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Lucas v. Dist. of Columbia

February 2, 2010

NICOLE LUCAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Nicole Lucas alleges that the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") violated the Individuals with Disabilities Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq., and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("the Rehabilitation Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 794, by failing to provide her daughter, U.L., with a free appropriate education ("FAPE").*fn1 Compl. ¶ 2. Pending before the Court is defendants' motion for partial dismissal of the complaint. Specifically, defendants' seek (i) dismissal of defendant DCPS from the action as non sui juris, and (ii) dismissal of plaintiff's Rehabilitation Act claim for failure to state a claim. Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply thereto, the applicable law, and for the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Ms. Lucas is the parent of U.L., an eight-year-old girl who qualifies for special education and related services as a child with multiple disabilities. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 8. On or about April 4, 2008, DCPS convened a multidisciplinary team meeting for U.L., in which it determined that occupational therapy, psychiatric, clinical psychological, speech and language, and functional behavioral assessment evaluations of U.L. were warranted. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 10. After DCPS failed to complete speech and language, clinical psychological, or functional behavioral assessment evaluations of U.L. by September 17, 2008, Compl. ¶ 11, plaintiff filed an IDEA due process complaint alleging that DCPS "had failed timely to conduct and review evaluations in all areas of suspected disability." Compl. ¶¶ 12-13 (internal quotation marks omitted). A hearing on the administrative complaint was held on October 22, 2008, and a hearing officer's decision issued on November 12, 2008, denying plaintiff's request for a finding of a denial of a FAPE for DCPS' failure to conduct and review a clinical psychological evaluation, and dismissing that claim. Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.

Following dismissal of her administrative action, plaintiff filed suit in this Court alleging violations of the IDEA and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Defendants subsequently filed a motion for partial dismissal of plaintiff's complaint. This motion is now ripe for determination by the Court.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). A complaint must present "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" and "above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In considering a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must construe the complaint "'liberally in the plaintiff's favor,' 'accept[ing] as true all of the factual allegations'" alleged in the complaint. Aktieselskabet AF 21 November 2001 v. Fame Jeans Inc., 525 F.3d 8, 15 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (alteration in original) (quoting Kassem v. Wash. Hosp. Ctr., 513 F.3d 251, 253 (D.C. Cir. 2008)). Indeed, a plaintiff is entitled to "the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). A court need not, however, "accept inferences drawn by plaintiffs if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint. Nor must [a] court accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." Id.

"Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "[O]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Defendant DCPS

Defendants seek dismissal of defendant DCPS as non sui juris, explaining that DCPS is a non-suable agency. See Def.'s Mot. at 7-8. In her opposition brief, plaintiff indicates that she "does not oppose the dismissal of DCPS" as her "[c]laims against DCPS, an agency of the District of Columbia, may be properly construed as having been brought against the District." Pl.'s Opp'n Br. at 1. Accordingly, defendant DCPS is dismissed as a party from this action.

B. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Next, defendants seek dismissal of Count III of plaintiff's complaint - her Rehabilitation Act claim. See Compl. ¶¶ 22-28. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that "DCPS violated Section 504 [of the Rehabilitation Act] by failing to provide U.L. with [a] FAPE." Compl. ¶ 2.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides that "[n]o otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. . . ." 29 U.S.C. § 794; see also Robinson v. District of Columbia, 535 F. Supp. 2d 38, 42 (D.D.C. 2008) ("Section 504 prohibits programs and entities that receive federal funding from denying benefits to, or otherwise discriminating against, a person 'solely by reason' of that individual's handicap."). In the context of cases involving children who receive benefits pursuant to the IDEA, courts have consistently recognized that in order to establish a violation of ยง 504, "'something more than a mere failure to provide the free appropriate education required by [the IDEA] must be shown.'" Lunceford v. District of Columbia, 745 F.2d 1577, 1580 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (quoting Monahan ...


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