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M.M. v. Lafayette School District

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 27, 2016

M.M., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
LAFAYETTE SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER RE: CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY ADJUDICATION OF PLAINTIFFS' CLAIMS FOR REIMBURSEMENT UNDER THE IDEA Re: Dkt. Nos. 136, 137

          SUSAN ILLSTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are two motions: defendants’ motion for summary adjudication of plaintiffs’ claims for reimbursement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”); and plaintiffs’ motion for reimbursement of educational expenses pursuant to the IDEA. Docket Nos. 136, 137. For the reasons set forth below, the Court hereby GRANTS plaintiffs’ motion and DENIES defendants’ motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This action, brought under the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, concerns a dispute over the educational opportunities provided to C.M., a child who has been identified as an individual with learning disabilities. The facts and procedural history of this case are complex. A detailed summary and timeline are set forth in the Court’s February 7, 2012 order regarding the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, Docket No. 78, as well as in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion, M.M. v. Lafayette Sch. Dist., 767 F.3d 842 (9th Cir. 2014). For brevity, the Court now recites only the background relevant to the motions at hand.

         This case involves three related actions, two of which are now closed.[1] Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint in this case on March 21, 2011. Docket No. 29. On February 7, 2012, the Court ruled on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. Docket No. 78. The Court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment and denied the majority of plaintiffs’ motion. Id. at 48.

         Plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case. The appeals court found that defendant Lafayette School District (the “District”) “procedurally violated the IDEA by not providing the parents with [C.M.’s] complete RTI [Response-to-Intervention] data.” M.M., 767 F.3d at 855-56. Under the facts of this case, that procedural violation denied C.M. a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”). Id. at 856. Having found that the District denied C.M. a FAPE, the Ninth Circuit explained that it “need not address the question of whether the resulting IEPs [individualized educational programs] were reasonably calculated to enable C.M. to receive educational benefits.” Id. (citing Amanda J. v. Clark Cty. Sch. Dist., 267 F.3d 877, 895 (9th Cir. 2001)).

         The appeals court further stated:

School districts may be ordered to reimburse the parents of a child who has been denied a FAPE for the cost of private instruction. 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii); see also 34 C.F.R. § 300.148(c). During the OAH hearing and at the district court, the parents sought reimbursement for C.M.'s audiology and processing assessments, sound-based therapy, and private reading programs that they provided for C.M. at their own expense. Both the ALJ and the district court determined that the parents were not entitled to reimbursement because they had concluded that the District had not denied C.M. a FAPE. Because we conclude otherwise, we remand to the district court for reconsideration of this issue.

Id. Mandate returning the case to this Court was issued on December 12, 2014. Docket No. 105.

         On August 27, 2015, following briefing on the remaining areas of dispute upon remand, the Court issued an order regarding case management. Docket No. 116. In that order, the Court stated that it would consider plaintiffs’ claim for reimbursement under the IDEA, limited to the categories of expenses that the Ninth Circuit listed in its opinion, which are the same expenses that plaintiffs previously sought at the administrative hearing and before this Court. Id. at 8. These categories are: “C.M.’s audiology and processing assessments, assessment by Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, Tomatis therapy, and Lindamood-Bell reading interventions . . . as well as compensatory education services in an intensive remedial reading program through Lindamood-Bell.” Id. at 8-9 (citing M.M. v. Lafayette Sch. Dist., Nos. 09-4624, 10-4223, 2012 WL 398773, at *32 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2012)). The Court granted leave to plaintiffs to file a motion to supplement the administrative record by September 18, 2015, later extended to October 9, 2015, to add any evidence regarding these categories of reimbursement. Id. at 9; Docket No. 119.

         Plaintiffs did not file a motion to supplement the administrative record. On October 13, 2015, plaintiffs filed a motion to file a supplement to the Second Amended Complaint. See Docket No. 123. On November 18, 2015, the Court denied plaintiffs’ motion. Docket No. 132. The Court also denied defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings. Id.

         On April 1, 2016, defendants filed a motion for summary adjudication of plaintiffs’ claims for reimbursement under the IDEA. Docket No. 136. On April 29, 2016, plaintiffs filed a motion for reimbursement of educational expenses pursuant to the IDEA, also framed as an opposition to defendants’ motion. Docket Nos. 137, 139. Defendants filed an opposition to plaintiffs’ motion, also framed as a reply in support of defendants’ motion. Docket Nos. 140, 141. Plaintiffs then filed a reply in support of their motion. Docket No. 145. The parties also sought a stay of proceedings on plaintiffs’ Section 504 retaliation claim while the parties pursue settlement. Docket Nos. 142, 143. The parties requested that the Court rule on the present cross-motions regarding plaintiffs’ entitlement to reimbursement prior to the settlement conference set for September 27, 2016. See id.

         On June 13, 2016, the Court ordered plaintiffs to file proof of the expenditures for which they are seeking reimbursement and gave defendants leave to oppose plaintiffs’ filing. Docket No. 146. Plaintiffs filed proof of their expenses on June 24, 2016, and defendants filed an opposition on July 5, 2016. Docket Nos. 148, 149.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The IDEA provides that the district court may “grant such relief as the court determines is appropriate.” 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii). More specifically, “[s]chool districts may be ordered to reimburse the parents of a child who has been denied a FAPE for the cost of private instruction.” M.M., 767 F.3d at 856 (citing 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii); 34 C.F.R. § 300.148(c)). Where parents enroll their child in private services “without the consent of or referral by the public agency, a court . . . may require the agency to reimburse the parents for the cost of that enrollment if the court . . . finds that ...


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