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J.S. v. Attica Central Schools

March 7, 2006

J.S., BY HIS NATURAL PARENT AND GUARDIAN, N.S., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ATTICA CENTRAL SCHOOLS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge

ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs, disabled students attending public school within the Attica Central School District, commenced this action on June 14, 2000. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that the Defendant School District has violated its statutory and regulatory obligations to students who are educationally, physically or otherwise disabled or suspected of being disabled. Plaintiffs' claims arise under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 ("Section 504"), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), and related New York State education laws. Plaintiffs seek equitable relief, costs and attorneys' fees.*fn1 Currently before this Court is the Plaintiffs' renewed motion for class certification. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiffs are students attending public schools within the Attica Central School District ("School District") or students entitled to receive educational and other services from the School District. (Compl., ¶ 2). Plaintiffs are educationally, physically or otherwise disabled or suspected of being disabled. (Compl., ¶ 2). This action is brought on behalf of these students by their parents and natural guardians. (Compl., ¶ 2).

Plaintiffs bring their claims under the IDEA, Section 504, Section 1983, and corresponding state laws designed to ensure an appropriate public education or reasonable accommodation at public expense for disabled school children. (Compl., ¶¶ 105-118). Plaintiffs allege systemic violations of the law in the School District including the failure to provide access to school facilities for students with physical disabilities, and the failure to promptly evaluate and appropriately place children with disabilities or suspected disabilities in the least restrictive environment. (Compl., ¶¶ 3-5).

Three of the original Plaintiffs remain in the case. (Pls' Aff., ¶ 3).*fn2 The facts relevant to these remaining Plaintiffs, as set forth in the Complaint, are as follows. Plaintiff J.S., or John, is classified by the School District's Committee on Special Education ("CSE") as multiply disabled. (Compl., ¶ 16). John has cerebral palsy, is mentally retarded, and has perceptual and motor deficits. (Compl., ¶ 18). These conditions render him physically handicapped and dependent on a wheelchair for his movement. (Compl., ¶ 17). John is only able to get in and out of the Middle School building through the shop class, and he does not have adequate access to the school's computer room, nurse's office, weight room, home economics room or swimming pool. (Compl., ¶¶ 9-13). He also does not have adequate or safe toilet access. (Compl., ¶ 14).*fn3

Plaintiff C.Z., or Caroline, attends Prospect Elementary School in a program for at-risk students. (Compl., ¶ 57). Although she receives speech services from the School District, Caroline is not classified under the IDEA. (Compl., ¶ 57). Caroline was tested and denied special services because her score was too high. (Compl., ¶ 59). The School District failed to provide her parent with a copy of the relevant tests and evaluations that were used to determine that she was not eligible for special education. (Compl., ¶ 59).

Plaintiff K.Z., or Ken, is a student in the Attica Central School District in a regular education classroom. (Compl., ¶ 60). During the 1998-99 school year, the CSE declassified him as speech impaired. (Compl., ¶ 61).

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs commenced this action on June 14, 2000, by filing a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Certify the Class that same day. On August 15, 2000, the School District moved to dismiss the Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. By Decision and Order entered on October 1, 2001, this Court denied the motion in its entirety but certified the issue of subject matter jurisdiction for interlocutory appeal at the request of the School District.

On February 11, 2003, Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify the Class was withdrawn without prejudice and with leave to re-file nunc pro tunc to the date of original filing pending a determination by the Second Circuit that this Court had subject matter jurisdiction in this case. The Second Circuit affirmed this Court's Decision and remanded the case for further proceedings on November 2, 2004. On June 27, 2005, Plaintiffs renewed their Motion ...


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