Fairfield-Suisun USD v. Dep’t of Educ.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Date Filed: 03-16-2015
  • Case #: 12-16665, 12-16818
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Watford for the Court; Circuit Judge Fletcher and District Judge Duffy
  • Full Text Opinion

A school district lacks statutory right of action to seek declaratory and injunctive relief regarding alleged violations of certain procedural requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and its implementing regulations regarding complaint resolution proceedings.

Consolidated appeals by California educational agencies (collectively “Plaintiffs”) alleged that the California Department of Education (“Department”) routinely violated certain procedural requirements imposed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and its implementing regulations. Particularly, “parents of a disabled student filed a complaint against the school district with the California Department of Education” charging the Plaintiffs with “violating the IDEA by failing to provide appropriate services to the students.” The complaint was pursued through a dispute resolution mechanism called a “‘complaint resolution proceeding.’” However, IDEA and the federal regulations applying it do not indicate whether a disgruntled party may be granted further review in regards to the outcome of the complaint resolution proceeding. However, the argument in this case is that procedure was violated where the Department issued a decision in the parents’ favor, then issued a decision in the school district’s favor on reconsideration, and then, issued a final decision in the parents’ favor on the ground that Congress did not grant school districts the right to sue state agencies for violating procedural requirements imposed by the IDEA. A similar case, Lake Washington, held that “local educational agencies have “‘no express or implied private right of civil action under the IDEA to litigate any question aside from the issues raised in the complaint filed by the parents on behalf of their child.’” The Ninth Circuit found that the holding of Lake Washington controlled, and if a school district has an implied right of action to challenge a state’s non-compliance with the IDEA’s procedural protections in the context of due process hearings, the school district also lacks an implied right of action in the context of complaint resolution proceedings. AFFIRMED.

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