that Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that the Defendants violated Section 504.
A. Compensatory Damages and the IDEA
The IDEA does not provide for compensatory money damages. See Stellato v. Board of Educ. of the Ellenville Cent. Sch. Dist., 842 F. Supp. 1512, 1516 (N.D.N.Y. 1994); Charlie F. v. Board of Educ. of Skokie, 98 F.3d 989 (7th Cir. 1996). Courts have held, however, that pursuant to the IDEA's provision allowing district courts to grant "appropriate relief," 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2), compensatory relief may be appropriate in the form of reimbursement where parents have unilaterally obtained special education and related services in situations where the school district has failed to provide an appropriate education or program. See, e.g., Burlington Sch. Comm. v. Department of Educ. of Massachusetts, 471 U.S. 359, 368, 369, 85 L. Ed. 2d 385, 105 S. Ct. 1996 (1985); Stellato, 842 F. Supp. at 1516-17.
In the present case, the Plaintiffs have failed to present any evidence demonstrating that they took unilateral action to provide appropriate services for Steven. Therefore, the Court finds that the Plaintiffs are not entitled to compensatory relief in the form of reimbursement for their administrative and legal costs or from the lost income resulting from their efforts. See Straube v. Florida Union Free Sch. Dist., 801 F. Supp. 1164, 1182 (S.D.N.Y. 1992) (stating that parental efforts may be reimbursed only where the parents actually provide the services to which the child was entitled, e.g., transportation).
B. Compensatory Damages and Section 504
The Plaintiffs claim that the Defendants discriminated against Steven on the basis of his disability by failing to provide Steven with a free appropriate public education, and as a result, they are entitled to compensatory damages. The Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that Section 504 was violated.
In addition to their obligation to provide an appropriate education under the IDEA, state and local educational agencies are required to provide a free appropriate education for children with disabilities pursuant to Section 504. See, e.g., Yankton Sch. Dist. v. Schramm, 93 F.3d 1369, 1376 (8th Cir. 1996); see also 34 C.F.R. § 104.33 (finding that regulation implementing Section 504 requiring the recipients of federal assistance that operate public schools to provide a free appropriate public education). Section 504 states, in relevant part, that "no otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." 29 U.S.C. § 794. As such, Section 504 provides relief from discrimination, whereas the IDEA provides relief from inappropriate educational placement decisions, regardless of discrimination. Brantley v. Independent Sch. Dist., 936 F. Supp. 649, 656 (D. Minn. 1996).
"The language of [Section 504] is instructive. It prohibits exclusion, denial of benefits, and discrimination 'solely by reason of . . . [disability]." Monahan v. Nebraska, 687 F.2d 1164, 1170 (8th Cir. 1982). "That a court may . . . come to the conclusion that an incorrect evaluation has been made, and that a different placement must be required under [the IDEA], is not necessarily the same thing as a holding that a [disabled] child has been discriminated against solely by reason of his or her [disability]." Id. at 1170-71. Therefore, something more than a mere violation of the IDEA is necessary in order to show a violation of Section 504 in the context of educating children with disabilities, i.e., a plaintiff must demonstrate that a school district acted with bad faith or gross misjudgment. See Brantley, 936 F. Supp. at 657 (citing Monahan, 687 F.2d at 1170-71).
In the present case, the Plaintiffs' argument that Steven was discriminated against because of his disability stems from IDEA-type educational decisions, i.e., the Defendants failed to timely assess and diagnose Steven's disability, and the Defendants failed to implement Steven's IEP in a timely and consistent manner. The Court finds that the Plaintiffs have not provided evidence that the Defendants acted with bad faith or gross misjudgment with respect to Steven's education. Instead, the record demonstrates that the severity and delicateness of Steven's condition often prevented the Defendants from implementing Steven's IEP in a timely and consistent manner. As in Brantley, "to the extent the [Defendants] made any inappropriate decisions, they were, at most, errors in professional judgment." 936 F. Supp. at 657. Accordingly, the Plaintiffs' claim for compensatory damages under Section 504 must be dismissed as a matter of law.
III. Plaintiffs' Due Process Claim
The Plaintiffs also claim that the Defendants violated their procedural due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to comply with the IDEA's procedural requirements and by failing to provide Steven with an appropriate education.
"It is well-established that the requirements of procedural due process are triggered only when a protected interest is at stake." See W.B. v. Matula, 67 F.3d 484, 502 (3d Cir. 1995). Assuming that children have a liberty interest in a free appropriate public education, see Mrs. W. v. Tirozzi, 832 F.2d 748, 751 (2d Cir. 1987), the government may deprive one of that interest so long as the process afforded provides minimal constitutional procedural protections. See Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335, 47 L. Ed. 2d 18, 96 S. Ct. 893 (1976).
In the present case, the Defendants provided the Plaintiffs with all the process that was due to them by convening CSE meetings and holding impartial hearings at the Plaintiffs' request. Further, the Plaintiffs were provided the opportunity to appeal the hearing officer's decision to the SRO, who partially ruled in their favor. Therefore, because the Plaintiffs were provided with sufficient due process, their due process claim lacks merit, and the Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Therefore, it is hereby
ORDERED that the CCSD Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, and the Plaintiffs' complaint is DISMISSED in its entirety.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: October 3, 1997
Syracuse, New York
Frederick J. Scullin, Jr.
United States District Judge