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Yolo County Office of Education v. State of California Department of Education

July 31, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge


Before the Court is Defendant California Department of Education's Motion to Dismiss ("MTD") (ECF No. 9). For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED without leave to amend.


Plaintiff, Yolo County Office of Education ("YCOE"), brings suit against Defendant California Department of Education ("CDE"), pursuant to provisions 20 U.S.C. §§ 1415(b)(6) and 1415(i)(2)(B) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq. (Complaint ("Compl.") ECF No. 2, at 1.) YCOE is aggrieved by what it views as an abuse of discretion by the CDE -- and by failures in the CDE's informal dispute resolution proceedings -- in a dispute that arose between YCOE and a student regarding the use of American Sign Language. In this action, YCOE brings suit against CDE seeking a declaration of the rights and obligations of both parties under the IDEA. (Id.) Before turning to the factual allegations and the parties' contentions, the Court briefly discusses the IDEA, its implementation in California and, of particular relevance here, the dispute resolution process.

A. IDEA Framework, California's Implementation and Dispute

Resolution Process

The IDEA provides that all children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") through individualized education programs ("IEP"). Lake Washington School District No. 414 v. Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 634 F.3d 1065, 1066 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400(d)(1)(A)) and 1415(a)). "The IDEA conditioned federal funding upon state compliance with the statute's 'extensive substantive and procedural requirements.'"

Id. (quoting Hoeft v. Tucson Unified Sch. Dist., 967 F.2d 1298, 1300 (9th Cir. 1992). Under California law, the county office of education of the child's residence is obligated "to identify disabled children, to assess suspected disability, to determine educational placements and related services through an IEP, and to provide needed education and related services." S.A. ex rel.

L.A. v. Tulare County Office of Educ., 2009 WL 30298, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 6, 2009) (citing Cal. Educ. Code, §§ 56300, 56302, 56340, and 56344(b)).

The IDEA provides a framework for dispute resolution that includes both a formal process and an informal one. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415; 34 C.F.R. § 300.151. As part of this process, the State and local agencies must provide students with procedures that allow a parent or a public agency to present a complaint 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 such child." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(6)(A), see also § 1415(b)(7)(A); 34 C.F.R. § 300.507(a)(1). The implementing provisions call for the State Education Agency to address failures to provide appropriate services, and "appropriate future provision of services for all children with disabilities." See 34 C.F.R. § 300.151. The regulations also provide "the public agency with the opportunity to respond to the complaint."

34 C.F.R. § 300.152. The statute provides for either a formal impartial due process hearing under § 1415(f) or an informal voluntary mediation pursuant to § 1415(e).

The formal prong of the IDEA's dispute resolution process is the due process hearing. When a party makes a complaint under § 1415(b)(6), "the parents or the local educational agency involved in such complaint shall have an opportunity for an impartial due process hearing, which shall be conducted by the State educational agency..., as determined by State law..."

20 U.S.C. § 1415(f)(1)(A); see also 34 C.F.R. § 300.506. In California, the "CDE is required to enter into an interagency agreement with another state agency or contract with a nonprofit organization to provide the independent and impartial process." S.A., 2009 WL 30298 at *4 (citing Cal. Educ. Code § 56504.5). The due process hearing's formal procedural features include, inter alia, the right to counsel, the right to present evidence, and the right to cross-examine witnesses. See, e.g., Pedrazza v. Alameda Unified Sch. Dist., 2011 WL 4507111, at *5 (N.D. Cal. 2011) (citing 20 U.S.C. §§ 1415(f),(h); 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.511, 300.512); R.K. v. Hayward Unified Sch. Dist., 2007 WL 4169111, at *3 (N.D. Cal. 2007). Any party to a due process hearing who is aggrieved by the State Education Agency 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..."

20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(A).

The alternative procedural safeguard provided for by the IDEA is the voluntary, informal mediation Complaint Resolution Procedure, available pursuant to § 1415(e).

That provision provides that any State Education Agency or Local Education Agency must "ensure that procedures are established and implemented to allow parties to disputes involving any matter, including matters arising prior to the filing of a complaint pursuant to subsection (b)(6), to resolve such disputes through a voluntary mediation process." 20 ...

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