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N.R. v. SAN RAMON VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

November 23, 2005.

N.R., a minor, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SAN RAMON VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant. AND RELATED THIRD PARTY CLAIM.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

On October 14, 2005, the Court heard oral argument on defendant San Ramon Valley Unified School District's motion for judgment on the pleadings. After the hearing, the parties submitted supplemental briefing on the effect, if any, of the 2005 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act ("IDEA"). Having considered the arguments of counsel and all the briefing, the Court hereby GRANTS defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

  On January 31, 2005, plaintiffs N.R., L.C., R.P., E.P., and N.B., all minors, filed a complaint against defendant San Ramon Valley Unified School District ("District"). Plaintiffs allege that they are each students with one or more disabilities, and that they are each currently receiving behavioral services from Synergistic Interventions ("SI"), a non-public agency certified by the State of California to provide intensive behavioral support services to special needs children in both home and school settings. See Complaint ¶ 18. Plaintiffs allege that these services are being provided to each of the plaintiffs pursuant to either an Individual Education Program ("IEP") or a settlement agreement with the defendant,*fn1 or both. Id.

  Plaintiffs allege that on January 27, 2005, defendant advised plaintiffs that after February 1, 2005, SI would no longer be available to provide services to any students within the district. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiffs allege that SI informed them that its "unavailability" was the result of a confidential mediation agreement between SI and the District in a lawsuit concerning payment for behavioral services provided to district students. Id. Plaintiffs allege that defendant advised plaintiffs that the District would select new behavioral services providers to begin working with plaintiffs beginning February 2, 2005, regardless of whether the District received parental consent to the new service providers. Id.*fn2

  Plaintiffs seek to prevent defendant from replacing SI with new behavioral services providers, and they allege that defendant is "obligated to continue all current services to plaintiffs as the last agreed upon and implemented services." Id. at ¶ 23. Plaintiffs have alleged three causes of action: (1) declaratory relief under the IDEA and the California Education Code; (2) injunctive relief under the IDEA and California Education Code §§ 56000 et seq.; and (3) breach of contract for alleged violations of settlement agreements between some plaintiffs and defendant. Id. at ¶¶ 22-33.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  "After the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 12(c). Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(c) are substantially identical. See William W. Schwarzer, A. Wallace Tashima & James M. Wagstaffe, Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial § 9:319. Under either provision, a court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint, to be taken for these purposes as true, entitle the plaintiff to a legal remedy. Id. If the complaint fails to articulate a legally sufficient claim, the complaint should be dismissed or judgment granted on the pleadings. DISCUSSION

  1. First and Second Causes of Action Under the IDEA and California Education Code

  The District contends that plaintiffs' first and second causes of action should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA. The IDEA provides that a complainant may file an action under the Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or other federal laws which protect the rights of children with disabilities "except that before the filing of a civil action under such laws seeking relief that is also available under this subchapter, the procedures under subsections (f) and (g) of this section shall be exhausted to the same extent as would be required had the action been brought under this subchapter." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(1) (as amended July 1, 2005).

  Under the IDEA, parents are entitled to complain "with respect to any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free appropriate public education to the child." Id. at § 1415(b)(6)(A). After making their complaint, parents are entitled to "an impartial due process hearing." Id. at § 1415(f). A decision of the due process hearing "shall be final," id. at § 1415(i)(1)(A), except that "[a]ny party aggrieved by the findings and decision . . . shall have the right to bring a civil action with respect to the complaint presented pursuant to this section, which action may be brought in any State court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States." Id. at § 1415(i)(2)(A).

  California Education Code §§ 56500-56507 sets forth the administrative scheme for due process hearings under the IDEA. Under these provisions, parents may initiate a due process hearing regarding a proposal to change identification, assessment or educational placement of a child, and such hearing will be conducted at the state level. See Cal. Educ. Code § 5601(a)(1), (b)(4).

  Here, plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief regarding educational services specified in their IEPs. Plaintiffs request the Court to "maintain SI as the current behavior support services provider for plaintiffs until the agreed-upon transition process has been successfully completed." Complaint, Prayer ¶ 1. Plaintiffs allege that defendant is in violation of the IDEA's "stay put" provision, which plaintiffs contend prohibits defendant from changing services providers. Id. at ¶ 26. The relief plaintiffs seek is available under the IDEA, and thus plaintiffs are required to exhaust their administrative remedies. See Hoeft, 967 F.2d at 1309 (plaintiffs required to exhaust administrative remedies because "the administrative process has the potential for producing the very result plaintiffs seek, namely, statutory compliance."); see also Tyler B. v. San Antonio Elem. Sch. Dist., 253 F. Supp. 2d 1111, 1118 (N.D. Cal. 2003).

  Plaintiffs contend that they are not required to exhaust administrative remedies because it is "improbable" that they will obtain adequate relief through administrative procedures. In support of this argument, plaintiffs assert that "it is extremely unlikely that, as a result of a due process hearing, any plaintiff could obtain equitable or legal relief to adequately address a situation where, as here, plaintiffs have alleged that defendant district has attempted to contract with a third party for the purpose of intentionally and wrongfully interfering with plaintiffs' contractual and statutory rights." Plaintiffs' Opposition at 2. Plaintiffs offer no case law or statutory authority for this proposition. Moreover, plaintiffs have not demonstrated that any of the exceptions to the administrative exhaustion requirement, as described in Hoeft, are ...


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