Government Lies, Corruption and Mismanagement
Lawsuit Against The California Department of Education For Failure To Educate Students With Disabilities Will Proceed
A federal district judge in Sacramento has denied a motion by the California Department of Education (CDE) to dismiss a lawsuit brought by two parent associations on behalf of children with disabilities. (Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association v. Calif. Dep’t of Educ., U.S. Dist. Ct., Eastern Dist., Calif. No. 2:11-cv-3471-KJM-AC)). The parents have charged the department with systematically failing to assure that their children receive a free appropriate public education as required by federal and state law. The Court’s ruling of March 29 means the plaintiffs’ case may move forward.
COURT ALLOWS LAWSUIT AGAINST STATE AGENCY FOR SYSTEMATIC FAILURE TO EDUCATE STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
A federal district judge in Sacramento has denied a motion by the California Department of Education (CDE) to dismiss a lawsuit brought by two parent associations on behalf of children with disabilities. (Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Ass’n v. Calif. Dep’t of Educ. (U.S. Dist. Ct., Eastern Dist., Calif. No. 2:11-cv-3471-KJM-AC)). The parents have
charged the department with systematically failing to assure that their children receive a free appropriate public education as required by federal and state law. The Court’s ruling of March 29 means the plaintiffs’ case may move forward.
Plaintiffs’ lead counsel Rony Sagy, of San Francisco’s Sagy Law Associates called the ruling “an important breakthrough for California children with special needs.” The complaint, filed in 2012 by Sagy Law Associates and co-counsel Stephen Rosenbaum of Berkeley, details the experiences of numerous children who have suffered as a result of CDE’s systematic failure to adequately monitor, investigate and enforce laws at the school district level.
The complaint alleges, for example, that children with behavior problems have been improperly tied to their chairs and excluded from all educational opportunities. In another instance, plaintiffs claim that a 14-year-old who was bullied and had attempted suicide, was determined to have no social or emotional needs. The non-English-speaking parents of a child with an autism diagnosis and ADHD were told the district had lost his records and demanded the parents agree to an educational program with dramatically reduced services.
Other systemic allegations include unreasonable delays in student assessments, sidelining parents in the educational planning process, failure to implement behavior and other educational plans, and failure to offer services to students transitioning from high school to adult living, filing for unnecessary due process hearings against parents asking for an
independent educational evaluation of their child. The plaintiffs also claim that CDE’s own statistics show that California school districts are consistently performing below the minimal federal requirements, and the targets set by the department itself, in areas such as proficiency rates in English and math.
CDE had argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiffs’ lawsuit because the federal Department of Education had exclusive authority to enforce the State’s monitoring and enforcement obligations. The Court disagreed, finding that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act explicitly charges the states
with frontline responsibility to ensure the provision of a free appropriate public education. The department also maintained that there was no private right of action to sue under federal law. The Court again disagreed. The Court also rejected CDE’s argument that the plaintiffs were barred from pursuing their special education claims because they had not exhausted their administrative remedies, such as a due process hearing or a compliance complaint filed with the department.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Sagy highlighted the need for a prompt resolution: “The stakes for these young people and their parents could not be higher. Taxpayers’ money is increasingly spent on legal fees to fight parents, rather than to provide their children with the necessary educational services.” According to the complaint, one school district spent
$80,000 in an unsuccessful effort to avoid reimbursing parents the $4,500 cost of a statutorily provided independent educational evaluation. Sagy said plaintiffs hope to minimize the cost of litigation by engaging CDE in a mediated process designed to address the endemic problems alleged in the complaint. The department had rebuffed earlier efforts to mediate.
CDE is represented by Paul Lacy and Kate Legrand of the department’s Legal Division.
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Linda McNulty Paralegal