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BOARD OF EDUC., PAWLING SCHOOL v. SCHUTZ

April 3, 2001

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE PAWLING CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STEVEN SCHUTZ; YVONNE SCHUTZ; STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; AND FRANK MUNOZ, AS THE STATE REVIEW OFFICER OF THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurd, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On July 17, 2000, plaintiff Board of Education of the Pawling Central School District ("plaintiff" or the "District") commenced the instant action against defendants Steven Schutz and Yvonne Schutz (collectively, the "Schutzes"), and the State Education Department of the State of New York ("NYSED"), and Frank Munoz, as the State Review Officer of the State Education Department of the State of New York ("SRO Munoz") (collectively, the "State defendants"), pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., ("IDEA"), and against NYSED and SRO Munoz pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Defendants now move to dismiss the complaint in its entirety. In addition, the Schutzes move for a preliminary injunction ordering the District to comply with SRO Munoz's order of March 16, 2000, requiring it to reimburse them for the cost of their disabled son's private school tuition, and for attorneys' fees. Oral argument was heard on November 27, 2000, in Albany, New York. Decision was reserved.

II. FACTS

This case arises out of a dispute over the education offered to the Schutzes' son, Kevin Schutz, a student in the District with severe dyslexia. There are no material facts in dispute in this case.*fn1

Kevin Schutz entered the District in kindergarten in 1991. Classified as a student with a learning disability by the District's Committee on Special Education ("CSE") in 1993, Kevin continued to attend its public schools, where he received special education and related services pursuant to Individualized Education Programs ("IEP") for the 1993-94 and 1994-95 school years. In September 1995, the Schutzes objected to the proposed IEP for the 1995-96 school year and unilaterally removed Kevin from school and enrolled him in the Kildonan School ("Kildonan"). Kildonan is a nationally renowned private school which serves children with learning disabilities.

The parties were unable to resolve the dispute over Kevin's IEP, and the Schutzes requested an impartial hearing in 1997, on the grounds that the District failed to offer Kevin a free appropriate public education ("FAPE"). In that hearing, the Schutzes sought reimbursement of Kevin's tuition at Kildonan for the 1995-96 and 1996-97 school years.

The Schutzes objected to the IEPs proposed by the District for the 1997-98 and 1998-99 school years, and the parties agreed to tuition reimbursement for those years. The Schutzes also objected to the IEP proposed by plaintiff's CSE for the 1999-2000 academic year, and re-enrolled Kevin at Kildonan. The Schutzes then requested an impartial hearing seeking tuition reimbursement for that school year.

At the outset of the hearing, the Schutzes sought to invoke the "stay put" provision of the IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(j). They requested that the hearing officer issue an interim ruling requiring plaintiff to pay Kevin's tuition at Kildonan during the pendency of the current dispute. The hearing officer denied the Schutzes' request on November 5, 1999. The Schutzes appealed to SRO Munoz, who sustained their appeal on March 16, 2000. SRO Munoz annulled the decision of the hearing officer and ordered the District to "reimburse petitioners for their expenditures for their son's tuition at the Kildonan School during the pendency of the proceedings brought concerning the boy's educational placement for the 1999-2000 school year." The District then commenced the instant lawsuit challenging this ruling.*fn2

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. 12(b)(6) Motion To Dismiss

In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court "must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant; it should not dismiss the complaint `unless it appears beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [its] claim which would entitle [it] to relief.'" Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)); see also Kaluczky v. City of White Plains, 57 F.3d 202, 206 (2d Cir. 1995). However, conclusory allegations that merely state the general legal conclusions necessary to prevail on the merits and are unsupported by factual averments will not be accepted as true. See, e.g., Clapp v. Greene, 743 F. Supp. 273, 276 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); Albert v. Carovano, 851 F.2d 561, 572 (2d Cir. 1988).

IV. DISCUSSION

The State defendants move to dismiss the complaint in its entirety pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the grounds that it fails to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted, and on the grounds that neither State defendant is a proper party under the IDEA. They also move to dismiss the complaint against SRO Munoz on the grounds of qualified and absolute immunity. The individual defendants also move to dismiss the IDEA claim against them pursuant to Fed. ...


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