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Rayan R., A Minor, Individually and By and Through His Parent v. Northwestern Educational Intermediate Unit Number 19

February 7, 2012

RAYAN R., A MINOR, INDIVIDUALLY AND BY AND THROUGH HIS PARENT, MICHELLIE R., AND MICHELLIE R., INDIVIDUALLY AND ON HER OWN BEHALF, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NORTHWESTERN EDUCATIONAL INTERMEDIATE UNIT NUMBER 19, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint. (Doc. 5). Plaintiffs are appealing an administrative determination as to the free and appropriate education afforded to Plaintiff Rayan R. Defendant argues: (1) that the Complaint is not a "a short and plain statement of the claim" as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 8; and (2) that the Complaint fails to plead a claim under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Court disagrees, and for the reasons below, will deny Defendant's Motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs allege the following in their Complaint. Plaintiff Rayan R. is a seven year old child who moved with his family from Puerto Rico to Scranton, Pennsylvania when he was four years old. He has been diagnosed with Autism, Borderline Intellectual Functioning, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-Combined, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Adjustment Disorder. He also has significant delays with language, emotions, social skills, peer interaction, frustration tolerance, adaptive skills, sensory integration, and auditory processing. Michellie R. is Rayan's mother. Her primary language is Spanish and she speaks very little English.

In light of Rayan's developmental issues, the Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit Number 19 ("NEIU") was grossly inappropriate and indifferent in addressing his specific educational needs. As a result, the NEIU delivered substandard services to Rayan, denying him a free and appropriate education ("FAPE") as required by law.

Only five days after Rayan started a Head Start Program in February 2009, he was referred to the NEIU as requiring early intervention services. Even though Head Start informed NEIU about Rayan's behavioral problems, the NEIU failed in its duty to provide Rayan with necessary services. NEIU instead elected to wait the entire sixty-day evaluation period before considering specific measures. In particular, the NEIU failed to translate Rayan's records from Spanish into English, failed to appropriately evaluate Rayan as to miss his Intellectual Disability and Autism diagnoses, and failed to devise a proper educational program for his needs. However, Rayan's significant behavioral problems ultimately caused the Head Start Program to reject him. The NEIU then referred Rayan on March 25, 2009 to the Friendship House, a partial hospitalization program that the NEIU knew was not an educational placement.

After his referral to the Friendship House, NEIU continued to fall short of meeting Rayan's educational needs as it "virtually washed its hands" of Rayan. (Compl. at 2, Doc. 1). On May 8, 2009, the NEIU's released a deficient Educational Report ("ER") for Rayan which did not contain many of Rayan's available records, did not sufficiently rely on evaluations, and failed in many ways to take into account Rayan's linguistic and cultural background. Rayan's May 26, 2009 individualized educational program was similarly deficient. The NEIU additionally failed to conduct interagency meetings to determine the scope of necessary programs and services for Rayan and Rayan's mother was generally excluded from these processes.

Notably, the NEIU failed to appropriately transition Rayan to the age-appropriate program in the district, even though it was aware as of February 23, 2009 that Rayan intended to begin kindergarten in the fall. While transition services should have begun at least ninety days prior to the start of the program, the NEIU did not begin transition until August 3, 2009--only three weeks before Rayan was supposed to begin kindergarten--and even then it failed to forward Rayan's records to his school. An individualized education program was not finally made until December of 2009.

Plaintiffs raised the above problems in an administrative Special Education due process hearing under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and Chapters 14 and 15 of the Pennsylvania Code. At the hearing, Plaintiffs sought a determination that Rayan had been denied an appropriate services and to compel: (1) an Independent Educational Evaluation ("IEE") at the public's expense; (2) full days of compensatory education for the period of February 23, 2009 through December 18, 2009; and (3) attorney's fees and costs. The Special Education Hearing Officer found for the Plaintiffs in finding that the NEIU failed to properly appropriately evaluate Rayan and that it had failed to offer appropriate special education services from February 23, 2009 to the first day of school in the fall. However, the Hearing Officer erroneously ruled that the NEIU had offered appropriate placement and transition services fo Rayan, did not order an IEE at public expense, and inappropriately limited Rayan's award of compensatory education to half-days at NEIU rates for the period between May 8, 2009 (instead of February 23, 2009), through the first day of the 2009-2010 school year (instead of December 18, 2009). It is these administrative decisions that Plaintiffs now appeal.

Plaintiff filed their Complaint with the Court on September 8, 2011. (Doc. 1). Defendant moved to dismiss on November 18, 2011, arguing that Plaintiffs' Complaint failed to meet the "spirit and letter of Rule 8," and that the Plaintiffs also failed to state a claim as to Section 504 or the Americans with Disabilities Act.*fn1 (Def.'s Br. at 7, Doc. 6). Briefs were submitted and oral argument was held before the Court on February 3, 2011. As such, the Motion to Dismiss is now ripe for the Court's review.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of their claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

"A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Detailed factual allegations are not required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. However, mere conclusory statements will not do; "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). Instead, a complaint must "show" this entitlement by ...


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