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A.A. v. BOARD OF EDUC.

April 18, 2002

A.A., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
BOARD OF EDUCATION, CENTRAL ISLIP UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL., DEFENDANT.



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

ORDER

This action was commenced on behalf of a group of students in the Central Islip Union Free School District (the "District" or the "School District") against the District, the State of New York (the "State" or "New York"), Richard Mills, the New York State Commissioner of Education ("Commissioner Mills") and George E. Pataki, the Governor of the State of New York ("Governor Pataki"). Plaintiffs have settled their claims against the School District. Accordingly, the defendants that remain are the State of New York, Commissioner Mills and Governor Pataki (collectively the "State Defendants"). Presently before the court is the motion of the State Defendants to dismiss the remaining claims as presently set forth in Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (the "Complaint").

BACKGROUND

I. The Complaint

Plaintiffs style this case as a class action and describe the members of the class as current and former students attending school within the School District who were born between December 31, 1975 and January 1, 1990, and were classified as students with disabilities by the Central Islip Committee on Special Education as of October 10, 1996.

Federal claims are asserted pursuant to: (1) the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400-1485 (the "IDEA"); (2) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 ("Section 504") and (3) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). Plaintiffs assert a state law claim pursuant to the New York State Education Law §§ 4401-4410 (the "State Education Law").

Plaintiffs' claims detail several alleged failures of the School District in their administration of special education programs. It is alleged, inter alia, that the District failed to: (1) timely forward referrals to the Committee on Special Education; (2) properly evaluate special education students; (3) include necessary information on Individualized Education Plans; (4) retain certified teachers; (5) follow due process and impartial hearing procedures; (6) properly group students and (7) provide a guidance program for children in grades kindergarten through six.

The factual basis for the Plaintiffs' claims against the State Defendants focus on these defendants' alleged failure to monitor and insure compliance by the School District with the laws governing the education of students with disabilities.

II. The Settlement with the School District

In November of 2000, Plaintiffs settled their claims with the School District (the "Settlement"). The Settlement provides for the payment of damages in the amount of $735,000 along with detailed injunctive relief. Among the many requirements of the injunction are:

• the identification by the School District of needed personnel on a short and long term basis;
• the training of school personnel regarding the administration of the IDEA, Section 504, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the State Education Law;
• administrative reorganization of the District Committee on Special Education;
• implementation of a plan for providing students with an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment;
• particularized percentages to be reached regarding the number of students who may be classified as in need of special education services, those who must be educated in separate settings and particularities regarding time spent outside of the regular classroom setting.

The parties to the Settlement agreed to appointment of a Special Master for the purpose of monitoring and ensuring compliance with all injunctive relief.

III. Remaining Claims

Despite the broad nature of injunctive relief set forth in the Settlement, Plaintiffs continue to press their claims against the State Defendants. As noted above, the State Defendants are charged in the Complaint with failing to monitor and enforce the School District's compliance with laws regarding the education of children with disabilities. Plaintiffs state that each violation by the School District has "existed and/or continues to exist with the knowledge and acquiescence of the State Defendants."

IV. Relief Sought

The Complaint seeks a declaration that the State Defendants have failed to ensure that the School District complied with the IDEA, the Rehabilitation Act and the New York State Education Law. In addition to alleging violation of these statutes, Plaintiffs seek to enforce compliance with the federal statutes by way of an action pursuant to Section 1983.

As part of their claim for injunctive relief, Plaintiffs ask the court to direct the State Defendants to identify those students who have not been provided appropriate special education and related services and to order the State Defendants to provide the education required by law. Plaintiffs also seek an order directing the State Defendants to design and submit a plan for court approval that assures that children with disabilities residing in the School District are timely and appropriately evaluated and, if necessary, provided appropriate special education and related services. This request seeks an order requiring, inter alia, the School District to educate students in the least restrictive environment, establish adequate transition services and to group children according to their needs. Appointment of a Special Master is sought to monitor the State Defendants' implementation of any plan required by an order of this court.

By way of damages, Plaintiffs seek compensatory special education and related services pursuant to the IDEA and Section 504. They also seek compensatory money damages pursuant to Section 504 and Section 1983. Finally, Plaintiffs seek, along with the costs and disbursements associated with the litigation, an award of reasonable attorneys' fees.

V. The State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

The State Defendants attack Plaintiffs' claims on various fronts. Complete dismissal of the complaint is sought on the ground that Plaintiffs have failed, as required by the IDEA, to exhaust their administrative remedies. The State Defendants also seek complete dismissal by comparing the relief afforded by the Settlement to the relief now sought from the State Defendants. Specifically, it is argued that Plaintiffs are now obtaining from the ...


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