United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING STATE DEFENDANT CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION'S MOTION OBJECTING TO, AND SEEKING TO SET ASIDE, THE COURT MONITOR'S JANUARY 9, 2014 REPORT
THELTON E. HENDERSON, District Judge.
This matter came before the Court on June 23, 2014, on State Defendant's motion to set aside the Court Monitor's January 9, 2014 Report. Having considered the arguments of the parties and the papers submitted, the Court now DENIES State Defendant's motion for the reasons set forth below.
In July 2011, the Court ordered the parties to address issues related to State Defendant, California Department of Education's ("CDE") compliance with Section 13.0 of the First Amended Consent Decree ("FACD") in their upcoming status statements. Section 13.0 of the FACD reads in pertinent part:
If, after considering the motion(s) of Defendants and any opposition thereto, and after conducting an Evidentiary Hearing, if necessary, the Court determines that... (2) the state-level system in place is capable of ensuring continued compliance with the law and the provision of [a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE")] to children with disabilities in Ravenswood, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that there exists in Ravenswood a system capable of providing FAPE to Class Members and in CDE a system to adequately monitor, supervise and ensure FAPE to Class Members...
FACD § 13.0. The Court specifically asked the parties to consider "how compliance with this requirement should be measured, and when such measurement should begin." Docket No. 1640. CDE maintained that per the routine oversight activities of the United States Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs ("OSEP"), it had complied with Section 13.0. Docket No. 1670 at 5-7. Plaintiffs argued that CDE should be required to demonstrate that it had satisfied Section 13.0, and that the Court Monitor (the "Monitor") should be charged with periodically reviewing and reporting on CDE's system as it applied to Ravenswood. Docket No. 1669 at 10.
In December 2011, the Court ordered the parties to meet and confer regarding the issue. Docket No. 1674. The parties were unable to reach a resolution, and the Monitor was tasked with making determinations regarding the parties' disputes. The Monitor offered the following "General Standard" as the standard to measure CDE compliance:
whether CDE's statewide monitoring system, as applied to Ravenswood, has been implemented adequately; has identified both compliance and noncompliance appropriately based on adequate evidence and reasoning; and has resulted in appropriate corrective actions, the implementation of required corrective actions, and the timely correction of identified noncompliance.
Docket No. 1734 at 5-6. CDE challenged the standard, arguing once more that the Court should defer to OSEP. Docket No. 1766 at 5. The Court concluded that OSEP had not specifically determined that CDE's system was capable of ensuring compliance and FAPE in Ravenswood such that any deference was warranted. Docket No. 1793 at 8. The Court also rejected Plaintiffs' request that the Monitor be charged with periodically evaluating CDE's monitoring system as it applied to Ravenswood, finding that Plaintiffs had not demonstrated that such monitoring was necessary at that time. Id. at 4-5.
After the Court's ruling, the parties adopted the Fifth Joint Statement, in which they agreed to the General Standard as the applicable standard, and stipulated to the following process that the parties would employ for evaluating CDE compliance: CDE implements its state-level monitoring system; Plaintiffs may object to any aspect of the design and implementation; CDE may then respond to those objections; and the Monitor then resolves any disputes. If any party disagrees with the Monitor's determinations on the disputed issues, the party may file a motion to set aside those determinations. Fifth Joint Statement, Docket No. 1799, approved by the Court in its January 2, 2013 Order, Docket No. 1803.
Consistent with that process, on May 10, 2013, Plaintiffs submitted objections to the design of CDE's state-level monitoring system and to the implementation of the Special Education Self-Review ("SESR") component of that system. CDE responded to those objections in a letter to Plaintiffs on May 31, 2013, and in a letter directed to the Monitor on August 26, 2013. On January 9, 2014, the Monitor issued extensive determinations addressing the approximately 42 remaining disputes between the parties. For each objection, the Monitor explained Plaintiffs' objection and CDE's response, engaged in his own analysis of the objection, and determined whether or not Plaintiffs' objection was valid. Where the Monitor agreed that Plaintiffs had raised a legitimate objection as to whether CDE's plan was satisfying Section 13.0, the Monitor set forth outcomes CDE should attempt to reach, and explained the necessity of developing and implementing a corrective action plan to reach those outcomes.
On April 26, 2014, CDE moved to set aside the Monitor's January 9, 2014 determinations. Rather than disputing individual determinations made by the Monitor, CDE asserts that it has actually met Section 13.0's requirements; and in the alternative, that the Monitor's determinations exceed the scope of relief authorized in this case.
A. Evidentiary ...