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Paul G.. v. Monterey Peninsula Unified School District

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 12, 2019

Paul G., a conserved adult; by and through his conservator Steve G., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Monterey Peninsula Unified School District; California Department of Education, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted June 13, 2019 San Francisco, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court No. 5:16-cv-05582-BLF for the Northern District of California Beth Labson Freeman, District Judge, Presiding

          Daniel R. Shaw (argued), Shaw Firm, San Luis Obispo, California; Christian Knox, F. Richard Ruderman, and Colleen A. Snyder, Ruderman and Knox LLP, Sacramento, California; for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Leonard Bruce Garfinkel (argued), Deputy General Counsel; Todd M. Smith and Edmundo R. Aguilar, Assistant General Counsel; Amy Bisson Holloway, General Counsel; California Department of Education, Sacramento, California; for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Mary M. Schroeder and Milan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judges, and Jed S. Rakoff, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY[**]

         Education Law

         The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal, for failure to exhaust remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, of claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

         A student's parents sought damages under the ADA and § 504 on the basis that the residential placement he should have received under the IDEA was not available in California. Plaintiffs failed to exhaust because they settled their IDEA case without receiving an administrative decision on whether the lack of an in-state residential placement had denied the student a free and appropriate public education. The panel held that exhaustion was required because plaintiffs sought relief that would also be available under the IDEA. Agreeing with other circuits, the panel concluded that the ADA and § 504 claims concerned whether the student was provided appropriate educational services. The panel held that plaintiffs' claims did not fall under exhaustion exceptions because they did not seek relief for a policy or practice of general applicability, and exhaustion would not have been futile or inadequate.

          OPINION

          SCHROEDER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         The parents of Paul G. ("Paul"), an autistic child, seek damages because the placement they believe their child should have received under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") is not available in California. They filed this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The district court dismissed their complaint for failure to exhaust their administrative remedies under the IDEA. We affirm. Plaintiffs failed to exhaust because they settled their IDEA case without receiving an administrative decision on whether Paul needed the placement they now assert was required for him to receive a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE").

         Paul is an adult student whose family resides near Monterey, California. His is a sad story of failed attempts to place him in an appropriate educational facility. During elementary school and early high school, Paul was enrolled as a special education student in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. During his junior year in high school (2014-15), he began having episodes of violent and threatening behavior towards the school staff and fellow students. After unsuccessful efforts to provide instruction at home and in the local library, the school district in July of 2015 held an Individualized Education Plan ("IEP") meeting and offered to place Paul in a residential facility. Because he was by then 18 years old, however, no residential facility in the state would accept him. Paul subsequently enrolled in a residential facility in Kansas, but became homesick and returned to California.

         Paul's counsel initiated IDEA administrative proceedings in August 2015, seeking a due process hearing with the California Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). His complaint alleged he had been denied a FAPE guaranteed under the IDEA. He sought a residential placement in California, monetary damages, and an order directing the California Department of Education ("CDE") and the school district to develop in-state residential placements for adult students like Paul.

         OAH dismissed the claims against the state, ruling that the agency did not have jurisdiction to order the creation of facilities for students over l8, and that the school district, not the state, was responsible for education decisions affecting Paul. Paul then entered into a settlement agreement with the school district in which OAH dismissed the case ...


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