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S.K. v. North Allegheny School District

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 20, 2015

S.K., a minor, by his parent, K.K., Plaintiff,
v.
NORTH ALLEGHENY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

OPINION

JOY FLOWERS CONTI, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

In this case, a mother asserts claims on behalf of her severely disabled child. The child's disabilities are compelling, and both parties acknowledge that the circumstances of the mother and child are heart wrenching. The court agrees that the circumstances presented here are emotional and difficult.

II. Procedural History

Plaintiff S.K. ("S.K.") initiated this civil action on February 18, 2014, when K.K., S.K.'s mother, filed a complaint on S.K.'s behalf requesting injunctive relief and compensatory education to remedy the failure of defendant North Allegheny School District (the "District") to provide transportation ("transportation service") between S.K.'s daycare, Child's Way, and S.K.'s school, the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children ("WPSB"). (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 3, 10, 17, 18.) According to the complaint, S.K. was denied access to a federally funded program, i.e., the District's transportation service, because of his disability. (Id. ¶¶ 27-40.) Based upon these core factual allegations, S.K. in the complaint asserts three claims:

- Claim I - A violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the "Rehabilitation Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 701, et seq., 34 C.F.R. § 104.4;
- Claim II - A claim for a violation of Chapter 15 of the Pennsylvania Code, [1] 22 PA. CONS. STAT. § 15; and
- Claim III - A claim for violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132.

(Id. ¶ 1.)

On March 18, 2014, the District filed its motion to dismiss S.K.'s complaint and a brief in support of its motion. (ECF Nos. 9, 10.) On April 15, 2014, S.K. filed a brief in opposition to the District's motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 19.) On June 5, 2014, the court held a hearing on the District's motion to dismiss and the court determined that supplemental briefing was necessary to resolve the motion to dismiss. On July 7, 2014, the District filed its supplemental brief, (ECF No. 26), and on August 6, 2014, S.K. filed his supplemental brief in opposition. (ECF No. 27.) On August 22, 2014, the court held a hearing with respect to the supplemental briefing and requested that the parties file second supplemental briefs. On October 3, 2014, S.K. filed his second supplemental brief (ECF No. 30), and on October 31, 2014, the District filed its second supplemental brief (ECF No. 31.) On January, 22, 2015, the court held a hearing on the second supplemental briefing and advised the parties that the District's motion to dismiss would be granted for the reasons set forth on the record and more fully in this opinion.

III. Facts as Alleged in the Complaint

A. Background

S.K. is a seven-year-old student within the District. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 13.) S.K. has a disability due to a diagnosis of Cornelai de Lange Syndrome that causes S.K. to be blind, deaf, and incapable of basic self-care, such as feeding and toileting. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 13.) S.K. also has significant speech and language delays, cognitive impairments, social interaction skills deficits, attention deficit, gross and fine motor delays, and other adaptive needs. (Id. ¶ 13.) At all relevant times, S.K. was recognized as a protected handicapped student, pursuant to § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and qualified to receive an equal opportunity to participate in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities that are provided to his nondisabled peers, in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., and Chapter 14 of the Pennsylvania Department of Education Regulations, 22 PA. CODE § 14.101 et seq. (Id. ¶ 14.)

In 2011, S.K. began attending Child's Way, a daycare for children with special medical needs, so that K.K. could work. (Id. ¶ 18.) Child's Way maintains a staff of registered nurses and childcare associates. (Id.) Prior to S.K. attending Child's Way, and on other subsequent occasions, K.K. contacted all daycare centers within the District's boundaries to ascertain their ability to meet S.K.'s medical needs. (Id. ¶ 19.) All daycare facilities contacted lacked the needed medical and nursing support offered by Child's Way. (Id. ¶ 19.)

In March 2012, S.K. was enrolled in the District to attend kindergarten. (Id. ¶ 15.) On July 26, 2012, in accordance with the IDEA, the District conducted an evaluation of S.K. (Id. ¶ 16.) The District concluded that S.K. required full-time visually impaired and hearing impaired support. (Id.) S.K. was issued an Individualized Education Program ("IEP"), pursuant to the IDEA, according to which the appropriate placement for S.K. was at WPSB. (Id. ¶ 17.)

B. S.K.'s Medical Needs and the District's Transportation Service

The District transports students between their school and their respective daycare facilities located within the District's attendance boundaries and the school attendance zone. (Id. ¶ 20.) K.K. requested that the District provide transportation for S.K. between WPSB and Child's Way. (Id. ¶ 21.) The District transports two other students from the District's attendance zone to WPSB. (Id. ¶ 22.) Child's Way is located 1.69 to 1.78 miles from WPSB. (Id.) To support her request, K.K. provided the District with a letter dated July 28, 2011, from Dr. Brian Kilpela, M.D., providing that S.K. is not able to attend a "regular" daycare and that the type of care S.K. receives at Child's Way "is medically necessary due to his conditions." (Id. ¶ 23.) K.K. also provided the District with correspondence from Erin Colvin ("Colvin"), a board certified pediatric nurse practitioner and Clinical Director of Child's Way. (Id. ¶ 24.) Colvin asserted in the correspondence that Child's Way is a good option for many medically fragile children "due to their consistent nursing care, whereas there is a risk of call-offs and inconsistent schedules with home nursing care." and requested "that [S.K.] and his mother be afforded the same opportunity [as other children in the District are given], but in a setting where nurses can give [S.K.] the medical care that he requires." (Id.) The District refused to ...


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