Crofts et al v. Issaquah School District et al

Filing 21

ORDER denying Defendants' 10 Motion to Dismiss signed by Judge Richard A Jones.(TH) (cc: Plaintiff Jeremy Sanders via U.S. Mail)

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HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 LAYNA CROFTS and JEREMY SANDERS, 9 Plaintiffs, CASE NO. C17-1365RAJ 10 11 12 v. ORDER ISSAQUAH SCHOOL DISTRICT, MELISSA MADSEN, and RON THIELE, Defendants. 13 14 I. 15 INTRODUCTION This matter comes before the Court on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. # 10. 16 17 Plaintiffs oppose the Motion 1. Dkt. # 13, 20. For the reasons set forth below, the Court 18 DENIES Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. # 10. 19 II. BACKGROUND 20 Plaintiffs Layna Crofts and Jeremy Sanders, proceeding pro se, seek judicial 21 22 review of the final order of an administrative law judge pursuant to the Individuals with 23 Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq. (“IDEA”). Dkt. # 6. On October 24 25 26 1 27 Plaintiffs request oral argument in their Response to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. # 20. Having considered the submissions of the parties and the applicable law, the Court finds that oral argument is unnecessary 28 ORDER – 1 1 2 3 4 19, 2017, Defendants Issaquah School District, Melissa Madsen, and Ron Thiele, filed a Motion to Dismiss Melissa Madsen and Ron Thiele as defendants in this case. Dkt. # 10. III. LEGAL STANDARD A. FRCP 12(b)(6) 5 6 Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a 7 claim. The rule requires the court to assume the truth of the complaint’s factual 8 allegations and credit all reasonable inferences arising from those allegations. Sanders v. 9 Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007). A court “need not accept as true conclusory 10 11 allegations that are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint.” Manzarek v. 12 St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must 13 point to factual allegations that “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell 14 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 568 (2007). If the plaintiff succeeds, the complaint 15 16 avoids dismissal if there is “any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the 17 complaint” that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Id. at 563; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 18 662, 679 (2009). 19 A court typically cannot consider evidence beyond the four corners of the 20 21 complaint, although it may rely on a document to which the complaint refers if the 22 document is central to the party’s claims and its authenticity is not in question. Marder v. 23 Lopez, 450 F.3d 445, 448 (9th Cir. 2006). A court may also consider evidence subject to 24 judicial notice. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). 25 26 27 28 ORDER – 2 1 2 3 4 IV. DISCUSSION Under the IDEA, states are offered federal funds to assist in education children with disabilities. In order to receive federal financial assistance, the state must provide a “free appropriate public education” (or “FAPE”) to “all children with disabilities residing 5 6 in the State.” 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1)(A). The responsibility of ensuring that disabled 7 children receive a FAPE under the IDEA lies with state education agencies. 20 U.S.C. 8 § 1412(a)(11). A state education agency distributes the funds it receives to a local 9 education agency, and the local education agency is then responsible for providing 10 11 appropriate education and services to the disabled children. 20 U.S.C. § 1411(f)(2). 12 Defendants argue that Superintendent Ron Thiele and Executive Director of 13 Special Services Melissa Madsen, should be dismissed from this case because they 14 cannot be sued under the IDEA in their individual capacities, and that suing them in their 15 16 official capacities is duplicative of the claim asserted against Issaquah School District 17 (the “District”), because Mr. Thiele and Ms. Madsen are District employees. The Court 18 agrees with Defendants that to bring suit against Mr. Thiele and Ms. Madsen in their 19 official capacity would be duplicative because they are also bringing suit against the 20 21 District. See Stanek v. St. Charles Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist. No. 303, 783 F.3d 634, 644 (7th 22 Cir. 2015); Everett H. v. Dry Creek Joint Elementary Sch. Dist., 5 F. Supp. 3d 1167, 1180 23 (E.D. Cal. 2014). 24 The Court does not, however, agree with Defendants’ assertion that Mr. Thiele 25 26 and Ms. Madsen cannot be sued under the IDEA in their individual capacities. Very few 27 courts have examined the issue of whether the IDEA provides for individual liability. 28 ORDER – 3 1 Defendants cite to only one decision in this district that held that individual defendants 2 may not be sued in their individual capacities under the IDEA. Blanchard v. Morton Sch. 3 Dist., No. CV 02-5101 FDB, 2006 WL 1075222, at *4 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 20, 2006), 4 judgment corrected, No. CV 02-5101 FDB, 2006 WL 1419381 (W.D. Wash. May 19, 5 6 2006), and aff'd, 504 F.3d 771 (9th Cir. 2007), opinion amended and superseded, 509 7 F.3d 934 (9th Cir. 2007), and aff'd, 509 F.3d 934 (9th Cir. 2007). The court in Blanchard 8 dismissed the relevant individual defendants in that case on the basis of ineffective 9 service of process, but commented that “an additional basis for dismissal of the complaint 10 11 against the individual defendants is that these defendants may not be sued in their 12 individual capacities under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act or the IDEA because these 13 statutes do not provide for individual liability.” Blanchard, 2006 WL 1075222, at *2. 14 While this decision was affirmed, the Ninth Circuit specifically affirmed dismissal of the 15 16 individual defendants on the basis of ineffective service of process, and stayed silent on 17 the district court’s statement regarding their individual liability. Blanchard v. Morton 18 Sch. Dist., 260 F. App'x 992, 993 (9th Cir. 2007) 19 Defendants do not cite to any binding legal authority that supports its assertion and 20 21 the Court has not found a decision from the Ninth Circuit or any other circuit that states 22 that school district employees cannot be held individually liable under the IDEA. See 23 Stanek v. St. Charles Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist. No. 303, 783 F.3d 634, 644 (7th Cir. 2015) 24 (“We have not found a decision from any circuit holding that individual school 25 26 employees cannot be personally liable for violating IDEA.”). Defendants offer no other 27 28 ORDER – 4 1 2 3 4 argument supporting their argument that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim against Mr. Thiele and Ms. Madsen. Therefore, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is DENIED. V. CONCLUSION For the reasons stated above, the Court DENIES Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. 5 6 7 Dkt. # 10. DATED this 27th day of November, 2017. 8 9 11 A 12 The Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge 10 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ORDER – 5

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