondary
Education, in its capacity as the Board's
successor-in-interest, affirmed the Commissioner's
decision. The Plaintiff timely appealed ...