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Delaware Valley School District v. P.W.

May 5, 2009

DELAWARE VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT, PLAINTIFF
v.
P.W., BY AND THROUGH HIS PARENTS JAMES AND PATRICIA W., AND PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition are two motions to dismiss filed by Defendant Pennsylvania Department of Education. The first motion seeks dismissal of the complaint filed by Plaintiff Delaware Valley School District, and the second motion seeks dismissal of the counterclaim filed by Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs P. W., by and through his parents James and Patricia W. The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.

Background

Plaintiff Delaware Valley is a public school district organized under the Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949 (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 1). Defendant P.W. is a student residing in the Delaware Valley School District (hereinafter "DVSD"). (Id. at ¶ 2). Defendants James and Patricia W. are P.W.'s parents. (Id. at ¶3). Defendant Pennsylvania Department of Education (hereinafter "PDE") is a governmental entity and a state educational agency as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1041(32) (Compl. ¶ 4).

P.W. is eligible for special education services as a student with mental retardation and autism. (Id. at ¶8). Pursuant to the IDEA, DVSD developed individual educational plans (hereinafter " IEPs") to ensure that plaintiff received free and appropriate public education (hereinafter "FAPE"). P.W.'s parents were not satisfied with the IEP's developed by the school for him and requested a "due process hearing" with regard to the 2005/2006 school year as well as the 2006/2007 school year. (Id. at ¶ ¶ 34-35). Eight hearings were subsequently held. (Id. at ¶ 36). The hearing officer awarded P.W. 360 hours of compensatory education for math instruction, 27 hours of compensatory education for social skills/pragmatic language and 72 hours of compensatory education for behavior support. (Id. at ¶ 37). The parents had sought many more hours of compensatory education. Both the parents and the school district appealed the decision of the hearing officer to the Special Education Appeals Panel ("Appeals Panel"). (Id. at ¶ ¶ 37-38). The Appeals Panel affirmed the twenty-seven (27) hours of compensatory education for social skills/pragmatic language. It decreased the compensatory award for math instruction to 252 hours and increased the amount of compensatory education for behavior support to 720 hours. (Id. at ¶ 39).

The school district now appeals the decision of the Appeals Panel to this court pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2); 35 C.F.R. § 300.516(a). (Id. at ¶ 42).

The complaint is comprised of three counts. The first count is the appeal of the award of the Appeals Panel. The second count seeks indemnification from the PDE, and the third count seeks contribution from the PDE.

In response to the complaints, Defendant P.W. filed an answer and a cross-claim against PDE. (Doc. 4). The cross-claim contains the following four (4) counts: 1) violation of IDEA; 2) disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA" and 42 U.S.C. § 1983; 3) disability discrimination in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 42 U.S.C. 12132; and 4) reimbursement of attorney fees under IDEA, Section 504 and 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

Defendant PDE has moved to dismiss both the plaintiff's complaint and Defendant P.W.'s cross-claim pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)1; 12(b)4; 12(b)5 and 12(b)6, bringing the case to its present posture.

Jurisdiction

As this case is brought pursuant to federal statutes, we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.").

Standard of Review

When a 12(b)(6) motion is filed, the sufficiency of a complaint's allegations are tested. The issue is whether the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, support a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and give the pleader the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can fairly be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

Discussion

Initially, we will provide a brief overview of the various statutes invoked by the plaintiff and the cross-claim plaintiffs. As noted above, plaintiffs have brought suit pursuant to the IDEA. The purpose of the IDEA is to "assure that all handicapped children have available to them ... a free appropriate public education." 20 U.S.C. § 1400(c). In order to receive federal funding to aid in the education of the disabled, states must provide programs that comply with IDEA requirements. 20 U.S.C. § 1412. Included in the requirements is that the state must have in effect "a policy that assures all children with disabilities the right to a free appropriate public education." 20 U.S.C. § 1412(1).

The congressional goal of providing a free appropriate education is implemented through the use of an IEP, which is developed for each disabled child. 20 U.S.C. § 1412(4). The IEP is developed by the parents, representatives of the school and where appropriate, the disabled child. 20 U.S.C. § 1414(b). It sets out "the child's present educational performance, establishes annual and short-term objectives for improvements in that performance, and describes the specially designed instruction and services that will enable the child to meet those objectives." Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 311 (1988). A yearly review of the IEP is performed to determine if any revisions are necessary to provide a free and appropriate education to each child's unique needs. Id.

The student's cross-claim also involves a claim made pursuant to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 729 (hereinafter "section 504" or "RA"). This statute prohibits discrimination against the disabled in ...


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