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E.D. v. Palmyra R-1 School District

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division

December 11, 2017

E.D., a Minor, by and through his Parents and Next Friends, ANTHONY DOUGHERTY and KATHERINE D. DOUGHERTY et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PALMYRA R-1 SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This action is brought by plaintiffs Anthony and Katherine Dougherty on their own behalf and on behalf of their minor son, E.D., who has been diagnosed with Trisomy 21 (sometimes referred to as “Down Syndrome”). E.D. was a student at Palmyra Elementary School in defendant Palmyra R-1 School District until his parents withdrew him at the beginning of first grade. On November 25, 2015, plaintiffs filed a four-count complaint against the District asserting violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs allege that the District refused their request to evaluate E.D. for a Section 504 plan and provide him with certain disability-related accommodations. Plaintiffs further allege that, in contrast to their wishes, the District offered E.D. an individualized education plan (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Among other injuries, plaintiffs claim E.D. was deprived of the opportunity to obtain a free public education. The District now moves for summary judgment on all four counts of plaintiffs' complaint. Because the undisputed evidence establishes that plaintiffs did not exhaust their administrative remedies before filing this suit and because plaintiffs' § 1983 claim in Count IV is barred by Section 504 and the ADA's remedial schemes, I will grant the District's motion for summary judgment. Judgment will be entered in favor of the District.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff E.D. is a former student of the Palmyra R-I School District who has been medically diagnosed with Trisomy 21. Plaintiff attended kindergarten and the beginning of first grade at Palmyra Elementary School (PES) in the District before his parents chose to withdraw E.D. and home-school him.

         Prior to E.D. attending PES, his mother, Katherine Dougherty, informed the District that she and her husband wanted E.D. to be placed on a 504 plan. She acknowledged that E.D. also qualified for an IEP, but asserted they would refuse the IEP. Approximately a week later, Katherine Dougherty submitted a Section 504 Referral Form to the District and a Section 504 team convened. Because the team suspected E.D. had a disability under the IDEA, a referral was made under the IDEA and the Doughertys were sent a Notice of Action. In July 2014, a multidisciplinary team, which included plaintiff Katherine Dougherty, met. The team found E.D. met criteria for special education services under the IDEA. The District offered to provide an IEP to E.D., but his parents refused the IEP.

         In kindergarten, E.D. was placed in a general education, mainstream classroom. He did not have an IEP or a Section 504 plan. In May of 2015, near the end of E.D.'s kindergarten year, a multidisciplinary team again met and determined that E.D. qualified as a student with a disability under IDEA. A draft IEP was proposed for E.D and plaintiffs were provided with a Notice of Action. E.D.'s parents refused to provide consent for him to receive services and the District did not implement the proposed IEP. E.D.'s parents were provided with multiple copies of the Notice of Procedural Safeguards.

         On May 27, 2015, plaintiffs again requested a 504 evaluation and plan for E.D. by submitting a referral form to the District. In June 2015, the District notified E.D.'s parents that their 504 request was denied. Plaintiffs did not file a due process complaint under the IDEA. Plaintiffs claim they filed a “notice of appeal” regarding the District's denial of their request for a 504 plan, but later withdrew it. On August 19, 2015, E.D. began first grade at PES, but was withdrawn after nine days.

         In November 2015, Plaintiffs filed a four-count complaint against the District alleging violations of Section 504, the ADA and Section 1983. Specifically, Counts I and II allege the District failed to provide E.D. with educational accommodations in violation of Section 504 and the ADA. In Count III, Plaintiffs assert the District retaliated against them in violation of Section 504 and the ADA. Finally, in Count IV, plaintiffs request relief under Section 1983 for alleged violations of parents' procedural due process right to make decisions for E.D. Plaintiffs ask this Court to order the District to provide accommodations to E.D. under Section 504. Plaintiffs also seek an award of compensatory damages and education, along with attorney's fees and costs. The District now moves for summary judgment on all four Counts of the complaint.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment must be granted when the pleadings and proffer of evidence demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). I must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, “but only ‘if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts.'” RSA 1 Ltd. P'ship v. Paramount Software Assocs., Inc., 793 F.3d 903, 906 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Ryan v. Capital Contractors, Inc., 679 F.3d 772, 776 (8th Cir. 2012). However, summary judgment is particularly appropriate when only questions of law are involved, rather than factual issues that may or may not be subject to genuine dispute. See, e.g., Cremona v. R.S. Bacon Veneer Co., 433 F.3d 617, 620 (8th Cir. 2006).

         The relevant facts in this case are not in dispute; instead, the parties argue whether the law as applied to those facts requires that judgment be entered in the District's favor. For the following reasons, the District is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the undisputed facts of this case.

         Discussion

         In Counts I though IV of the complaint, plaintiffs seek relief for alleged violations of the Constitution, Section 504 and the ADA. The District argues that summary judgment must be granted in its favor because plaintiffs were required as a matter of law to exhaust their administrative remedies under the IDEA with respect to each of their claims and it is undisputed they have not done so. I will first consider whether Counts I and II were subject to the IDEA's exhaustion requirement and then separately address Counts III and IV.

         A. ...


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