Orange County v. California Dept. of Education

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 12-28-2011
  • Case #: 09-56192
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge R. Fisher for the Court; District Judge Shea; partial concurrence and partial dissent by Circuit Judge Bybee
  • Full Text Opinion

The California agency that is responsible for the an eligible minor under the Individuals with Disabilities Act is the school district in which the individuals parents resides, or the California Department of Education if no parent is defined or identified by statute.

Since 1996, A.S. has been a dependent of the Orange County Juvenile Court, in compliance with the California Welfare and Institutions Code § 300. A.S.'s biological parents' rights, including educational rights, were terminated in 1999. From February 2000 to April 2004, Lori Hardy was the foster parent of A.S. In 2003, Hardy was appointed de facto parent by the juvenile court. Hardy is a resident of the City of Orange and has resided within the Orange Unified School District. Hardy was also authorized to make all educational decisions. A.S. was a California minor eligible for special education services during all relevant times, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"). In 2006, A.S.'s individualized education program team, under the Orange County Department of Education, referred A.S. to the Orange County Health Care Agency for a mental health assessment, and it was recommended that A.S. be placed at Cinnamon Hills treatment facility in Utah. A.S. was placed at Cinnamon Hills from July 28, 2006, and Orange County fronted the costs of A.S.'s educational services through April 19, 2009. In October 2006, A.S. filed for a special education due process hearing. The Court was charged with deciding which California agency was responsible for funding A.S.'s education placement in the out-of-state facility; whether the responsible agency was the school district in which the student's parent resides (California Education Code 56028); and whether Hardy, as A.S's de facto parent and person making educational decisions, fell within the definition of parent for 2005, 2007 and 2009 versions of section 56028. The Ninth Circuit found that the California Department of Education was the agency responsible for A.S.'s education for July 28, 2006, through October 10, 2007, until the 2007 version of 56028 superseded the 2005 version, as A.S. had no identified parent at the time. Hardy meets the definition of parent for October 2007 through 2009, and subsequently the Orange Unified School District is responsible for A.S.'s educational costs during this period. AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART AND REMANDED.

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