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K.H. v. Antioch Unified School District

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 1, 2019

K.H., a minor, by and through his Guardian ad Litem MARTARICE HUMPHREY, Plaintiff,
ANTIOCH UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, a public entity; CATAPULT LEARNING WEST, LLC, a limited liability company dba Sierra School of Antioch; SAMUEL MCBRIDE, an individual; JONIQUE ANDREWS, an individual; STEVE NOSANCHUK, an individual; BRUNO DIAZ, an individual; CORY MOORE, an individual; RUTH RUBALCAVA, an individual; STEPHANIE ANELLO, an individual; and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendants.




         In this civil rights action, defendants move to dismiss parts of the amended complaint. To the extent set forth below, defendants' motions are Granted in part and Denied in part.


         The following facts, assumed to be true for purposes of the present motion, are taken from the amended complaint (Dkt. No. 36). Plaintiff K.H. is a fourteen-year-old student with special needs enrolled in the special education program at Antioch Unified School District

         (“AUSD”). The federal government provides approximately ten percent of AUSD's funding. AUSD placed plaintiff in Sierra School, a private school specialized in providing special education, operated by defendant Catapult Learning West, LLC (“Catapult”). Catapult is an independent for-profit limited liability company that specializes in special education. AUSD and Catapult jointly run Sierra School. Employees from both AUSD and Catapult make up the staff at Sierra School. Defendant Bruno Diaz is the Director of Sierra School. Defendant Cory Moore is the Administrator of Sierra School. Defendant Ruth Rubalcava is the Director of Special Education for AUSD (id. ¶¶ 1-3, 5, 10-12, 26-27). At oral argument, all parties conceded that AUSD, on its own, evaluated plaintiff, decided to place him in a special-education program, and selected Sierra School.

         In December 2017, plaintiff requested and received permission from his teacher, defendant Steve Nosanchuk, to remove himself from the classroom to use calming techniques which were part of plaintiff's behavior-intervention training. Defendant Samuel McBride, a teacher aide at Sierra School, then saw plaintiff outside the classroom, roughly grabbed him by the shirt, and pulled him toward the classroom. McBride asked defendant Jonique Andrews, another employee at Sierra School, to assist. Andrews grabbed plaintiff by the wrist, forcibly placed his hands behind his back, and held him by the back of his neck. McBride forcibly held plaintiff's other hand behind his back as McBride and Andrews escorted plaintiff back to class. When plaintiff asked Andrews to let go of his neck, Andrews coldly laughed in response (id. ¶¶ 28-32, 36).

         Once back in the classroom and after McBride and Andrews had released their holds, plaintiff said something to the effect of “let go of me” or “get off me.” In response, McBride and Andrews “slammed” plaintiff to the floor causing his head to crash into a desk before hitting the floor. McBride and Andrews then placed plaintiff into a “two-person pro-act prone restraint, ” which the United States Department of Education recommends not be used under any circumstance. McBride and Andrews immobilized all four of plaintiff's limbs. Plaintiff left the incident with a gash under his eye, a split lip, and bleeding gums (id. at 9 n.1, ¶¶ 33-34).

         Defendants did not offer medical attention, call plaintiff's parents, or report the incident to the authorities. When plaintiff's father picked plaintiff up from school a few hours later, he noticed the injury on plaintiff's face. Plaintiff's father asked Nosanchuk what had happened and why he hadn't been informed. Nosanchuk informed plaintiff's father that the incident had “just happened.” Plaintiff's parents filed a request for assistance with AUSD. Plaintiff's parents filed a second request for assistance after receiving no response to the first request. Defendant Stephanie Anello, the Superintendent of AUSD, informed plaintiff's mother that no response had been given because plaintiff's mother failed to complete the proper form. Plaintiff's mother then submitted the correct form. (id. ¶¶ 34, 36, 46, 48).

         The day after the incident plaintiff was diagnosed with a concussion. Because plaintiff experienced fear and anxiety related to the incident, and thus felt unsafe to return to school, plaintiff's parents requested that AUSD provide an alternative placement and to allow for independent study in the meantime. AUSD concluded that Sierra School was an appropriate placement and denied both requests (id. ¶¶ 40, 43-45).

         In February 2018, after consulting a law firm, AUSD concluded that no assault had occurred. AUSD informed plaintiff's parents that no additional protection would be provided to plaintiff. McBride and Andrews were still employed at Sierra School. Accordingly, plaintiff's parents kept plaintiff from returning to school because they feared for his safety. Plaintiff requested that AUSD move plaintiff to a different school and offered three options. AUSD denied all three requests, stating that plaintiff was not a good fit for the other schools. Defendants sent plaintiff a “Compromise and Release Agreement” that offered to grant the alternative placement in exchange for release from all liability (id. ¶¶ 49-50, 52, 54-55).

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges the following twelve claims: (1) violation of Section 1983;

         (2) discrimination in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132;

         (3) discrimination in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794;

         (4) negligence; (5) negligent hiring, supervision, or retention of employee; (6) battery;

         (7) discrimination in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, ...

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