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O.M. v. Board of Education of Wayne Central School District

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 29, 2015

O.M., by his parent D.M., and parent D.M., Plaintiffs,


MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

I. Introduction

D.M. and her child, O.M. (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), instituted this action on August 22, 2014, asserting a cause of action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., against defendant Board of Education of the Wayne Central School District ("Defendant" or "the District"). Plaintiffs purport to challenge the "systemic failure" of the District to provide a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") to O.M. and other unnamed students with disabilities in the District. Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) ("Rule 12(b)(1)") to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

O.M. is a student with a disability who, during the 2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-2015 school years, received special educational services from the District. At the time Plaintiffs filed their complaint, O.M. was 19-years-old and in twelfth grade. O.M. is classified as having "Multiple Disabilities" (autism and Down's Syndrome) and is an "Alternate Assessment" student, although Plaintiffs have not defined what that means. O.M. is a participant in "the S.H.O.W. program", [1] which Plaintiffs state is "primarily non-academic". Complaint ("Compl.") (Dkt #1) ¶ 43. The goals of the S.H.O.W. program include career development, "integrated learning, " and "[u]niversal foundation skills in reading, writing, listening, speaking and (functional) math." Id . ¶ 6. Plaintiffs assert that approximately 21 students with disabilities are currently enrolled in the S.H.O.W. program or have attended the program within the past two years. Id . ¶ 25.

With regard to O.M. specifically, Plaintiffs assert that in his individualized educational plan ("IEP") developed for the 2014-2015 school year, the transition goals and services "remained vague and not tailored to his individualized needs, in violation of 8 N.Y.C.R.R. §§ 200.4(2)(viii-ix)." Id . ¶ 46. As an example, O.M.'s most current IEP no longer has any academic component. Id . ¶ 47. Plaintiffs claim that O.M. does not have access to the general curriculum and that as a result of the District's failures, O.M. is not achieving his IEP goals in any areas, including Reading, Writing, Math, and Speech/Language. Id . ¶ 55. Despite this lack of progress, Plaintiffs assert, the District made no changes to O.M.'s IEP. Id . ¶ 57.

Plaintiffs further allege that the District has failed to provide a FAPE to unspecified students in the S.H.O.W. program, has "failed to provide transition goals and services to students with disabilities who require such goals and services in order to receive a FAPE"; has failed to provide S.H.O.W program students "access to the NYSAA Frameworks"; and "has denied them access to the general curriculum." Compl. ¶¶ 61-63. The complaint contains other criticisms of the S.H.O.W. program's curriculum, e.g., that students have no access to science laboratories, art rooms equipped with art supplies, music rooms equipped with instruments, auditoriums designed for theater productions, or gymnasiums; and are denied access to "specials", such as photography, regularly offered to other students. Id . ¶¶ 52-53. Plaintiffs also allege that the District has failed to implement the IEPs of students who attend the S.H.O.W. program. Id . ¶ 64. However, Plaintiffs do not identify any other students in the S.H.O.W. program whose IEPs the District allegedly has failed to implement.

Based on these alleged violations of the IDEA due to the District's failure to provide O.M. and "all students similarly situated, " Compl., p. 11, with a FAPE, Plaintiffs seek various forms of injunctive, declaratory, and compensatory relief. In particular, Plaintiffs demand that the District be enjoined to develop a "plan designed to remedy the above-mentioned violations, including the submission of a timetable for correcting these violations, " and to "establish and implement policies and procedures, as set forth in the plan, necessary to comply with federal and state law." Compl., p. 12. Plaintiffs seek equitable relief, including the provision of additional educational services or compensatory education to O.M. Plaintiffs also seek compensatory damages in the form of reimbursement for educational expenses incurred by D.M., as well as reasonable attorney's fees, pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B). Id.

After answering Plaintiffs' complaint on October 2, 2014, the District moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). The District contends that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies prior to commencing this action. Plaintiffs have opposed the motion, and the District filed a reply. The motion was held in abeyance while the parties engaged in mediation efforts, which were unsuccessful. The Court has been notified that resolution of the motion to dismiss would be helpful for purposes of any further settlement discussions.

For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is granted, and the complaint is dismissed.

III. General Legal Principles

A. Rule 12(b)(1) and Subject Matter Jurisdiction

A case properly may be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) "when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). A plaintiff asserting subject matter jurisdiction has "the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it exists. Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113. When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court must accept all material factual allegations in the complaint as true, but jurisdiction nevertheless "must be shown affirmatively, and that showing is not made by drawing inferences favorable to the party asserting [jurisdiction]." Shipping Fin. Servs. Corp. v. Drakos, 140 F.3d 129, ...

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