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Christopher Baker v. Southern York County School District

December 17, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Conner)


Presently before the court is defendant Southern York County School District's ("the District") motion (Doc. 58) for summary judgment against plaintiff Christopher Baker ("Christopher"). The District moves for summary judgment on all remaining counts in Christopher's complaint (Doc. 1). The District asserts that Christopher cannot establish the requisite level of discriminatory intent to support Christopher's claims for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq, and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the motion.

I. Factual Background*fn1

Christopher is a former student of Susquehannock High School, which is governed by the District. Christopher has learning disabilities and received special education services while in school. As part of those services, the District created and implemented an "individualized education program" ("IEP") for the sake of providing Christopher with remedial instruction, accommodations, and appropriate modifications of regular educational programming. The District formed an "IEP team" to formulate and apply the IEP that included, among others, Christopher, his mother Paula Gryp ("Ms. Gryp"), Christopher's teachers, the school psychologist, and the school guidance counselor. (See Doc. 59-6, at 48).

In the summer before Christopher's senior year, the IEP team convened to discuss Christopher's senior-year class schedule, including the extent of his participation in regular education classes. (Doc. 59 ¶ 19). Christopher's attorney also participated in this discussion. (Id. ¶ 11; Doc. 59-4, Ex. C, at 74). During this meeting, the IEP team developed at least twenty-one items of adaptation or modification for Christopher's classes. (Doc. 59 ¶ 16). For example, the IEP team deemed it an appropriate accommodation to provide Christopher with answers to certain test questions as part of exam preparation. (Doc. 59-1, Ex. A, at 43, 79-81). The IEP also exempted Christopher from meeting the Social Studies credit requirement for high school graduation. (Doc. 59 ¶ 17). In addition, the IEP team placed Christopher in the District's Diversified Occupations program -- a work release program -- as a component of his regular education curriculum. (Id. ¶ 18).*fn2

During Christopher's senior year, the District compiled and reported to Christopher and Ms. Gryp information concerning Christopher's reading, written language, and math levels obtained from private evaluators, a District-employed psychologist, an Intermediate Unit-employed psychologist, and teachers. (Id. ¶ 13). This information included norm-referenced standard scores, curriculum-based assessments, IEP goal criterion-referenced progress monitoring, and regular education class progress monitoring. (Id.) Ms. Gryp met with district personnel on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to discuss the implementation of Christopher's IEP. (Id. ¶ 10). During the school year, Ms. Gryp and Christopher also discussed with the District whether Christopher should graduate or remain in high school for another year. (Doc. 67-5, Ex. G, at 9; Doc. 59-1, Ex. A, at 34-35; Doc. 59-3, Ex. B, at 26-27).

Midway through Christopher's senior year, the IEP team reconvened and revised his IEP. (Id. ¶ 12). As part of this revision, the IEP team utilized the results of an independent educational evaluation of Christopher's abilities as well as curriculum-based assessments administered by the District to modify and improve the IEP. (Id.)

At the end of the school year, the District believed that Christopher was successfully prepared for life beyond school and considered his academic performance sufficient to justify graduation. (Doc. 59-5, Ex. C, Vol. II, at 187). Christopher graduated from high school in June, 2007.*fn3

II. Procedural History

Christopher filed suit on September 19, 2008, alleging violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("§ 504"), 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. (Doc. 1). On November 21, 2008, the District filed a motion (Doc. 10) to dismiss. On December 8, 2009, the court dismissed Christopher's IDEA claim because Christopher had not exhausted administrative remedies. (Doc. 31). The court denied the motion with respect to Christopher's ADA and § 504 claims, but limited the scope of the claims to events occurring on or after September 19, 2006, two years before the filing of the complaint. (Id.) Thus, Christopher's claims are now effectively limited to events occurring during his senior year of high school.

On January 30, 2012, the District filed the instant motion for summary judgment, alleging that Christopher's § 504 and ADA claims for compensatory damages cannot survive without evidence of intentional discrimination and that the record does not support a finding of intentional discrimination.*fn4 The matter is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

III. Legal Standard

Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine dispute as to any material fact" and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary formality. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). The

burden of proof is upon the non-moving party to come forth with "affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings," in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F. Supp. 2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party on the claims. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith ...

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