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S.M. v. San Jose Unified School District

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

April 13, 2015

S.M., by and through his Guardian ad Litem, J.R., Plaintiff,


LUCY H. KOH, District Judge.

Plaintiff S.M. ("Plaintiff"), by and through his mother and guardian ad litem, J.R., has brought suit against Defendants San Jose Unified School District (the "School District"), superintendent Vincent Matthews ("Matthews"), assistant superintendent Nancy Albarran ("Albarran"), director of curriculum Jackie Zeller ("Zeller"), principal Deepa Mukherjee ("Mukherjee"), and assistant principal Brad Craycroft ("Craycroft") (collectively, "Defendants"). Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 27.

The Court finds this motion suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b) and hereby VACATES the motion hearing set for April 16, 2015, at 1:30 p.m. The initial case management conference scheduled for April 29, 2015, at 2:00 p.m. remains as set. Having considered the parties' submissions, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court hereby GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss with leave to amend.


A. Factual Allegations

In 2011, Plaintiff was diagnosed with Klinefelter Syndrome, a chromosomal condition that affects male physical and cognitive development. First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), ECF No. 26 ¶¶ 40-41. Plaintiff also suffers from attention deficit hyperactive disorder. Id. ¶ 42. Since 2011, Plaintiff has been eligible for accommodations under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Section 504"), 29 U.S.C. § 794.

In August 2013, the beginning of Plaintiff's junior year of high school, Plaintiff enrolled in an advanced placement calculus course ("AP Calculus"). FAC ¶¶ 46, 50. On August 2, 2013, thirteen days before the start of school, Plaintiff's mother requested that Defendants convene a Section 504 meeting to discuss what accommodations would be necessary for Plaintiff during the upcoming year. Id. ¶¶ 51, 55. No meeting was held until September 27, 2013-the seventh week of the school year. Id. ¶ 52. In the meantime, Plaintiff struggled with AP Calculus, causing him anxiety and weight loss. Id. ¶ 58. Plaintiff's mother asked that he be allowed to drop the class, and, according to Plaintiff, his teacher encouraged him to do so. Id. ¶ 59. The problem, Plaintiff says, is that his parents were told by high school staff that Plaintiff could not drop a course after the third day of school, even though, unbeknownst to Plaintiff's parents at the time, the School District had a written policy allowing students six weeks to drop classes. Id. ¶ 53.

At the September 27, 2013 meeting, Plaintiff's mother was told once again that Plaintiff could not drop AP Calculus because the three-day window had passed. FAC ¶ 60. On October 29, 2013, Plaintiff's mother wrote an e-mail to Craycroft, the school's assistant principal, asking him to allow her son to enroll in a lower-level math class. Id. ¶ 62. She was told no exceptions would be made. Id. ¶ 63. Mukherjee, the school's principal, confirmed the three-day policy in an October 31, 2013 e-mail. Id. ¶ 64. Plaintiff's mother appealed to Zeller, the School District's director of curriculum, who wrote in a November 1, 2013 e-mail that Plaintiff would receive a failing grade if he dropped AP Calculus because more than six weeks of the semester had passed. Id. ¶ 65. Matthews and Albarran, respectively the School District's superintendent and assistant superintendent, affirmed Zeller's position. Id. ¶ 66.

On February 5, 2014, Plaintiff's mother requested another Section 504 hearing, this time to discuss Defendants' alleged failure to provide her son with appropriate accommodations. Id. ¶ 71. Five days later, Plaintiff was permitted to drop AP Calculus, but he was assigned a failing grade for both semesters. Id. ¶ 72. On May 29, 2014, the day before the scheduled Section 504 hearing, the hearing officer disqualified herself, prompting Defendants to cancel the hearing. Id. ¶¶ 80-81. The Section 504 hearing was ultimately convened on October 13, 2014, with Sue Hollingshead (the "Officer") presiding. Id. ¶¶ 83-84. At the hearing, Plaintiff requested that the Officer order the School District to fund an independent Section 504 evaluation of Plaintiff's accommodations and to remove the failing AP Calculus grade from Plaintiff's transcript. Id. ¶ 86. On November 21, 2014, the Officer issued a decision denying Plaintiff's requests for relief. Id. ¶ 87; see ECF No. 24 at 2.

B. Procedural History

On August 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed his original complaint in the instant lawsuit. ECF No. 1. On September 25, 2014, Defendants moved to dismiss this action, ECF No. 10, which was reassigned to the undersigned on October 2, 2014, ECF No. 15. Following the Officer's November 21, 2014 decision, the parties stipulated on December 18, 2014, to allow Plaintiff to file the FAC. ECF No. 24. The next day, the Court granted the parties' stipulation and, accordingly, denied as moot Defendants' then-pending Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 25.

Plaintiff filed his FAC on December 30, 2014. ECF No. 26. In his FAC, Plaintiff asserted three causes of action: one for violating Section 504 and two under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") for violations of Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. FAC ¶¶ 88-116. The Section 504 claim is asserted against the School District, while the Section 1983 claims are asserted against the named individual defendants. See id. On January 13, 2015, Defendants again moved to dismiss this action. ECF No. 27 ("Mot."). Plaintiff opposed the motion on January 27, 2015. ECF No. 30 ("Opp."). Defendants replied on February 3, 2015. ECF No. 31 ("Reply").


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