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Garedakis v. Brentwood Union School District

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 22, 2015

MICHAEL GAREDAKIS, et al., Plaintiffs,


PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, District Judge.

Defendants' motion to dismiss the first cause of action alleged in the second amended complaint ("SAC"), and to strike certain allegations in the SAC, came on for hearing before this court on April 8, 2015. Plaintiffs appeared by their counsel Todd Boley and Zoya Yarnyka; defendant Dina Holder appeared by her counsel Eric Bengston; and the remaining defendants appeared by their counsel Christopher Vincent. Having read the parties' papers and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, the court hereby GRANTS the motion to dismiss and DENIES the motion to strike.


Plaintiffs are six minors who were formerly enrolled at Loma Vista Elementary School ("Loma Vista") and/or Kray Elementary School ("Kray"), within the Brentwood Union School District ("BUSD") in Brentwood, California, and their guardians ad litem and parents. Listed as plaintiffs in the SAC are Michael Garedakis, Tamara Garedakis, and M.G., a minor by and through his guardian ad litem Michael Garedakis; Yolanda Jackson and A.G., a minor by and through her guardian ad litem Yolanda Jackson; Lawrence Gullo, Danielle Gullo, and B.G., a minor, by and through his guardian ad litem Danielle Gullo; Kathryn McGuire and M.R., a minor, by and through his guardian ad litem Kathryn McGuire; Viviana Rose and B.R., a minor, by and through his guardian ad litem Viviana Rose; and Ahmad Razaqi, Dania Razaqi, and E.R., a minor, by and through his guardian ad litem Dania Razaqi.

Defendants are BUSD, Dina Holder ("Holder" - formerly employed by BUSD as a teacher at Loma Vista until May 2010, and then at Kray); Lauri James ("James" - former principal of Loma Vista); Jean Anthony ("Anthony" - former Director of Special Education at BUSD); Margo Olson ("Olson" - Director of Special Education and Interventions at BUSD); Margaret Kruse ("Kruse" - Assistant Superintendent at BUSD); Merrill Grant ("Grant" - former Superintendent at BUSD); and Brian Jones ("Jones" - principal of Kray). Plaintiffs allege that Holder subjected the minor plaintiffs - each of whom has been diagnosed with autism, Down's syndrome, or some other developmental disorder - to verbal and physical abuse while they were in her classroom. At the time of the alleged abuse, the minor plaintiffs ranged in age from three to about six years. Some were nonverbal and all had difficulties with communication.

Holder was a special education teacher in BUSD schools from 1996 to 2012. Plaintiffs assert that as early as 2008, defendants James, Jones, Olson, Anthony, Kruse, and Grant were aware that Holder was subjecting students in her classrooms to physical and verbal abuse. Holder eventually resigned from BUSD as part of terms of a settlement reached in a lawsuit filed in this court, Phelan v. Holder, C-12-0465 LB (N.D. Cal.) ("the Phelan action"). Holder's teaching credentials were revoked by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing in February 2013.

Plaintiffs filed the original complaint in this case on October 28, 2014. On December 15, 2014, plaintiffs filed the first amended complaint ("FAC") pursuant to stipulation. On January 30, 2015, plaintiffs filed the second amended complaint ("SAC"), apparently pursuant to an informal agreement among the parties.

The SAC includes a lengthy account of a series of incidents involving special education students during the period 2008-2010, including allegations regarding three students who are not plaintiffs in the present lawsuit - LL, who was a student in Holder's class during the 2007-2008 school year, see SAC ¶¶ 38-43; KG, who was a student in Holder's class during a portion of the 2008-2009 school year, see SAC ¶¶ 44-47; and JP, who was a student in Holder's class in 2010, see SAC ¶¶ 54-67.[1]

As for the minors who are plaintiffs in the present action, plaintiffs allege that MG (diagnosed with Autism-nonverbal), who was in Holder's class during the 2008-2009 school year, came home with red marks on his arms several times, became agitated and reluctant to go to school, and began to throw tantrums after being enrolled in Holder's classroom. Plaintiffs assert further that MG became "sexually aroused by the sight of toes" as a result of a "game" played by the adults in Holder's classroom when he was 3 or 4 years old, and that he remains "fixated on feet, " which plaintiffs claim makes it impossible for his parents to take him into public places. SAC ¶ 68-75.

Plaintiffs allege that AG (diagnosed with Downs Syndrome), who was in Holder's class during 2008-2009, 2010-2011, and 2011-2013 school years, became unhappy and withdrawn after being placed in Holder's class, and developed imaginary friends and began seeing monsters, and later told her mother that Holder was "mean" and "hit kids." SAC ¶¶ 79-88.

Plaintiffs assert that BG (diagnosed with Autism Spectrum-like symptoms, with speech delays), who was in Holder's class in 2009-2011, became more sensitive to yelling and more aggressive after starting in Holder's classroom, hitting not only himself but also others. He also allegedly became prone to lying on the floor and hiding his head, and later communicated that Holder would yell at the class and tell them to shut up. SAC ¶¶ 91-95.

Plaintiffs allege that MR (diagnosed with Autism Spectrum), who was in Holder's class in 2008-2010, arrived home from school with a large bruise on his arm, and at other times had "bruises and scratches." He also allegedly became more aggressive (including towards family members) and started having nightmares after starting in Holder's classroom, and started diving under the table whenever he heard a loud noise, and that he "observed other children being verbally and physically abused by Holder." SAC ¶¶ 98-104.

Plaintiffs assert that BR (diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Delay and Autism), who was in Holder's class for the 2010-2011 school year, had done well in kindergarten with a different teacher. However, after starting first grade in Holder's classroom, he began acting fearful and aggressive, eventually telling his mother that Holder had "grabbed him at the shoulder and neck and shoved him into a chair because he wasn't listening, " and on other occasions arrived home with large bruises on his arm. SAC ¶¶ 107-113.

Finally, plaintiffs allege that ER (diagnosed with Autism with delays in speaking and making eye contact), who was in Holder's class from December 2011 to April 2012, began exhibiting behavioral changes almost immediately after being placed in Holder's classroom. He allegedly "observed other children being subjected to physical and verbal abuse by Holder, " eventually told his mother that Holder had screamed at him and called him "stupid, " and also became more aggressive and sad and lost language skills. SAC ¶¶ 114-121.

Plaintiffs also assert that Holder, James, Jones, Olson, Kennedy, Kruse, and Grant "[i]ntentionally interfer[ed] with the parent-child relationship by inflicting abuse on and concealing information regarding the physical and emotional trauma inflicted on" the minor plaintiffs. SAC ¶ 125. They allege that "due to the abuse inflicted by Holder, the minor [p]lainiffs have lost trust in their parents, and this bond is now irreparably damaged." Id . They assert that "[b]ecause of their age, the minor [p]laintiffs believe that the parents were aware of the abusive conditions in the classroom and that their parents knowingly subjected them to the abuse. As a result, the trust necessary for a healthy parent-child relationship has been severely undermined and will impede the parents' ability to provide guidance and direction to their children." Id . Plaintiffs allege that the minor plaintiffs reacted to "the trauma they endured" by exhibiting various behavioral symptoms, including "aggression, rage, anxiety, and hypervigilance" that continues to "interfere with the parents' ability to maintain an emotional bond with their children." Id.

In the SAC, plaintiffs allege causes of action for (1) violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq.; (3) discrimination in violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701, et seq.; (4) violation of California Civil Code § 52.1; (5) battery; (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (7) negligence; (8) negligent supervision; (9) violation of mandatory duty to report suspected child abuse, imposed under California Penal Code § 11166; (10) violation of California Civil Code § 51; and (11) violation of California Education Code § 220.

Defendants seek an order dismissing the first cause of action for violation of constitutional rights, and also seek an order striking certain allegations in the SAC.


A. Motion to ...

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