Thursday, August 26, 2004

Limitations and Administrative Remedies

Ashlee R was diagnosed with a learning disability while attending elementary school in the Oakland Unified School District. An Individual Education Program (IEP) was developed for her and she was educated pursuant to the IEP. Before Ashlee started high school, she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

When Ashlee started attending the high school, problems began. The teachers at the high school were not trained to review or follow her original IEP. The school district did not respond to modify her IEP in a timely manner after learning she had ADD. In fact, Ashlee's teachers were not informed of her disability, which caused friction and problems between her and her teachers. Ashlee's mother had to remove her from school and home school her for the remainder of the school year.

At the end of the school year, Ashlee received an IEP that addressed her ADD.

Ashlee and her mother brought an action for damages, alleging violations of the Rehabilitation Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as provisions of state law. The school district moved to dismiss the action on the statute of limitations grounds and for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

The Court denied the motion.

The Court held that the Rehabilitation Act and the Civil Rights Act claims borrowed the one-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions. While the action was brought outside the one-year limitations period, the period was tolled because Ashlee was under 18.

IDEA does not include a statute of limitations, but California implements IDEA through its special education programs laws. Under California law, there is a three-year statute of limitations for requesting a due process hearing, steming from the time that the party making the request knew or had reason to know the facts underlying the basis of the request. While the complaint was not clear as to whether Ashlee had requested and been denied a due process hearing. The Complaint, however, stated that the plaintiffs had attempted to contact the administration in order to modify Ashlee's IEP and that the IEP was not modified in a timely manner. In oppostion to the motion, the plaintiffs asserted that they had never been notified of their procedural rights and administrative remedies. Based on this, the Court declined to dismiss plaintiffs' IDEA claims. However, the Court held that further discovery was needed to ascertain whether plaintiffs had exhausted their administrative remedies, suggesting that a motion for summary judgment might be appropriate.

Ahlee R. v. Oakland Unified School District Financing Corp. does not appear to be available on the Internet. Its Westlaw cite is 2004 WL 1878214 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 23, 2004).


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