Pangerl v. Peoria Unified School District

Filing 77

ORDER: denying Plaintiff's claims 72 pertaining to Count 1 of the First Amended Complaint 40 and affirming the 3/18/14 decision of the Administrative Law Judge; Plaintiff shall either provide a brief by 3/1/17, justifying the use of the initials T.P. as identification for her daughter in this lawsuit, or use her daughter's real name in all further filings; if Plaintiff files a brief, Defendant may file a response brief by 3/10/17. Signed by Judge John J Tuchi on 2/15/17. (REW)

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1 WO NOT FOR PUBLICATION 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Regina Pangerl, 10 11 12 No. CV-14-00836-PHX-JJT Plaintiff, ORDER v. Peoria Unified School District, 13 Defendant. 14 15 At issue is an administrative law judge’s (“ALJ”) denial of Plaintiffs’ Due Process 16 Complaint under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). Plaintiff 17 Regina Pangerl filed a First Amended Complaint (Doc. 40, FAC) with this Court seeking 18 judicial review of that denial, and the Court now considers Plaintiff’s Trial Brief 19 (Doc. 72, Pl.’s Br.), Defendant Peoria Unified School District #11’s (“the District”) 20 Opening Brief (Doc. 73, Def.’s Br.), Plaintiff’s Response Brief (Doc. 74, Pl.’s Resp.), 21 and Defendant’s Response Brief (Doc. 75, Def.’s Resp.). The Court finds this matter 22 appropriate for decision without oral argument. See LRCiv 7.2(f). 23 I. BACKGROUND 24 Plaintiff first filed a Complaint (Doc. 1) in this action on April 21, 2014, raising a 25 claim against Defendant to appeal the ALJ’s denial of certain aspects of her Due Process 26 Complaint1, and the Court set a briefing schedule on October 27, 2014 (Doc. 19). On 27 28 1 Both Plaintiff Regina Pangerl and her husband—who is not a party to this lawsuit—were plaintiffs in the proceedings before the ALJ below. 1 January 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint (Doc. 29), requesting 2 leave to add claims against Defendant under the Rehabilitation Act (Count 2), the 3 Americans with Disabilities Act (Count 3), and Arizona law (Count 4), thus changing the 4 complexion of this case from the appeal of an administrative decision under IDEA to one 5 that includes federal and state law claims to be resolved for the first time by the Court. 6 While granting the Motion to Amend, the Court concluded that it would resolve the 7 appeal (Count 1) before addressing the new claims. (Docs. 35, 38, 39.) Having received 8 the parties’ briefs, the Court now resolves Count 1. 9 In the first cause of action of the FAC, the operative pleading, Plaintiff raises a 10 claim against the District on behalf of herself and her incapacitated daughter, T.P. 11 (“Student”)2, to appeal an administrative decision under IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2). 12 (Doc. 40, FAC ¶¶ 1, 66–68.) Plaintiff alleges Student has learning disabilities and the 13 District failed to provide her with a Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”) from 14 2010 to 2013, as required under IDEA, by among other things failing to properly develop 15 and design an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”), failing to provide the requisite 16 speech and math services, failing to provide an appropriate plan to allow Student to 17 transition out of high school, and failing to provide Extended School Year (“ESY”) 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 The Court notes that although Plaintiff alleged in the FAC that T.P. is a “minor” (FAC at 1), she also alleged that T.P. was born on April 26, 1992 (FAC ¶ 3), making T.P. 24 years old at present and in any event the age of majority throughout this litigation. Plaintiff also alleges that T.P. is “incapacitated” (FAC ¶ 3), but that is of course distinct from being a “minor.” Nonetheless, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit raising claims on behalf of her daughter—presumably as a representative of an incompetent person under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c)—but identifying her daughter only by the initials T.P. While Plaintiff would have been justified in doing so under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2(a) if her daughter was indeed a minor, the Court is aware of no rule mandating identification of incompetent persons by their initials. A party’s “use of fictitious names runs afoul of the public’s common law right of access to judicial proceedings.” Does I thru XXII v. Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1067 (9th Cir. 2000). The Court thus permits the use of fictitious names for parties to a lawsuit only upon a showing of necessity to, for example, “protect a person from harassment, injury, ridicule or personal embarrassment.” Id. at 1068. Such necessity is not presumed. Thus, as this litigation continues, the Court will require Plaintiff to either identify her daughter by her real name, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 10, or make the showing required to proceed with a fictitious name. -2- 1 services. (FAC ¶¶ 14–19, 23, 67.) On January 13, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Due Process 2 Complaint with the Arizona Department of Education, Exceptional Student Services, 3 Dispute Resolution Unit. (FAC ¶ 20.) ALJ Eric A. Bryant held hearings on the Due 4 Process Complaint between September 3, 2013, and October 8, 2013, and issued a 5 Decision on March 18, 2014, ordering the District to provide Student with an additional 6 40 hours of special education math instruction but denying all other requested relief. 7 (FAC ¶¶ 21, 25, 27–28.) 8 Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred by, among other things, considering irrelevant or 9 extrinsic evidence and disregarding relevant evidence, finding the transition plan in the 10 IEPs to be appropriate, finding the District properly implemented most aspects of the 11 IEPs, finding that the District did not significantly impede parental participation in the 12 IEP by continuing an IEP meeting after the departure of Plaintiff and her husband 13 (“Parents”), and finding the District provided Student with a FAPE over the relevant 14 period with the exception of math instruction. (FAC ¶ 68.) Plaintiff requests that the 15 Court vacate the ALJ’s March 18, 2014 Decision, find that the District denied Student a 16 FAPE, award compensatory education services and transition services for the 2011-2013 17 school years, and award Plaintiff her expenses, attorneys’ fees, and costs in enforcing 18 Student’s special education rights. (FAC at 22–23.) 19 The ALJ Decision in this case is a 42-page order setting forth the witnesses, 20 evidence, and issues at the hearing along with detailed findings of fact. (Doc. 40-1, Ex. E, 21 ALJ Decision (“ALJ”) at 1–42.) The ALJ states he considered the entire record, including 22 all the testimony and every exhibit. Because the Court finds the ALJ was thorough and 23 careful in his findings, the Court concludes they are entitled to significant weight. JG v. 24 Douglas Cnty. Sch. Dist., 552 F.3d 786, 793 (9th Cir. 2008). 25 Plaintiff does not dispute the factual findings of the ALJ, but rather, only disputes 26 the ALJ’s conclusions of law. (Pl.’s Resp. at 7.) Therefore, the Court only briefly 27 summarizes the relevant facts for context and disjointly calls out only the facts directly 28 addressed by either Plaintiff or Defendant. -3- 1 In January 2011, Student attended New Way Academy (“NWA”), a school for 2 students with learning disabilities, because of her speech/language impairments and 3 learning disabilities in the areas of listening comprehension, reading comprehension, 4 reading fluency, math calculation, and math reasoning. (ALJ at 6 ¶ 1.) The District 5 created IEP plans for each academic year from 2010 to 2013, which contained prescribed 6 minutes per month of specialized instruction. (ALJ at 7–23 ¶¶ 2–38.) Plaintiff’s issues 7 with the District first arose in February 2011 when Parents ceased speech therapy for 8 Student after Student developed issues with the District’s two speech therapists. (ALJ at 9 12 ¶¶ 12–13.) At the end of December 2011, the IEP team changed Student’s placement 10 from NWA to a public high school within the District. (ALJ at 17 ¶ 21.) Upon switching 11 schools, Student’s new schedule deprived her of 90 minutes per day of special education 12 instruction in math for one semester as required by her existing IEP. (ALJ at 17 ¶ 22.) 13 During the course of the twelve-day hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from eight expert 14 witnesses. (ALJ at 25 ¶ 40.) Specifically, in regards to the adequacy of the speech and 15 language services, the ALJ heard from Ms. Carahaly, a witness for Plaintiff, as well as 16 three speech pathologists who testified on behalf of the District. (ALJ at 25–26 ¶¶ 41– 17 42.) 18 Ultimately, the ALJ rejected all ten of Plaintiff’s claims as follows: 1) Student’s 19 2010, 2011, and 2012 IEPs did not fail to provide a FAPE; 2) the District did not fail to 20 implement’s Student’s 2010 and 2011 IEPs by failing to implement her transition plan; 3) 21 Student’s 2010, 2011, and 2012 IEPs had measurable speech goals; 4) the District did not 22 violate IDEA by not providing an alternate speech therapist in 2011 as requested by 23 Parents; 5) Student’s 2011 IEP provided adequate speech therapy minutes; 6) Plaintiff 24 failed to prove that the amount of speech services provided by Student in the 2010 and 25 2011 IEPs was determined without meaningful participation of Parents; 7) the District did 26 not materially fail to provide speech services to the Student when it failed to provide 7% 27 of the promised speech services; 8) the District did not fail to provide Student with the 28 amount of reading and writing instruction required by the 2011 IEP; 9) the District did -4- 1 not violate IDEA by continuing an IEP planning meeting in November 2012 after Parents 2 left the meeting early; and 10) the District did not err in determining that Student did not 3 qualify for ESY services in Summer 2013. (ALJ at 33–39.) The ALJ found only one 4 violation of IDEA—the District failed to provide required math instruction in Fall 5 2012—and concluded that 40 hours of one-on-one math instruction was adequate to 6 compensate Student for that loss. (ALJ at 40–41.) 7 A dispute between the parties centers around the events of an IEP planning 8 meeting that took place in November 2012, when Student’s IEP team met to formulate 9 the 2013 IEP. (ALJ at 18–19 ¶ 26.) The District scheduled the meeting for two hours. 10 (ALJ at 18–19 ¶ 26.) Plaintiff and her two advocates, including an educational consultant, 11 attended the meeting, which also included Student for part of the meeting and the 12 District’s special education representatives. (ALJ at 18–19 ¶ 26.) At the beginning of the 13 meeting, Plaintiff’s educational consultant stated that she could only stay for the allotted 14 two hours. (ALJ at 19 ¶ 27.) After two hours passed, Plaintiff’s educational consultant 15 suggested reconvening the meeting at a later point to continue the ongoing discussion. 16 (ALJ at 19 ¶ 27.) The District representative stated that the IEP team would be 17 reconvening at a later time to make addenda to the IEP, but that the IEP team would 18 finish the IEP during the current meeting. (ALJ at 19–20 ¶ 27.) Parents and their two 19 advocates left the meeting, while the remainder of the District IEP team completed the 20 IEP. (ALJ at 20 ¶ 28.) According to the testimony of the District representative, the IEP 21 team needed to complete the IEP that day because the previous IEP would expire in a few 22 days. (ALJ at 20 ¶ 28.) The District representative testified that the District IEP team 23 planned to reconvene to re-address any ongoing concerns and to amend the IEP. (ALJ 24 at 20 ¶ 28.) The IEP team including Parents met again in January and February 2013, 25 during which time the team made changes to the 2013 IEP. (ALJ at 21–23 ¶¶ 33–34, 36.) 26 Another point of issue between the parties pertains to the testimony about 27 transition services given by an expert for Plaintiff and an expert for the District. Gary 28 Green, Ph.D., testified on behalf of Plaintiff and Rick Dunn testified on behalf of the -5- 1 District. (ALJ at 26 ¶ 43.) The ALJ found both witnesses to be credible but gave more 2 weight to the testimony of Mr. Dunn. (ALJ at 26 ¶ 43.) The ALJ reasoned that Dr. Green 3 had previously testified that Student’s 2010 and 2011 transition plans in the IEPs were 4 inadequate but subsequently backed away from this assertion upon cross-examination 5 when he reviewed evidence of the content of the courses that Student took. (ALJ at 27 6 ¶ 44.) On the other hand, the ALJ found Mr. Dunn to be “more familiar with the 7 coursework and the process that Respondent School District uses to provide transition 8 services.” (ALJ at 27 ¶ 45.) After recounting the testimony of both experts on transition 9 planning, the ALJ concluded that the “IEPs were poorly written,” but that nevertheless, 10 “transition assessments were given prior to and throughout the period at issue . . . .” (ALJ 11 at 28 ¶ 47.) 12 In the FAC, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ committed twenty-five errors. (FAC at 13 19–22.) In her Opening Brief, however, Plaintiff presents and addresses only six 14 questions for judicial review. (Pl.’s Br. at 10–25.) Any errors listed in the FAC but not 15 raised in Plaintiff’s Opening Brief are deemed abandoned and waived for failure to brief 16 the arguments. See M.M. v. Lafayette Sch. Dist., 767 F.3d 842, 861 (9th Cir. 2014), as 17 amended (Oct. 1, 2014) (“The parents fail to brief the stayed Department of Education 18 investigation theory, and it is therefore waived.”); United States v. Williamson, 439 F.3d 19 1125, 1137–38 (9th Cir. 2006) (holding that issues raised in an appellate brief but not 20 supported by argument are abandoned). 21 II. LEGAL STANDARD 22 Under IDEA, any aggrieved party may bring a civil action in federal district court 23 after receiving the final decision of an ALJ. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(A). The moving party 24 bears the burden of proving the ALJ’s decision was not met by a preponderance of the 25 evidence. L.M. v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 556 F.3d 900, 908–10 (9th Cir. 2008). 26 The district court “shall receive the records of the administrative proceedings,” can under 27 certain circumstances hear additional evidence, and “basing its decision on the 28 -6- 1 preponderance of the evidence, shall grant such relief as the court determines is 2 appropriate.” 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(C). 3 In a judicial proceeding under IDEA, the Court reviews de novo the question 4 whether a school district’s proposed IEP provided a FAPE, but reviews the 5 ALJ’s findings of fact only for clear error. Timothy O. v. Paso Robles Unified Sch. Dist., 6 822 F.3d 1105, 1118 (9th Cir. 2016). Mixed questions of law and fact are reviewed de 7 novo, unless the question is primarily factual. Gregory K. v. Longview Sch. Dist., 811 8 F.2d 1307, 1310 (9th Cir. 1987). Courts must not “substitute their own notions of sound 9 educational policy for those of the school authorities which they review.” Bd. of Educ. of 10 Hendrick Hudson Cent. Sch. Dist. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 206 (1982). However, it is a 11 matter of district court discretion to decide the degree of deference to give the ALJ’s 12 determination. Ojai Unified Sch. Dist. v. Jackson, 4 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1993). 13 When reviewing the administrative record as a whole, courts must give “due weight” to 14 administrative bodies, a standard that is less deferential than judicial review of other 15 agencies. Timothy O., 822 F.3d at 1118 (internal citation omitted). 16 III. 17 18 ANALYSIS A. Alleged Procedural Violations 1. Parents’ Participation at November 2012 Meetings 19 Plaintiff claims that the ALJ erred in finding that Parents were full participants in 20 the IEP process. (Pl.’s Br. at 10.) Plaintiff alleges that the District’s decision to continue 21 the November 2012 IEP meeting without the presence of Parents infringed on their 22 opportunity to participate in the IEP formation, thus denying Student a FAPE. (Pl.’s Br. 23 at 10.) “Parental participation in the IEP and educational placement process is critical to 24 the organization of the IDEA.” Doug C. v. Hawaii Dept. of Educ., 720 F.3d 1038, 1043 25 (9th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted). In fact, the attendance of the parents at IEP Team 26 meetings “must take priority over other members’ attendance.” Id. at 1045. Procedural 27 inadequacies that seriously infringe the parents’ opportunity to participate in the IEP 28 -7- 1 formulation process result in the denial of a FAPE. Id. at 1043. However, harmless 2 procedural errors do not constitute a denial of a FAPE. Capistrano, 556 F.3d at 910. 3 Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ’s ruling penalizes Student by blaming Plaintiff for 4 not participating in the November 2012 IEP meeting after the meeting ran longer than the 5 scheduled two hours. (Pl.’s Br. at 13–14.) Citing Doug C, Plaintiff argues that the District 6 IEP team acted unreasonably when it completed the IEP after Plaintiff’s departure in 7 order to comply with an expiring deadline. (Pl.’s Br. at 15.) On the other hand, the 8 District argues that, unlike the parents in Doug C, Plaintiff participated in the IEP 9 meeting and ultimately impeded the IEP completion. (Def.’s Br. at 20.) Because both 10 sides rely on Doug C, the Court analyzes that case in more detail. 11 In Doug C, a plaintiff father sued the school district for denying his son a FAPE 12 under IDEA when the district held an IEP planning meeting without the father’s 13 participation. 720 F.3d at 1040–41. The father and the district representatives 14 communicated back and forth while trying to schedule an IEP meeting and ultimately 15 agreed on a date after two other rescheduled meetings. Id. at 1041–42. On the morning of 16 the scheduled meeting, the father called the district to cancel the meeting due to an 17 illness, but tried to reschedule the meeting for a third time. Id. at 1042. After the father 18 failed to commit to a specific date, the district representatives proceeded with the 19 scheduled meeting on that day because thirteen employees had already rearranged their 20 schedule three times to accommodate the father. Id. at 1042. Thus, the district team 21 finalized the IEP without the father’s participation. Id. The IEP team had a follow-up 22 meeting a month later during which time they reviewed the IEP with the father, but 23 ultimately made no changes to the IEP because the father had no substantive input. Id. 24 The Doug C court held that the district’s actions were a procedural violation that 25 denied the student a FAPE. Id. at 1047. The court reasoned that IDEA requires school 26 districts “to include the [parents in an IEP meeting] unless they affirmatively refused to 27 attend.” Id. at 1044 (citation omitted). The court reasoned that the father did not 28 affirmatively refuse to attend but rather vigorously objected to the district holding an IEP -8- 1 meeting without him and asked the district to reschedule the meeting. Id. at 1044. The 2 court noted that parental obstinance is not an excuse for a district’s failure to comply with 3 IDEA’s procedural requirements. Id. at 1045. Furthermore, a district cannot exclude a 4 parent from an IEP meeting in order to prioritize its representatives’ schedules. Id. at 5 1045–46. The court also rejected the district’s argument that the meeting could not be 6 rescheduled because of the impending annual IEP deadline because, as the court 7 reasoned, the district is not required to cease providing services to the student if the 8 annual IEP review is overdue. Id. In a situation where the district must choose between 9 complying with a deadline and complying with the parents’ schedule, “the agency must 10 make a reasonable determination of which course of action promotes the purposes of 11 IDEA and is least likely to result in the denial of a FAPE.” Id. at 1046. Finally, the court 12 rejected the district’s argument that the follow-up IEP meeting with the father satisfied 13 the requirements of IDEA. Id. at 1047. 14 The present case is somewhat similar to Doug C. But unlike the father in Doug C, 15 Plaintiff and her advocates were present at the November 2012 IEP meeting, stayed for 16 the full two hours that the meeting was intended to run and only left when their advocate 17 had to leave. (ALJ at 19 ¶ 27.) Although Plaintiff suggested rescheduling the balance of 18 the meeting, the District representatives finished the balance of the IEP without the 19 presence of Parents. (ALJ at 20 ¶ 28.) As in Doug C, the District cited the expiring IEP as 20 a reason why the team needed to complete the balance of the IEP in the absence of 21 Parents. (ALJ at 20 ¶ 28.) The District stated it would make any required addenda to the 22 IEP and, in fact, did so immediately upon the start of the 2013 IEP year. (ALJ at 21–23 23 ¶¶ 33–34, 36.) 24 Importantly, in Doug C, the father never participated in the meeting, and here, 25 Plaintiff actively participated in the majority of the meeting along with two 26 representatives. (ALJ at 38 ¶ 30.) And, unlike the father in Doug C who provided no 27 substantive input during an after-the-fact meeting that resulted in no changes to the IEP, 28 Plaintiff participated in two follow-up meetings at the start of the IEP year that led to -9- 1 changes and addenda to the IEP. (ALJ at 21–23 ¶¶ 33–34, 36.) Finally, unlike the IEP 2 plan in Doug C, which was fully complete, the District representatives completed an IEP 3 that included only “a rudimentary transition plan” and had already agreed at the meeting 4 to reconvene to rewrite the transition component of the IEP. (ALJ at 20 ¶ 28.) The Court 5 finds these distinctions significant. The District properly considered Plaintiff’s substantial 6 participation in the IEP, the fact that the goal of the meeting was simply the development 7 of a rudimentary transition plan, and the immediate opportunity for Plaintiff to make 8 addenda in determining that the best course of action to promote the purposes of IDEA 9 was to complete the IEP meeting. 10 While IDEA is particularly protective of the parents’ right to participate in the 11 child’s IEP because they can “provide information about the child critical to developing a 12 comprehensive IEP and which only they are in a position to know,” Amanda J. ex rel. 13 Annette J. v. Clark Cty. Sch. Dist., 267 F.3d 877, 882 (9th Cir. 2012), in this case, the 14 District acted reasonably in protecting Parents’ rights. See Cupertino Union Sch. Dist. v. 15 K.A., 75 F. Supp. 3d. 1088, 1102 (N.D. Cal. 2014) (reasoning that “the District made a 16 reasonable determination to offer a revised IEP based on the parental input already 17 received . . . and to invite continued parental input”). As the District points out, (Def.’s 18 Resp. at 5), the other cases Plaintiff cites in support of her argument do not provide the 19 support Plaintiff seeks or represents. Accordingly, the Court does not find that the ALJ 20 erred in finding the District did not deprive Plaintiff of meaningful participation in the 21 IEP planning process. 22 2. Violation of the 75-Day Rule 23 Plaintiff claims that the ALJ issued his Decision 159 days after the conclusion of 24 the hearing and 427 days after the filing of the Due Process Complaint in violation of 25 IDEA’s 75-day procedural safeguard. (Pl.’s Br. at 24–25.) According to statute, a 26 complaining party must receive a final written decision from a Due Process Hearing 27 within 45 days of the expiration of a 30-day resolution period, or in other words, within 28 75 days of the filing of the Due Process Complaint. 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.510(b)–(c), - 10 - 1 300.515(a). However, the issuance of a final decision beyond the required deadline alone 2 is not a per se denial of a FAPE. Oskowis v. Sedona-Oak Creek Unif. Sch. Dist., No. CV- 3 14-08166-PCT-JAT, 2016 WL 1118038, at *9 (D. Ariz. Mar. 22, 2016) (citation 4 omitted). This Court only grants relief if the “procedural error either resulted in a loss of 5 educational opportunity or significantly restricted parental participation.” Capistrano, 6 556 F.3d at 910 (citation omitted). In this case, Plaintiff does not point to evidence that 7 Student was denied special education services during the ALJ’s delay, thus failing to 8 prove that the procedural error resulted in a loss of educational opportunity. 9 B. Alleged Substantive Violations 1. 10 Transition Planning 11 Plaintiff claims that the ALJ erred in finding that Student’s 2010, 2011, and 2012 12 IEPs offered meaningful educational benefit. (Pl.’s Br. at 19.) Under IDEA and the 13 regulations implementing it, IEPs must contain “appropriate measurable postsecondary 14 goals . . . ; [and] the transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the 15 child in reaching those goals . . . .” 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII). To determine 16 whether a student was denied a FAPE, the Court applies a “meaningful benefit” standard. 17 Joshua A. ex rel. Jorge A. v. Rocklin Unified Sch. Dist., 319 F. App’x 692, 695 (9th Cir. 18 2009). A student’s IEP provides a meaningful benefit when it is appropriately designed 19 and implemented. J.W. v. Fresno Unified Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 431, 432–33 (9th Cir. 20 2010). A court must not critique an IEP with the benefit of hindsight; instead, it must 21 evaluate whether the goals and methods were reasonably calculated to ensure that the 22 child would receive educational benefits at the time of implementation. Anchorage Sch. 23 Dist. v. M.P., 689 F.3d 1047, 1058 (9th Cir. 2012). 24 Plaintiff first3 claims that the ALJ violated the so-called “snapshot rule,” which 25 says that an IEP must not be critiqued in hindsight, but must rather be judged on its 26 27 28 3 Plaintiff briefly mentions that the child with a disability must be present at the IEP meeting related to transition planning, but fails to cogently argue that the child’s absence violated IDEA. (Pl.’s Br. at 16–17.) Even if Plaintiff had supported this argument, it would nevertheless fail because IDEA also provides that in the absence of - 11 - 1 “goals and goal achieving methods at the time the plan was implemented and ask whether 2 these methods were reasonably calculated to confer [Student] with a meaningful benefit.” 3 Adams v. Oregon, 195 F.3d 1141, 1149 (9th Cir. 1999). Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ 4 based his decision, in part, on the testimony of Mr. Dunn, an expert witness for the 5 District, who testified that the “process for determining and providing transition services 6 is ongoing and fluid.” (Pl.’s Br. at 22 (quoting ALJ at 27 ¶ 45).) In other words, Plaintiff 7 claims that Mr. Dunn looked at subsequent remedial measures to conclude that the IEPs 8 adequately addressed transition planning. (Pl.’s Br. at 22.) Plaintiff’s use of an out-of- 9 context quote is a misrepresentation of Mr. Dunn’s testimony; Mr. Dunn’s statement 10 refers to the fact that the IEP differed each year depending on Student’s needs. (ALJ at 27 11 ¶ 45). The ALJ correctly weighed Mr. Dunn’s testimony, which contained specific details 12 about the transition plans including coursework and analysis of how this coursework 13 focused on post-high school skills. (ALJ at 27 ¶ 45). Therefore, the Court finds that the 14 ALJ did not violate the snapshot rule and instead properly evaluated the IEPs to ensure 15 that Student received educational benefits at the time of implementation. 16 Plaintiff next alleges that the IEPs did not offer Student a meaningful education 17 benefit because they had several design flaws. Plaintiff quotes part of the ALJ’s findings 18 of fact, which criticize the transition plan. (Pl.’s Br. at 20–21.) Consequently, Plaintiff 19 claims that the ALJ’s conclusion that the IEPs passed legal muster is contradicted by his 20 own findings of fact. (Pl.’s Br. at 20–21.) The Court disagrees. Although the ALJ pointed 21 out several flaws in the transition plans, IDEA does not demand perfection, but rather 22 demands that transition plans be “reasonably calculated to confer [Student] with a 23 meaningful benefit.” Adams, 195 F.3d at 1149 (emphasis added). The ALJ clearly and 24 thoroughly evaluated the IEPs and accurately evaluated the credibility of the transition 25 experts to reach his conclusion. (ALJ at 33 ¶¶ 11–15.) Therefore, the Court defers to the 26 27 28 the child, a public agency may take other steps to ensure that the child’s interests are considered. 34 C.F.R. § 300.321(b)(2). - 12 - 1 ALJ’s thorough findings of fact and agrees with the ALJ’s conclusion that the IEPs were 2 sufficient to confer a meaningful education benefit. See Adams, 195 F.3d at 1150. 3 Upon review, the Court finds sufficient evidence in the record exists to support the 4 ALJ’s findings that Mr. Dunn’s testimony was credible and the 2010, 2011, and 2012 5 IEPs offered Student meaningful education benefits and did not deny Student a FAPE. 6 2. Speech and Language Services 7 Plaintiff claims that the ALJ incorrectly found Student was provided adequate 8 speech and language services and was not denied a FAPE. (Pl.’s Br. at 23.) To determine 9 whether a student was denied a FAPE, the Court again applies a meaningful benefit 10 standard. Joshua A., 319 F. App’x at 695. A student’s IEP provides a meaningful benefit 11 when it is appropriately designed and implemented. J.W., 626 F.3d at 432–33. 12 Here, Plaintiff alleges that the December 2010 IEP was inappropriately designed 13 because it provided for an excessive amount of speech therapy. In his ruling, the ALJ 14 summarized the testimony of Plaintiff’s witness, Ms. Carahaly, who testified about the 15 adequacy of the speech goals written in the December 2010 IEP. (ALJ at 25 ¶ 41.) 16 Additionally, the ALJ summarized the testimony of three speech pathologists who 17 testified on behalf of the District and concluded that the speech services provided were 18 appropriate. (ALJ at 26 ¶ 42.) The ALJ also evaluated the IEPs and concluded that the 19 2010 IEP had appropriate speech goals. (ALJ at 35 ¶ 18–19.) The ALJ’s opinion 20 thoroughly and completely laid out all of the evidence considered and gave specific 21 reasons as to why he gave more weight to the District’s witnesses as opposed to 22 Plaintiff’s. Therefore, the Court defers to the ALJ’s findings and agrees with his decision. 23 Adams, 195 F.3d at 1145. 24 Plaintiff also claims that the District failed to implement the IEPs as written for the 25 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. (Pl.’s Br. at 23.) In addressing this claim, the ALJ 26 found that Parents withdrew consent for speech therapy with the District’s two speech 27 therapists in 2011 and concluded that Parents were not entitled to a replacement speech 28 therapist of their choice. (ALJ at 35 ¶ 20–21.) The Court agrees because “Plaintiff is not - 13 - 1 entitled to his choice of service providers” under IDEA. N.R. ex rel. B.R. v. San Ramon 2 Valley Unified Sch. Dist., No. C 06-1987 MHP, 2007 WL 216323, at *7 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 3 25, 2007); see also A.B. v. Lawson, 354 F.3d 315, 330 (4th Cir. 2004) (“The issue is not 4 whether the [parents’ program or preferred provider] is better, or even appropriate, but 5 whether [the district] has offered an appropriate program for the child . . . .”). 6 Additionally, the ALJ found that the District failed to provide the required speech 7 services in Fall 2012 but concluded that the missing time—amounting to only 7% of the 8 total required services—did not result in a material failure. (ALJ at 37 ¶¶ 26–27.) Upon 9 review, the Court finds sufficient evidence in the record exists to support the ALJ’s 10 11 conclusion that the District provided adequate speech and language services to Student. 3. Math Instruction 12 Plaintiff claims that the ALJ erred in concluding that 40 hours of one-on-one math 13 instruction was adequate to compensate Plaintiff for the District’s failure to implement an 14 IEP in math. (Pl.’s Br. at 23–24.) As outlined in the ALJ’s opinion, the District admitted 15 that it failed to provide a semester of math instruction to Student due to an oversight. 16 (ALJ at 37 ¶ 28.) In determining the appropriate remedy for this IDEA violation, the ALJ 17 relied on the record and the expert opinions of Mr. Farrell and Ms. Hare to conclude that 18 compensatory 40 hours of one-on-one instruction were adequate. (ALJ at 37 ¶ 36–37.) 19 Plaintiff now demands 120 hours of total compensatory math instruction based on the 20 number of school days multiplied by the number of missed minutes of math instruction 21 per day. (Pl.’s Br. at 23–24.) 22 The Court cannot find that the ALJ’s decision was incorrect. Under IDEA, “[t]here 23 is no obligation to provide a day-for-day compensation for time missed.” Parents of 24 Student W. v. Puyallup Sch. Dist., No. 3, 31 F.3d 1489, 1497 (9th Cir. 1994). Instead, 25 compensatory education is an equitable remedy that is determined based on a fact- 26 specific analysis. Id. In this case, Plaintiff has failed to provide any objective evidence 27 that 40 hours were inadequate and instead simply makes a conclusory assertion that “the 28 remedy should have more accurately reflected compensation for the education lost by - 14 - 1 [Student].” (Pl.’s Br. at 24.) The Court agrees with the ALJ’s decision, supported by 2 expert testimony, that 40 hours of compensatory one-on-one math instruction was an 3 appropriate remedy. 4. 4 Summer 2013 ESY Services 5 Plaintiff claims that the ALJ erred in finding that Student was not denied a FAPE 6 when ESY services were not offered for Summer 2013. (Pl.’s Br. at 24.) Under IDEA and 7 the regulations implementing it, schools are required to provide ESY services as 8 necessary in order to provide a child with a FAPE. 34 C.F.R. § 300.106(a)(1). A school 9 must provide these services only if the child’s IEP team determines that such services are 10 necessary for the provision of a FAPE. Id. § 300.106(a)(2). IDEA and its regulations do 11 not set forth the specific factors the IEP team must consider in making this decision. N.B. 12 v. Hellgate Elementary Sch. Dist., 541 F.3d 1202, 1211 (9th Cir. 2008). Because 13 providing ESY is the exception, not the rule, a parent challenging a school’s decision 14 about ESY must show that the benefits a disabled child gains during a regular school year 15 will be significantly jeopardized if he/she is not provided with an educational program 16 during the summer months. Id. 17 The only basis for Plaintiff’s claim that the ALJ erred in affirming the District’s 18 decision on ESY is that the District made that determination after Parents and their 19 advocates left the November 2012 IEP meeting. (Pl.’s Br. at 24.) Plaintiff essentially 20 alleges a procedural violation of IDEA instead of a substantive violation, and the Court 21 already addressed this procedural violation above, concluding the District acted 22 reasonably in protecting Parents’ rights in formulating the 2013 IEP. 23 IV. CONCLUSIONS 24 Plaintiff’s procedural claims that the District prevented her from participating in 25 the 2013 IEP planning process, (Procedural Claim 1), and that the ALJ’s delay in issuing 26 a decision was a denial of a FAPE, (Procedural Claim 2), fail. Plaintiff’s claims of 27 substantive IDEA violations related to transition planning, speech and language 28 instruction, and math instruction, (Substantive Claims 1–3), also fail. Finally, the Court - 15 - 1 finds that Plaintiff’s allegation that Student was denied a FAPE when ESY services were 2 not offered for Summer 2013, (Substantive Claim 4), was already addressed by the Court 3 under Procedural Claim 1 and similarly fails. 4 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED denying Plaintiff’s claims (Doc. 72) pertaining 5 to Count 1 of the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 40) and affirming the March 18, 2014 6 decision of the Administrative Law Judge. 7 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall either provide a brief by 8 March 1, 2017, justifying the use of the initials T.P. as identification for her daughter in 9 this lawsuit, or use her daughter’s real name in all further filings. If Plaintiff files a brief, 10 11 Defendant may file a response brief by March 10, 2017. Dated this 15th day of February, 2017. 12 13 14 Honorable John J. Tuchi United States District Judge 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 - 16 -

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