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D.L. v. Unified School District No. 497

February 23, 2010

D.L., INDIVIDUALLY, AS THE NEXT FRIEND OF J.L., AND AS THE ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF R.L.; P.P, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 497, DOUGLAS COUNTY, KANSAS; DOUGLAS EICHER, SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, (D.C. No. 2:00-CV-02439-CM).

Per curiam.

PUBLISH

Before KELLY, EBEL, and TYMKOVICH, Circuit Judges.

Plaintiffs-Appellants-J.L. and the estate of R.L., along with their mother D.L. and her boyfriend P.P.-appeal from a grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants-Appellees. Plaintiffs brought a variety of claims challenging a local school district's conclusion that Plaintiffs J.L. and R.L. were ineligible for special education services. In pertinent part, these claims arose under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 794, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, and the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. We exercise jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and affirm.

I. Background

We have substantially recounted the facts underlying this suit in a prior opinion. D.L. v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 497, 392 F.3d 1223 (10th Cir. 2004). Briefly, the relevant events began in August 1997. D.L. was renting a home in Lawrence, Kansas, and her children, R.L. and J.L., began attending public school there in Unified School District No. 497 ("the District"). 1 Aplt. App. 258. R.L. was autistic, while J.L. suffered from a milder learning disability. They resided with their mother D.L. and her boyfriend P.P., who assisted in their care. The children were receiving special educational services at public expense. 1 Aplt. App. 266-67. In November 1999, Defendant Eicher, the Director of Special Education Services for the District, determined that the children were not residents because they did not sleep at D.L.'s Lawrence residence. 1 Aplt. App. 154, 157. The District demanded that D.L. and P.P. immediately withdraw the children, claiming that the children were ineligible to attend school there, and threatened legal action if D.L. and P.P. failed to comply. 1 Aplt. App. 394. D.L. and P.P. requested an IDEA due process hearing, which the District denied. 1 Aplt. App. 397-402.

The children continued to attend school in Lawrence through the end of the semester in January 2000. J.L. and R.L. then missed a week of school, during which time their parents were too sick to drive them to school, and attorneys for the District and Plaintiffs exchanged letters discussing the children's future in the district. 3 Aplt. App. 1179; 1 Aplt. App. at 397-408. D.L. then provided an affidavit of residency stating that

R.L would now be residing within the district on a full-time basis, and the children resumed attending school in the District. 1 Aplt. App. 282, 423. In due course, the District discovered that the children stopped sleeping in Lawrence shortly after resuming their education in the District. 1 Aplt. App. 280. On April 18, 2000, the District brought suit in state court against D.L. and P.P. for fraud, seeking to recover the costs of providing special educational services to the children while they were nonresidents. 1 Aplt. App. 424-28. Despite the filing of the lawsuit, the children remained in District 497's schools through December 2000, when D.L. withdrew them over concerns that a teacher was being physically abusive towards R.L. 1 Aplt. App. 263. D.L. then enrolled the children in school in Kansas City, where they received an adequate education. Id.

Plaintiffs responded to the District's state-court suit by filing this federal action against the District and Eicher on September 29, 2000. 1 Aplt. App. 1-15. Plaintiffs alleged that (1) Defendants' refusal to provide a due process hearing prior to terminating the children's educational benefits, and the subsequent state-court suit seeking to recover the costs of providing the children such educational services, violated the children's IDEA rights; (2) the District's admissions policy violated the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process and equal protection; and (3) various other actions taken by the District denied Plaintiffs their constitutional right to substantive due process and equal protection. 1 Aplt. App. 4-12. Based on these claims, Plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages. 1 Aplt. App. 14.

The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants on Plaintiffs' admissions policy challenge and on their constitutional claims. See D.L. v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 497, 270 F. Supp. 2d 1217, 1252-54, 1259-63 (D. Kan. 2002). The district court held that P.P. lacked standing to maintain any claims pertaining to educational benefits provided to the children. See id. at 1254. The district court also granted Defendant Eicher qualified immunity. D.L. v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 497, No. 00-2439-CM, 2002 WL 31296445, at *2-4 (D. Kan. Oct. 1, 2002). After a bench trial on Plaintiffs' IDEA claim, the district court held that Plaintiffs could not recover because they could not show that the District's denial of an IDEA due process hearing deprived the children of any educational opportunities. 3 Aplt. App. at 1179-81. "Rather, the evidence in the record indicates plaintiffs' lack of attendance was due to alternative causes," including D.L.'s and P.P.'s illness that prevented them from taking the children to school in January 2000. 3 Aplt. App. at 1179.

On appeal, we affirmed in part and reversed in part. D.L., 392 F.3d at 1232. We affirmed the district court's judgment regarding the IDEA claim. Id. at 1231-32. We also affirmed the district court's dismissal of P.P.'s IDEA claim based on lack of standing. Id. at 1232. We vacated the district court's judgment on all of the remaining claims-the district court's grant of summary judgment on the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and constitutional claims, as well as the district court's grant of summary judgment for Dr. Eicher based on qualified immunity-based on Younger abstention. Id. at 1226, 1229-31. We remanded with instructions to stay proceedings on the claims for damages pending resolution of the state case and to dismiss the remaining vacated claims without prejudice. Id. at 1232.

The state case was eventually dismissed, and the federal court lifted the stay on March 22, 2007. 3 Aplt. App. 1219. The parties stipulated that Plaintiffs' Rehabilitation Act, ADA, and § 1983 claims remained for resolution. 3 Aplt. App. 1225-27. The parties disagreed about whether any of Plaintiffs' IDEA claims remained and agreed to provide supplemental briefing on this issue. 3 Aplt. App. 1226.

After receiving supplemental briefing, the district court disposed of the remaining claims on summary judgment. D.L. v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 497, No. 00-2439-CM, 2008 WL 4148593 (D. Kan. Sept. 3, 2008). First, the district court held that Plaintiffs abandoned any remaining IDEA claims. Id. at *4. Second, it held that Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory relief were not viable because the Tenth Circuit instructed the court to vacate and dismiss all non-damages claims. Id. at *5. Third, it dismissed Plaintiffs' challenge to the District's admissions policy based on the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and the Fourteenth Amendment for lack of standing. Id. at *5-6. Finally, to the extent Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment challenges were based on the state case, the district court determined that the Defendants' actions passed rational-basis review, and the court granted summary judgment for Defendants on these claims. Id. at *7. The district court did not reach the issue of Dr. Eicher's qualified immunity nor did it specifically address P.P.'s standing regarding any of the claims.

On appeal, Plaintiffs challenge the district court's grant of summary judgment on (1) Plaintiffs' IDEA claims; (2) the Rehabilitation Act and ADA claims; and (3) the ยง 1983 constitutional claims. They also challenge the district court's conclusion that (4) P.P. lacked standing to maintain any claims against the District; (5) Dr. Eicher was ...


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