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Cayla R., et al v. Morgan Hill Unified School

March 27, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edward J. Davila United States District Judge



Presently before the court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs Cayla R. and Cathleen R.'s ("Plaintiffs") First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). See Docket Item No. 44. Defendants are Morgan Hill Unified School District ("District"), and its employees, Thomas Fried and Christopher Rizzuto (collectively "Defendants").*fn1 As in their motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint, Defendants claim that Plaintiffs have failed to exhaust administrative remedies pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq., and, therefore, 23 cannot litigate their claims in federal court.

Based on the parties' submissions and oral argument, the court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion to dismiss. 27

against Defendants for violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("§ 504"), 29 § 504.

When she was three and a half years old, she fell into a six-week coma as a result of her disease, 9 which severely diminished her brain function. Id. at ¶ 33. Currently, Cayla uses only a few words, 10 has limited physical mobility, suffers from seizures, and receives food through a tube. Id.

Plaintiffs allege that from March 1999 through March 2010, the District failed to provide

Cayla with appropriate educational services. Id. at ¶ 14. On June 4, 2008, Plaintiffs filed an 13 administrative action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 14

("IEP") and had been denied a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") due to a lack of 16 appropriate services. Id. at ¶ 19. The parties reached a settlement agreement on October 3, 2008. 17

Id. at ¶ 20. The agreement resolved all claims through October 31, 2008 and required the District 18 to arrange and fund IEP assessments for Cayla. Id. at ¶¶ 36-37. 19

According to the FAC, the District failed to ensure the assessments were completed in a 20 timely manner and only provided Cayla with home and hospital instruction through approximately March 1, 2010. Id. at ¶¶ 38-40. The District failed to provide Cayla with assistive technology and 22 augmentative communication devices, which she required to meet her educational needs. Id. at ¶ 23

Plaintiffs filed a second administrative complaint on April 7, 2009, and a third complaint was filed on October 8, 2009. Id. at ¶¶ 21-22. The California Office of Administrative Hearings Richard T. Breen issued a decision finding that the District had denied Cayla a FAPE for the 2008-28


This action is brought by Plaintiff Cayla R., by and through her conservator Cathleen R., U.S.C. §§ 794 et seq. Cayla is an adult student with a disability who is entitled to protection under According to the FAC, Cayla is eighteen years old and suffers from Glycogen Storage Disease, a disease that affects her blood sugar levels. See FAC, Docket Item No. 39, at ¶ 32. 8

1415, because Cayla had not been provided with a complete Individualized Education Program ("OAH") conducted a hearing in March 2010; in April 2010 Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") school year and the 2009-10 school year through October 8, 2009. Id. at ¶¶ 22-25. The District was ordered to reimburse Cayla's parents for the cost of assistive services and to provide 384 hours 2 of assistive, educational, and therapeutic services. Id. at ¶ 25. On June 17, 2010, the District 3 completed an IEP for Cayla. Id. at ¶ 44. On July 9, 2010, Plaintiffs filed a fourth administrative 4 complaint under IDEA based on Defendants' persistent failure to offer Cayla an appropriate 5 placement and related services during the 2009-10 school year. Id. at ¶ 26. The parties reached a 6 settlement agreement on November 15, 2010. Id. at ¶ 27. 7


February 10, 2010, Plaintiffs requested a copy of procedural safeguards applicable to § 504 10 complaints against the District, but they were never provided with a complete copy. Id. at ¶¶ 45-11

13 causes of action: (1) violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 749 et seq.; 14

Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Complaint, Docket Item No. 1. On November 19, 16

2010, the matter was referred to mediation. See Docket Item No. 12. Defendants filed a motion to 17 dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint on December 23, 2010. See Docket Item No. 23. Judge James Ware 18 granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend on March 10, 2011. See 19

On April 11, 2011, Plaintiffs filed their FAC against the District and its employees alleging

21 a violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act from October 31, 2008 through March 1, 2010. See 22

Docket Item No. 39, at ¶ 29. Plaintiffs seek damages, which are not available under the IDEA. Id. 23

Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). The Constitution grants federal 27 courts jurisdiction over "all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution [and] the 28

Plaintiffs allege that they attempted to prepare a complaint against the District for excluding

Cayla from educational access in violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As such, on 9


On September 23, 2010, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Defendants alleging three (2) breach of contract; and (3) violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth 15 Docket Item No. 38. The case was transferred to this court on April 25, 2011. 20


Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only that power authorized by Article III of the United States Constitution and statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto. See 26 Laws of the United States." U.S. Cont. art. III, § 2, cl. 1. Here, Plaintiff raises federal claims 2 under 29 U.S.C. § 749. 3

5 exhaust their administrative remedies under the IDEA or plead excusal under a recognized 6 exception to the IDEA exhaustion requirement. Plaintiffs argue that the FAC is an action to 7 redress the deprivation of rights secured by the Rehabilitation Act and therefore does not require 8 exhaustion under the IDEA. However, if exhaustion is required, Plaintiffs claim that they have 9 exhausted all remedies available under the IDEA by utilizing the Act's formal and informal 10 administrative procedures. Plaintiffs further claim that exhaustion is excused because it would be 11 futile and inadequate.

providing education to disabled children. The principal purpose of the Act is "to ensure that all 15 children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education . . . [and] to 16 ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected." 20 17

U.S.C. § 1400(d). States participating in the IDEA are required to provide students with 18 disabilities with an IEP in furtherance of the goal of providing students with an appropriate public 19 education. 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1)(A), (a)(4). 20

21 concerning the child's educational program and allows parents to obtain administrative and judicial 22 review of decisions they deem unsatisfactory or inappropriate. Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 311-23

12 (1988). This includes an opportunity to present complaints, mediate disputes, secure an 24 impartial due process hearing with respect to any complaint, and to appeal any decisions and 25 findings to the state educational agency. Id.; Payne v. Peninsula Sch. Dist., 653 F.3d 863, 871 (9th 26

Cir. 2011). The remedies available under the IDEA are in addition to the remedies parents and 27 students have under other laws. The IDEA's exhaustion requirement only applies when the civil 28 action brought under another law "'seek[s] relief that is also available' under the IDEA." Payne,


Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' ยง 504 claims, arguing that ...

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