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Rafano v. Patchogue-Medford School Dist.

March 20, 2009

CHRISTOPHER RAFANO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PATCHOGUE-MEDFORD SCHOOL DISTRICT, PATCHOGUE-MEDFORD SCHOOL BOARD AND MICHAEL MOSTOW, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Christopher Rafano ("plaintiff" or "Rafano") brings the present civil rights action against the Patchogue-Medford School District (the "District"), the Patchogue- Medford School Board (the "School Board") and Michael Mostow ("Mostow"), individually and in his official capacity as Superintendent, (collectively, "defendants"), alleging that (1) plaintiff's academic transcripts issued by defendants reflected incorrect grades, (2) defendants interfered with plaintiff's ability to take the SAT Examination, and (3) these actions, in conjunction with defendants' refusal to release plaintiff's medical records, resulted in plaintiff's rejection from all colleges of his choice. Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1490, and state law.

Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted on all federal claims, and the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

The Court has taken the facts described below from the parties' affidavits, exhibits and defendants' Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts ("Defs' 56.1").*fn1 In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court shall construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Capobianco v. City of New York, 422 F.3d 47, 50 (2d Cir. 2005).

Plaintiff attended the Patchogue-Medford School District for part of the school years between 2001 and 2004. (Defs' 56.1 ¶ 1.) Plaintiff suffers from ADHD and bipolar disorder. (Defendants' Affirmation in Support, Ex. X.) On November 12, 2002, plaintiff's mother requested that plaintiff be evaluated by the District's Committee on Special Education ("CSE"). (Defs' 56.1 ¶ 2.) A CSE meeting was held on January 10, 2003, and resulted in plaintiff's classification as "Other Health Impairment." (Id. ¶ 3.) Between February 2003 and March 2003, plaintiff was suspended from school on several occasions for "cutting classes, walking out of classes without permission, and displaying insubordinate behavior, including use of profanities to teachers and other school staff." (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.) A meeting was held on April 2, 2003, at which the CSE determined that plaintiff "would benefit from a smaller structured learning environment." (Id. ¶ 6.) The CSE recommended a BOCES screening, to which plaintiff's mother consented. (Id. ¶ 6.) At a meeting held on June 11, 2003, the CSE and plaintiff's parents approved plaintiff's placement at the Eastern Suffolk BOCES. (Id. ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff attended Eastern Suffolk BOCES from May 2003 through November 2003. (Id. ¶ 8.) In August of 2003, plaintiff's mother requested a CSE meeting because she no longer approved of plaintiff's placement. (Id. ¶ 9.) Such meeting was held on September 10, 2003, and CSE and plaintiff's mother agreed that plaintiff would continue to attend BOCES. (Id. ¶ 9.)

In December of 2003, at the request of plaintiff's mother, the CSE agreed to place plaintiff back into the Patchogue-Medford High School. (Id. ¶ 10.) At a meeting on January 23, 2004, however, the CSE determined that plaintiff's needs were not being met at the high school and plaintiff "continued to 'openly defy authority figures and use inappropriate language.'" (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff's mother agreed to another BOCES screening, with home tutoring as the interim placement until an appropriate placement could be arranged. (Id. ¶11.) On January 26, 2004, plaintiff's mother wrote to the District, informing it that she disagreed with the CSE's determination and she had decided to send plaintiff to a private school, the Sappo School. (Id. ¶ 12.) In or about February of 2004, the District agreed to pay for plaintiff to attend the Sappo School. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff finished high school at the Sappo School, receiving a Regents diploma in August of 2004. (Id. ¶ 14.)

1. Plaintiff's Transcript

On October 22, 2004, plaintiff's mother requested a copy of plaintiff's transcript from the defendant school district. (Id. ¶ 15.) That same day, the school district provided plaintiff's mother a transcript containing plaintiff's grades from the Patchogue-Medford School District. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff's mother then requested a new transcript, including the grades plaintiff received at the Sappo School. (Id. ¶ 17.) The Sappo School provided the District with plaintiff's grades received from the Sappo School on October 26, 2004. (Id. ¶ 17.) On December 10, 2004, the District sent plaintiff's mother a copy of plaintiff's transcript, incorporating the grades provided by the Sappo School. (Id. ¶ 19.)

Plaintiff claims that plaintiff's grades from the Sappo School are not accurately reflected in the transcript the District sent. (Id. ¶ 20; but see Defendants' Affirmation in Support, Ex. C, at 76, in which plaintiff admits that the transcript accurately reflected his grades from the Sappo School.) Plaintiff's mother alleges that the transcript is also inaccurate in that "Defendants incorporated zeroes into his grades for quizzes he missed on days he was absent from school during grades nine through twelve, while he attended the Patchogue-Medford High School." (Id. ¶ 22;Defendants' Affirmation in Support, Ex. W, at 40-41, explaining that plaintiff received zeros for tests missed due to absence caused by suspension from school; but see Defendants' Affirmation in Support, Ex. Y, at 37 and 63, in which plaintiff confirmed he had no proof that the grades reflected in the transcript were not correct.) Plaintiff's mother does not dispute the accuracy of plaintiff's ninth grade grades. (Defendants' Affirmation in Support, Ex. X, at 35.) Nor does plaintiff's mother dispute the tenth grade Regents exam scores, which included a 65 in U.S. history, a 56 in math and a 56 in living environment. (Id. at 42.) Plaintiff's mother contends, however, that plaintiff would have received straight A's that year if the school had not improperly incorporated zeros into his grades for the tests he missed due to absence. (Id. at 81.)

2. The SAT Examination

Plaintiff took the SAT Examination without accommodations in May of 2003 and scored a 710. (Defs' 56.1 ¶¶ 24-25.) Plaintiff alleges that he took the test at that time as practice and intended to take it again. Plaintiff alleges that defendants removed his name from the list of those eligible for accommodations to take the SAT Examination and/or prevented him from sitting for the examination when he attempted to take the test again in November of 2004. (Id. ¶ 24.) Plaintiff concedes he never attempted to take it after that, despite there being no barrier to his doing so.

On February 24, 2004, the College Board - the body responsible for providing test accommodations for the SAT Examination - approved plaintiff's request for testing accommodations and advised plaintiff that such accommodations would expire on August 31, 2004. (Id. ¶¶ 27-29.) Plaintiff applied and was scheduled to take the SAT Examination on November 6, 2004, after the testing accommodations were set to expire. (Id. ¶ 29.) On or about November 1, 2004, the College Board advised the Director of the Sappo School that plaintiff was not approved for accommodations for the November 2004 examination. (Id. ¶ 30.) On November 4, 2004, the defendant District's Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel wrote to the College Board, requesting that plaintiff be allowed testing accommodations for the November 2004 examination. (Id. ¶ 31.) The College Board agreed to provide such accommodations, but plaintiff did not take the examination at the scheduled time. (Id. ¶ 32.) Plaintiff alleges that the District called the College Board and told them to cancel plaintiff's examination. (Defendants' Affirmation in Support, Ex. Y, at 76; Ex. X, at 45.)

3. College Admission

Plaintiff alleges that defendants prevented him from attending college by refusing to provide colleges with his medical immunization records. The District, however, is "not authorized to release medical records of its students." (Defs' 56.1 ¶ 34.) Plaintiff also alleges that inaccuracies in his transcript and denial of accommodations for and/or entrance to the SAT Examination have caused his rejection from the colleges of his choice. Defendants contend that plaintiff was accepted to Palm Beach Community College, but refused to attend because they required him to take remedial classes, (Id. ¶ 36; Defendants' Affirmation in Support, Ex. G, at 50, 52 (plaintiff testifying that Palm Beach Community College "send[s] [plaintiff] mail all the time... offering [him] to go to school... [and he] can't wait to go")) but plaintiff denies that contention. (See Defendants' Affirmation in Support, Ex. Y, at 13.) Plaintiff was accepted to Dowling College, which he attended for two months in the Spring of 2007. (Defs' 56.1 ¶ 37.) Plaintiff withdrew, however, before completing the first semester. (Id. ¶ 37; see Defendants' Affirmation in Support, Ex. Y, at 18.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action on October 2, 2006. Defendants filed their answer on December 1, 2006. Defendants filed this motion for summary judgment on August 25, 2008. Plaintiff filed his response in opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment on February 16, 2009.*fn2 Defendants filed their ...


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