United States District Court, E.D. California
a recent high school graduate, sues Elk Grove School District
for denying him access to play on several Varsity basketball
teams because of his behavioral disability. The District
moves to dismiss the first amended complaint, arguing
plaintiff cannot show discriminatory animus nor show he was
otherwise qualified for these high-level, selective teams.
Mot., ECF No. 9; District Mem., ECF No. 9-1. Alternatively,
the District moves to strike certain allegations as
irrelevant. Id. Plaintiff opposes. ECF No. 17. The
court heard the matter on November 3, 2017. ECF No. 21. As
explained below, the court DENIES the District's motions.
Isaiah Brown, who had previously played on Franklin High
School's traveling basketball teams, was praised as one
of the school's best Junior Varsity basketball players.
First Am. Compl. (“FAC”), ECF No. 7, ¶¶
5, 7. Yet he was the only Junior Varsity player not invited
to the school's summer 2014 basketball program, an
unofficial prerequisite to joining the Varsity team.
Id. ¶ 9. Soon afterwards, the Varsity coach
denied plaintiff a spot on the team's roster.
Id. Although the coach claimed he cut plaintiff for
lacking “defensive awareness, ” plaintiff alleges
this reason was pretext, noting the coach told others he was
“not going to deal” with plaintiff because
“all he does is get upset” and
“emotional” so he would not be a good fit.
volatility derives from his “emotional
disturbance” disability, for which he received special
education services under an Individual Educational Program
(“IEP”). Id. ¶ 8 (listing
disability's manifestations as including emotional
outbursts, anger, defiance, yelling and swearing). In
November 2014, one month after the Varsity coach cut
plaintiff, plaintiff's mother complained to the District
that the exclusion was discriminatory. Id. ¶
10. In December 2014, the District denied her complaint.
to play Varsity basketball, plaintiff transferred within the
District to Consumnes Oaks High School for his senior year,
2015 to 2016. Id. ¶¶ 5, 11. He was a
starter in that school's 2015 summer league, a good
indicator he would play Varsity. Id. ¶ 11. The
Varsity team's assistant coach initially praised
plaintiff as a “very strong” player who would
“make a big impact.” Id. Yet, after
tryouts, plaintiff was the only consistent summer league
player who did not make the Varsity team. Id. ¶
13. The head coach told plaintiff, “I'm not sure
you're going to fit in my roster, ” but not
“because of your talent[, ]” it is because
“you're just a player with a lot of energy and
[you] get very emotional.” Id. ¶¶
13-14. Soon after, one of plaintiff's former coaches
e-mailed the head coach warning him plaintiff was qualified
and should not be excluded because of his disability.
Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff's mother filed a second
discrimination complaint and requested an intra-District
school transfer. Id. ¶ 17.
immediately transferred to Pleasant Grove High School.
Id. ¶¶ 5, 18. The District's athletic
director said plaintiff would be “allowed to try-out
for the varsity basketball team at his new school.”
Id. ¶ 17. In December 2015, even though the
Varsity team needed qualified players and promoted Junior
Varsity players to meet the team's needs, plaintiff was
not allowed to try out. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff
alleges “on information and belief” the
school's Varsity coach was told plaintiff had a
“bad attitude” and would be
multiple transfers and rejections affected plaintiff's
academic performance and emotional health. Id.
¶ 20. For instance, in a January 2016 IEP team meeting,
plaintiff's mother explained the importance of basketball
to plaintiff's academic progress, offering documentation.
Id. ¶¶ 20-21. The IEP team agreed with the
correlation, but deemed basketball an
“extracurricular” activity; the District ignored
plaintiff's repeated requests to practice with the team.
Id. ¶¶ 21-22. Although plaintiff had
previously received an academic scholarship to play college
basketball in Wyoming, it was rescinded for his lack of
Varsity experience. Id. ¶ 25. He now attends
Sacramento City College without a basketball scholarship and
as a “red-shirt freshman.” Id. ¶
brings three claims against the District: (1) Disability
discrimination under Title II of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (2) disability
discrimination under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act;
and (3) failure to implement § 504's implementing
regulations. See generally FAC. Plaintiff initially
brought two negligence claims as well, but has since
dismissed them. See Stipulation, ECF No. 8.
DISTRICT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
District moves to dismiss all three operative claims, arguing
it did not exclude plaintiff because of his disability; and
that he simply was not Varsity material given his emotional
state. See District Mem. at 15-16. The District
explains plaintiff was given an equal opportunity to
participate on a Varsity basketball team, but when shaping
their teams the coaches could not ignore his blatant
behavioral issues. Id. As explained below, plaintiff
has alleged enough to withstand dismissal at this stage of
may move to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
The court may grant the motion only if the complaint lacks a
“cognizable legal theory” or if its factual
allegations do not support a cognizable legal theory.
Hartmann v. Cal. Dep't of Corr. & Rehab.,
707 F.3d 1114, 1122 (9th Cir. 2013). A complaint must contain
a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), though it need not include “detailed factual
allegations, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007). But “sufficient factual
matter” must make the claim at least plausible.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Conclusory or formulaic
recitations of elements do not alone suffice. Id.
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In a Rule
12(b)(6) analysis, the court must accept well-pled factual
allegations as true and construe the complaint in
plaintiff's favor. Id.; Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007).
Claims One and Two: Disability Discrimination
establish a disability discrimination claim under Title II of
the ADA or under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act,
plaintiff must allege (1) he has a qualified disability; (2)
he was entitled to participate in a public entity's
services, program, or activities; (3) he was excluded from
such services, programs or activities; (4) either partially
(under Title II) or solely (under § 504) based on his
disability. Lovell v. Chandler, 303 F.3d 1039, 1052
(9th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted) (listing Title II
elements); Smith v. Barton, 914 F.2d 1330, 1338 (9th
Cir. 1990) (citations omitted) (listing § 504 elements);
see also Vinson v. Thomas, 288 F.3d 1145, 1152 n.7
(9th Cir. 2002) (“We examine cases construing claims
under the ADA, as well as section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act, because there is no significant difference in the
analysis of rights and obligations created by the two
Acts.”) (citation omitted). Because he seeks damages,
plaintiff must also plead (5) the District's deliberate
indifference, which ...