United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND
IN PART AND WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND IN PART
LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge
impacted by his autism, Plaintiff Paul G.
(“Paul”) requires placement in a residential
treatment facility that specializes in educating autistic
students aged 18 to 22, which was not available in his home
state of California. First Am. Compl. (“FAC”)
¶¶ 15, 28, ECF 25. As a result, Plaintiff Paul G.
brings this suit against the Monterey Peninsula Unified
School District and California Department of Education,
alleging various claims for relief. Paul asks this Court to
compel the California Department of Education
(“CDE”) to ensure that residential treatment
facilities for qualifying special education students age 18
to 22 are available in California, and where a local school
district cannot provide such residential placement, that CDE
step in to do so. FAC ¶¶ 98, 99. Paul also seeks
monetary relief. Id. ¶¶ 95-97. Before the
Court is CDE's motion to dismiss Paul's FAC. Mot.,
ECF 28. After reviewing the papers filed in conjunction with
the motion and holding oral argument on April 13, 2017, the
Court GRANTS CDE's motion to dismiss for reasons stated
to the FAC, the facts are as follows. Plaintiff Paul G. is a
nineteen-year-old special education student on the autism
spectrum who has been a California resident since birth. FAC
¶¶ 12, 13. Severely impacted by his autism and thus
conserved by his parents, Paul has difficulty communicating
and interacting with others and can engage in destructive
behaviors at times. Id. ¶¶ 14-17. Paul
attended the 2014-2015 school year in the eleventh grade at
Marina High School located within the Monterey Peninsula
Unified School District (“District”).
Id. ¶¶ 5, 18. However, the District did
not offer Paul an intensive applied behavior analysis program
(“ABA”), which has been endorsed by the American
Academy of Pediatrics and the National Research Counsel as
the most effective form of treatment for autism. Id.
¶¶ 16, 20. Paul's behaviors worsened throughout
the school year and the District eventually placed him on
home hospital instruction in February 2015. Id.
¶¶ 20-26. On July 14, 2015, Paul was brought to a
public library to receive home hospital instruction but the
home hospital teacher was not adequately trained to work with
Paul. Id. ¶¶ 20-26. In one instance, when
the teacher told Paul to “be quiet, ” the
situation escalated and triggered Paul to elope from the
library and to run to his father's car. Id.
¶¶ 33-34. In the process of running from the
library, Paul knocked an elderly lady to the ground causing
injury. Id. ¶ 35. Because of this incident,
Paul was charged with three felonies and was not allowed to
leave the State of California pending resolution of his
criminal charges. Id. ¶ 36.
20, 2015, during an Individualized Education Plan
(“IEP”) meeting, the District offered Paul
placement in a residential treatment facility, which was, as
Paul alleges, what he should have received in lieu of home
hospital in the first place. Id. ¶¶ 28,
37. However, because Paul was eighteen years old, there was
no placement in the entire State of California that would
accept him. Id. ¶ 37. In September 2015, the
District invited the CDE to Paul's IEP meeting but the
CDE did not participate in the meeting. Id. ¶
August 25, 2015, a due process hearing was requested on
behalf of Paul with the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Id. ¶ 31. The due process complaint, which was
filed and served on the District, the CDE, and the Department
of Social Services (“DSS”), alleged that the CDE
and the District had denied Paul a free and appropriate
public education (“FAPE”) by failing to ensure
that an appropriate in-state residential treatment facility
was available to students eighteen to twenty-two years of
age, such as Paul. Id. On September 23, 2015, the
OAH dismissed the complaint against CDE and DSS because the
relief requested was “beyond the jurisdiction of the
OAH in a due process case.” Id. ¶ 52. In
January 2016, the District and Paul's parents settled
past claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (“IDEA”), excluding from settlement any tort,
negligence, or civil rights claim. Id. ¶ 53.
accordance with the settlement, on February 23, 2016, Paul
was placed in a residential treatment facility in Kansas.
Id. ¶ 54. According to Paul, however, he
requires a residential placement close to his family and the
community in which he will live upon exiting special
education. Id. ¶¶ 55, 60.
filed this suit on September 30, 2016, against the District
and CDE. ECF 1. The first amended complaint alleges two
causes of action against the District and three causes of
action against the CDE: (1) violation of § 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 against the District; (2)
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act against the
District; (3) violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973 against the CDE; (4) violation of the Americans
with Disabilities Act against the CDE; and (5) violation of
the IDEA and California Education Code § 56342 against
the CDE. FAC ¶¶ 64-94. The District answered the
first amended complaint but the CDE moves to dismiss it.
Answr., ECF 27; Mot.
Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(1) and Standing
III of the U.S. Constitution's “case and
controversy” requirement obligates federal courts to
determine, as an initial matter, whether plaintiffs have
standing to bring suit. Lance v. Coffman, 549 U.S.
437, 439 (2007). At the pleading stage, to satisfy the
standing requirement plaintiffs must allege: (1) that they
have suffered an “injury in fact that is (a) concrete
and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not
conjectural or hypothetical; (2) that the injury is fairly
traceable to the defendant's challenged conduct; and (3)
that the injury will likely be redressed by a favorable
decision. See, e.g., Friends of the Earth, Inc.
v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180-81
(2000); Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S.
555, 561-62 (1992). The party seeking to invoke federal court
jurisdiction has the burden of establishing standing. See
Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561. The Ninth Circuit has emphasized
that “[t]he jurisdictional question of standing
precedes, and does not require, analysis of the
merits.” Maya v. Centex Corp., 658 F.3d 1060,
1068 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation and internal quotation marks
Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted ‘tests the legal sufficiency of a
claim.'” Conservation Force v. Salazar,
646 F.3d 1240, 1241-42 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Navarro
v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001)). When
determining whether a claim has been stated, the Court
accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and
construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Reese v. BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., 643 F.3d 681,
690 (9th Cir. 2011). However, the Court need not
“accept as true allegations that contradict matters
properly subject to judicial notice” or
“allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted
deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” In
re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th
Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
While a complaint need not contain detailed factual
allegations, it “must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is
facially plausible when it “allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et
seq., was enacted to ensure that children with
disabilities have access to a FAPE that meets their unique
needs. Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 309 (1988). Each
state that receives federal special education funding must
ensure that local educational agencies (“LEA”)
are in compliance with the IDEA. Id. at 310-11;
Los Angeles Cty. Office of Educ. v. C.M., No.
10-4702, 2011 WL 1584314, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 22, 2011). A
LEA is generally responsible for providing a FAPE to students
with disabilities residing within its jurisdictional
boundaries. See Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48200,
56028 (the residency statutes); see also Union Sch. Dist.
v. Smith, 15 F.3d 1519, 1524-26 (9th Cir. 1994).
Education Code § 56026.3 defines a LEA as a
“school district, a county office of education, a
nonprofit charter school participating as a member of a
special education local plan area, or a special education
local plan area.” Cal. Educ. Code § 56026.3. In
California, a county office of education is responsible for
direct provision of a free appropriate public education
(“FAPE”) except for services in State Special
Schools for deaf and blind students. Id.
the requirements of the IDEA, LEAs must implement an
“individualized educational program”
(“IEP”) for each special needs student and
provide services directly to students. Id. §
56347; 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d); see also Honig, 484
U.S. at 311-12. Each state agency-in California, the CDE-is
responsible for determining specific policies and procedures
for compliance and for administering funds to the local
agencies. Id. Pursuant to the IDEA, each state
agency is ultimately responsible for providing services
directly to students when the local education agencies are
“unable to establish and maintain programs of free
appropriate public education that meet the
requirements” of the IDEA. 20 U.S.C. §
1413(g)(1)(B); see also Honig, 484 U.S. at 329
(holding that the state may be required to provide services
directly to special education students when the local agency
fails to do so).
IDEA also requires participating states and local educational
agencies to “establish and maintain procedures . . . to
ensure that children with disabilities and their parents are
guaranteed procedural safeguards with respect to the
provision of a [FAPE] . . . .” 20 U.S.C. §
1415(a). For example, whenever there is a proposal or refusal
to initiate a change relating to the identification,
evaluation or educational placement of a child, or the
provision of a FAPE, parents “have an opportunity for
an impartial due process hearing, which shall be conducted by
the State educational agency or by the local educational
agency as determined by State law or by the State educational
agency.” 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f).
raises numerous grounds for dismissing the complaint,
including lack of standing, failure to exhaust administrative
remedies, and lack of a private right of action. Before
turning to the merits of these arguments, the Court addresses
the CDE's request for judicial notice.