The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCCURN
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
On November 17, 1981, the day before this case was ordered to proceed to trial before a jury, the Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint as to all causes of action alleged therein except the cause of action for deprivation of plaintiffs' First Amendment rights.
This memorandum sets forth the basis for the Court's decision in that regard.
Plaintiff James Davis, a thirteen year old boy with special education needs, was first classified as being in need of special education services in 1976. It was the determination of the School District Committee on the Handicapped (COH) that, at that time, James suffered from learning disabilities. That classification was later changed by the COH to Emotionally Handicapped. It is that re-classification and the resultant placement of James which gave rise to these two lawsuits.
Believing that the COH's classification of James was caused by financial considerations rather than by James' educational needs, the plaintiffs filed suit in this Court to challenge that placement. Davis v. Maine Endwell Central School District, 80-CV-257. While in the process of pursuing their administrative remedies pursuant to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1411-1420, plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction from this Court placing James in what plaintiffs believed to be an appropriate placement. That request was denied by order of this Court dated May 6, 1980 on the Court's findings that plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The denial of the preliminary injunction was upheld on appeal by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, 646 F.2d 560 (2d Cir. 1980). That Court, however, remanded the case to this Court for consideration of plaintiffs' claim to monetary relief. Judge Moore dissented from that portion of the opinion which remanded the case to this Court, it being his opinion that the complaint did not set forth a valid claim for monetary relief in either law or fact.
Still unhappy with the defendants' handling of James' educational needs, the plaintiffs filed a second suit in this Court on March 24, 1980 to challenge the classification and placement of James. Davis v. Maine Endwell Central School District, 80-CV-915. On April 2, 1981 plaintiffs filed an application with this Court for a preliminary injunction, the effect of which would be to change James' placement within the school district. Defendants cross moved for dismissal on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction and failure to exhaust administrative remedies, as well as failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Once again the Court denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. This denial was upheld by the Second Circuit on appeal, 671 F.2d 491 (2d Cir. 1981).
Following a series of motions and meetings of the parties with the Court, this case came on to be tried in November of 1981. Because of a failure to exhaust administrative remedies in relation thereto the plaintiffs at that time withdrew their claim for injunctive relief. There then remained the plaintiffs' claim for money damages based on the defendants' alleged violation of plaintiffs' rights under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1411-1420; The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Prior to trial the Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss all of plaintiffs remaining claims except that alleging a violation of plaintiffs' First Amendment rights. The case then continued on to trial on the sole issue of whether a First Amendment violation had occurred. The trial lasted in excess of three weeks and culminated in a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs as against the Maine Endwell Central School District. Damages were assessed at $ 50,000.
EDUCATION FOR ALL HANDICAPPED CHILDREN ACT
Plaintiffs first claimed that the defendants had violated James' right to a free and appropriate education as established by the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1411-1420 (EAHCA). That Act mandates that each state participating in this voluntary program have "in effect a policy that assures all handicapped children the right to a free and appropriate public education." 20 U.S.C. § 1412. New York has elected to participate in this program and has, therefore, assumed the responsibility of providing a free and appropriate education to its resident handicapped children between the ages of three and twenty-one. Id. There is no question in the instant case that James Davis is a handicapped child within the meaning of the Act and that he is entitled to a free and appropriate education. The controversy centers on whether the education provided him by the defendants was appropriate. Plaintiffs claim that the education was not appropriate and that they are, therefore, entitled to money damages from the defendants as a result of the alleged misclassification and misplacement of James.
Plaintiffs base their claim for money damages on the language of section 1415 of the EAHCA. That section sets out the procedural safeguards established by the Act and provides aggrieved parties access to the state and federal courts after exhaustion of administrative remedies.
Section 1415 provides that "(i)n any action brought under this paragraph the court shall receive the records of the administrative proceedings, shall hear additional evidence at the request of a party, and, basing its decision on the preponderance of the evidence, shall grant such relief as the court determines is appropriate." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2). Plaintiffs read this section as authorizing the Court to award monetary damages when an improper classification or placement decision has been made. Conversely, the defendants contend that damages are not an appropriate remedy within the meaning of the EAHCA.
Resolution of this dispute necessarily turns on the language of the statute. Cannon v. University of Chicago, 441 U.S. 677, 689, 99 S. Ct. 1946, 1953, 60 L. Ed. 2d 560 (1979). The Court's focus is not limited to merely the words of the statute, however. As the Second Circuit recently stated:
(to) construe a statute we look first to the words actually used by the drafters, remembering that words are but signs that point to ideas. We may also examine the statute's legislative history to ensure that the meaning we have ascribed to these words fits their purpose, as that was what Congress intended.
Pompano v. Michael Schiavone & Sons, Inc., 680 F.2d 911, 913 (2d Cir. 1982). Finding that the signs in the statute under review are less than clear, an examination of the legislative history is necessary to fully understand their meaning. In conducting this examination, the Court views the analysis of the Seventh Circuit Court of ...