Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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M.N. filed a due process complaint alleging that the District committed procedural and substantive violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A). The ALJ denied all claims and the district court affirmed. The Ninth Circuit filed an amended opinion reversing the district court's judgment, holding that neither the duration of the hearing, the ALJ's active involvement, nor the length of the ALJ's opinion can ensure that the ALJ was thorough and careful in its findings of fact; plaintiffs' claim that the District committed a procedural violation of the IDEA by failing to adequately document its offer of the visually impaired (TVI) services was not waived; the District committed two procedural violations as to the individualized education plan (IEP); the District's failure to specify the assistive technology (AT) devices that were provided infringed M.N.'s opportunity to participate in the IEP process and denied the student a free appropriate education (FAPE); the panel remanded for a determination of the prejudice the student suffered as a result of the District's failure to respond to the complaint and the award of appropriate compensation; in regard to substantive violations, the panel remanded so the district court could consider plaintiffs' claims in light of new guidance from the Supreme Court in Endrew F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist., 137 S. Ct. 988 (2017); and M.N., as the prevailing party, was entitled to attorneys' fees. View "M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute over which California government entity would be responsible for funding the education of K.G. pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A). The School District contended that the district court erred in granting K.G. relief from its original judgment denying attorneys' fees. The court concluded that the district court did not apply the incorrect legal rule in evaluating whether to grant relief pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1) where the district court's determination that K.G.'s delay in pursuing Rule 60(b) relief was understandable in light of the original attorney's poor mental and physical health; K.G. was the prevailing party entitled to attorney fees because K.G.'s prayer was answered in full when the ALJ designated the School District as the responsible agency and granted K.G.'s requested relief; K.G. qualified as a prevailing party under the IDEA, and this victory was not trivial or merely technical; but it was not clear from the district court's award that it took into account forgoing considerations in reducing the fees originally requested. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "Irvine Unified School District v. K.G." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of a student at the District, filed suit alleging claims that the District violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. Plaintiffs argued that the district court misapplied the statute of limitations in 20 U.S.C. 1415(f)(3)(C) to their claims that the District failed to identify their child's disability or assess him for autism in 2006 and 2007. The court concluded, as a question of first impression, that the IDEA's statute of limitations requires courts to bar only claims brought more than two years after the parents or local educational agency "knew or should have known" about the actions forming the basis of the complaint. In this case, the district court barred all claims "occurring" more than two years before plaintiffs filed their due process complaint. Therefore, the court remanded so that the district court could determine when plaintiffs knew or should have known about the actions forming the basis of their complaint. View "Avila v. Spokane School District 81" on Justia Law

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M.C. filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A), alleging that the district violated the IDEA by (1) failing to adequately document the services provided by a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), (2) failing to specify the assistive technology (AT) devices provided, and (3) failing to file a response to the due process complaint. The court concluded that the district's failure to adequately document the TVI services and AT devices offered to M.C. violated the IDEA and denied M.C. a free appropriate public education (FAPE); these procedural violations deprived M.C.'s mother of her right to participate in the individualized education program (IEP) process and made it impossible for her to enforce the IEP and evaluate whether the services M.C. received were adequate; and, at the very least, plaintiffs were entitled to have the district draft a proper IEP and receive compensatory education he would have occupied but for the school's violations of the IDEA. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment and remanded. View "M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District" on Justia Law

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The court filed (1) an order amending its opinion and denying a petition for panel rehearing and a petition for rehearing en banc, and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court's summary judgment in favor of the school district. Plaintiff filed suit to require the district court to provide her son L.J. with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. Although the district court found that L.J. was disabled under three categories defined by the IDEA, it concluded that an IEP for specialized services was not necessary because of L.J.'s satisfactory performance in general education classes. The court concluded that the district court clearly erred because L.J. was receiving special services, including mental health counseling and assistance from a one-on-one paraeducator. The court pointed out the important distinction that these are not services offered to general education students. The court explained that the problem with the district court's analysis is that many of the services the district court viewed as general education services were in fact special education services tailored to L.J.'s situation. Because L.J. is eligible for special education, the school district must formulate an IEP. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to provide that remedy. The court also concluded that the school district clearly violated important procedural safeguards set forth in the IDEA when it failed to disclose assessments, treatment plans, and progress notes, which deprived L.J.'s mother of her right to informed consent. The school district failed to conduct a health assessment, which rendered the school district and IEP team unable to evaluate and address L.J.'s medication and treatment related needs. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "L. J. v. Pittsburg Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of a child with a disability, sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction requiring the Seattle School District (the district) to place their child in a general education class pending the outcome of the due process challenge. In May 2015, the Bellevue School District produced an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the child that encompassed two stages: The first stage would begin immediately and the second would begin at the start of the 2015–16 school year. Plaintiffs allowed the child to finish the school year in accordance with the first stage of the IEP but did not agree to the second stage. Over the summer, the family moved to Seattle. Just before the start of the 2015–16 school year, the district proposed a class setting for the child that was similar to the second stage of the May 2015 IEP. Plaintiffs objected and sought a “stay-put” placement. The district court denied plaintiffs’ motion on the ground that they had not established a likelihood of success on the merits. The court agreed with the district that a partially implemented, multi-stage IEP, as a whole, is a student’s then-current educational placement. In this case, stage two of the May 2015 IEP was the child's stay-put placement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "N. E. v. Seattle School District" on Justia Law

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L.J.’s mother filed suit in federal district court to require the school district to provide L.J. with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to provide specialized services to assist with what she contends are serious disabilities. The district court reviewed the record and found that L.J. was disabled under three categories defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. Nevertheless, the district court concluded that an IEP for specialized services was not necessary because of L.J.’s satisfactory performance in general education classes. The court concluded that L.J. clearly exhibited behavioral and academic difficulty during the snapshot period where he threatened and attempted to kill himself on three occasions in 2012; in the fall, he frequently acted out at school, and continued to have needs associated with his medication regimen; and the district court should not have discounted these facts. The court concluded that they demonstrate that L.J. required special education services. Because L.J. is eligible for special education, the school district must formulate an IEP. The court also concluded that the school district clearly violated important procedural safeguards set forth in the IDEA. In this case, the school district failed to disclose assessments, treatment plans, and progress notes, which deprived L.J.’s mother of her right to informed consent. The school district also failed to conduct a health assessment, which rendered the school district and IEP team unable to evaluate and address L.J.’s medication and treatment related needs. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "L. J. V. Pittsburg U.S.D." on Justia Law

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C.R. challenged his suspension, for sexually harassing two younger students, in district court under the First Amendment. C.R. argued that because the harassment occurred off-campus, in a public park, the school lacked the authority to discipline him. C.R. also challenged his suspension on due process grounds. The district court granted the school district's motion for summary judgment. The court upholds a school’s disciplinary determinations so long as the school’s interpretation of its rules and policies is reasonable, and there is evidence to support the charge. In this case, the school administration’s investigation uncovered at least some evidence that C.R. participated in sexually suggestive joking directed at the younger students. The court concluded that the school district's characterization of this behavior as sexual harassment in its Student Handbook is reasonable. Thus, the court deferred to the school district’s determination that C.R. participated in sexual harassment. The court concluded that the school district had the authority to discipline C.R. for his off-campus, sexually harassing speech where the speech occurred exclusively between students, in close temporal and physical proximity to the school, on property that is not obviously demarcated from the campus itself. The court concluded that a school may act to ensure students are able to leave the school safely without implicating the rights of students to speak freely in the broader community. The court also concluded that the school district's decision to suspend C.R. for two days for sexual harassment was permissible under Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. because sexually harassing speech, by definition, interferes with the victims' ability to feel safe and secure at school. Therefore, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the school district on C.R.'s First Amendment claims. Finally, the district court correctly concluded that the school district afforded C.R. all the process that he was due and that C.R. failed to raise any viable substantive due process claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in its entirety. View "C.R. v. Eugene Sch. Dist. 4J" on Justia Law

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Student and Guardian seek reimbursement from the district for the cost of Student's private education, claiming that the district failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400–1491o (IDEA), and thus failed to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for Student. The district court affirmed the ALJ's denial of reimbursement. In regard to the June 2009 individualized education program (IEP), the court agreed with the lower courts that any procedural failure on the part of the district was caused by Guardian, and that, in any event, the Jordon Intermediate School placement was a FAPE. In regard to the June 2011 IEP, the court concluded that the IDEA does not require the school district to conduct all assessments possible. In this case, the district court did not violate the IDEA by failing to assess Student for anxiety and failing to determine the baseline for Student's speech and language goals. Finally, the Buena Park placement offer was a FAPE in the LRE for Student. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Baquerizo v. Garden Grove USD" on Justia Law

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Paso Robles was responsible for providing Luke, a child with autism, with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400–1487. At the time of Luke’s initial evaluation, Paso Robles was aware that Luke displayed signs of autistic behavior, and therefore, autism was a suspected disability for which it was required to assess him. Paso Robles chose not to formally assess Luke for autism because a member of its staff opined, after an informal, unscientific observation of the child, that Luke merely had an expressive language delay, not a disorder on the autism spectrum. The court held that, in so doing, Paso Robles violated the procedural requirements of the IDEA and, as a result, was unable to design an educational plan that addressed Luke’s unique needs. Accordingly, the court held that Paso Robles denied Luke a free appropriate public education, and remanded for the determination of an appropriate remedy. View "Timothy O. v. Paso Robles USD" on Justia Law