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L.R. v. Hollister School District

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

March 19, 2014

L.R., a minor, by and through her parents, Plaintiff,
v.
HOLLISTER SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES [RE: DOCKET NOS. 1, 3]

EDWARD J. DAVILA, District Judge.

Plaintiff L.R., a minor, by and through her parents ("Plaintiff") moves for an award of attorneys' fees under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("the IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B). The court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(A). The court found this matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b) and previously vacated the hearing. Having reviewed the parties' arguments, the court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys' Fees.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises out of a dispute between Plaintiff and Defendant Hollister School District ("the District") pertaining to the educational support that the District provided to Plaintiff, who is a five-year old girl born with Down syndrome. Pursuant to the IDEA, Plaintiff qualifies for special education services that ensure a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") in the least restrictive environment ("LRE") through the implementation of an Individualized Education Program ("IEP"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1412(a).

The District scheduled and held an initial IEP team meeting on May 17, 2010, during which it offered Plaintiff occupational therapy services. Plaintiff's parent was present but did not consent to the proposed form of occupational therapy services. L.R. v. Hollister Unified Sch. Dist., California Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) Case Number XXXXXXXXXX ("ALJ Decision") at 8, Docket Item No. 1, Ex. 1. The IEP team met again on September 27, 2010, to discuss the same issue; Plaintiff's parent attended and this time agreed with the District's amended proposal. Id . For two months in the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, Plaintiff attended an Early Start preschool class, as well as a Head Start class at the District. Id. at 5. On September 16, 2011, Plaintiff's two teachers held a meeting with her parent to discuss her progress. Id. at 7. They decided to transfer Plaintiff to a smaller Early Start class. Id . Plaintiff's parent agreed with the placement, and the teacher of that smaller class volunteered to act as a temporary aide to assist with Plaintiff's transition. Id.

On May 22, 2012, an IEP meeting was held to discuss Plaintiff's transition from preschool to kindergarten. Id. at 8. At that meeting, no general education teacher was present. Id. at 8. Plaintiff's parents requested that she be placed in a full inclusion classroom for the 2012-2013 school year. Plaintiff's Request for Due Process Hearing, Docket Item No. 7, Ex. 2 at 5. The District explained that such a placement was not possible at Plaintiff's neighborhood school and that it would need more time to further explore the full inclusion option. Id . For this reason, that IEP meeting reflected "no changes" to the previous offer of placement. Id . At the next meeting on July 19, 2012, in which again no general education teacher was present, there was an extensive discussion of Plaintiff's placement options but eventually Plaintiff's parents did not consent to the District's placement proposal. As a result Plaintiff spent the 2012-2013 school year in her "stay-put" placement and her parents decided to take legal action. Id. at 5, see also Hollister School District's Closing Brief, Docket Item No. 7, Ex. 3 at 5-6.

On August 9, 2012, Plaintiff filed a request for a due process hearing ("Complaint") before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the District denied her a FAPE under the IDEA by:

(1) failing to have a general education teacher present at the IEP team meetings held on September 16, 2011, May 22, 2012, and July 19, 2012 ("Issue 1");
(2) failing to provide her with a placement in the least restrictive environment at the IEP team meetings held on May 22 and July 19, 2012 ("Issue 2"); and
(3) failing to provide her with adequate occupational therapy services from August 2010 to July 2011, and from August 2012 onwards ("Issue 3"); Dkt. No. 1, Ex. 1 at 2.

To redress the District's alleged violations of the IDEA, Plaintiff requested that the District provide her with:

(1) a full-inclusion placement with appropriate supplementary aids and services, including an independent inclusion specialist experienced in working with students with Down's Syndrome;
(2) a full time 1:1 appropriately trained instructional aide to assist Plaintiff year round;
(3) compensatory education in all areas of need by a non-public agency; and
(4) reimbursement of her Parents' reasonable attorneys' ...

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