On May 11, 2011, the court heard argument on defendants' motion to dismiss. Defendants were represented by Hans Gillinger, Gibeaut, Mahan and Briscoe; plaintiffs were represented by Diana B. Glick, Ruderman & Knox, LLP.
According to the complaint, R.A. was born on May 18, 2006. Compl. ¶ 24. On May 12, 2009, Amy K. Brown, Ph.D., on referral from the Valley Mountain Regional Center, assessed R.A. and diagnosed him with autism. Id. ¶¶ 25--27. He receives services from the Regional Center. Id. ¶¶ 8, 25.
During April and May 2010, personnel working for the defendant, Amador County School District (District), conducted an assessment of R.A. and concluded he was ineligible for special education as a student with autism. Id. ¶¶ 32--34. A later assessment administered by the District, consisting of ratings scales for parents to provide responses, yielded a score suggesting it is "very likely" that R.A. is a child with autism; these scores were not included with the assessment report. Id. ¶¶ 35--36, 43--46.
In June 2010, the plaintiffs filed a special education complaint against defendants, seeking an order finding that the District failed to properly assess R.A. Id. ¶ 12. On August 16 and 20, 2010, R.A.'s parents, Roshelle and Kenneth A., paid for private speech, language, and occupational therapy assessments for R.A. Id. ¶¶ 40, 47. An administrative hearing held on August 31 and September 1, 2010 considered whether the District's evaluation was proper and if the plaintiffs were entitled to reimbursement for the cost of the independent evaluations conducted earlier in the month. Id. ¶¶ 12--13. The plaintiffs did not seek a determination that the District had denied R.A. a free appropriate public education (FAPE). ECF No. 9 at 2 n.2. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a written opinion on October 19, 2010 denying the plaintiffs' claims and concluding that the District properly evaluated R.A. in all areas of suspected need. Compl. ¶¶ 14--15.
Plaintiffs filed the instant suit on January 7, 2011 under the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq. Id. ¶¶ 6, 11. Defendants filed this motion to dismiss and motion to strike on May 4, 2011. ECF No. 15.
Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move to dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim "based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balisteri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). The court must accept all factual allegations pleaded in the complaint as true and construe them and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337--38 (9th Cir. 1996). The court need not, however, accept "legal conclusions" as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). The complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. "A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949.
Determining whether a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950. Ultimately, the inquiry focuses on the interplay between the factual allegations of the complaint and the dispositive issues of law in the action. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). Leave to amend should be granted unless the defect is not curable by amendment. Vess v. Ciba-Geigy Corp. USA, 317 F.3d 1097, 1108 (9th Cir. 2003). A court's consideration of documents attached to a complaint or incorporated by reference or matter of judicial notice will not convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 907 (9th Cir. 2003); Parks Sch. of Bus. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995).
The impetus behind the IDEA (and its predecessor, the Education of the Handicapped Act) was to provide full educational opportunities to disabled children and to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected. Winkelman v. Parma City Sch. Dist., 550 U.S. 516, 523 (2007); Bd. Of Educ. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 179--80 (1982). An autistic child may be deemed a "child with a disability" if he "by reason, thereof, needs special education and related services." 20 U.S.C. § 1401(3). The ultimate goal is a free appropriate public education (FAPE), tailored to the needs of the particular child by means of an individualized educational program (IEP). Winkelman, 550 U.S. at 524; 20 U.S.C. § 1401(14). A parent of a "child with a disability" has the right to an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation conducted by a public agency and requests one from the agency. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(1); 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.502(a), (b)(1)--(2).
The IDEA provides "extensive procedural requirements" and gives parents the right to bring a complaint "with respect to any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a [FAPE] . . . ." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(6)(A); Rowley, 458 U.S. at 182. Any such complaint must be resolved at an impartial due process hearing. 20 U.S.C. §§ 1415(b)(6), (f)(1)(A); Rowley, 458 U.S. at 183. At a hearing based upon procedural violations: ...