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OAH 2010090213 Order

September 28, 2010

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Student v. Determination of Sufficiency of Due Process Complaint Santa Rosa City Schools - Order of Sufficiency




In the Matter of:


OAH CASE NO. 2010090213



On September 3, 2010, Student filed a Due Process Hearing Request1 (complaint) naming Santa Rosa City Schools (District) as the respondent. On September 7, 2010, District timely filed a Notice of Insufficiency (NOI). District contends that the complaint does not provide it with sufficient notice because Student filed for due process the same day she enrolled in the District, District had not held an IEP for Student yet, some of the claims were not “ripe” based on Student’s allegations, and there were insufficient factual allegations regarding the proposed remedies. As discussed below, the complaint is sufficient to put the District on notice of Student’s allegations.


The named parties to a due process hearing request have the right to challenge the sufficiency of the complaint.2 The party filing the complaint is not entitled to a hearing unless the complaint meets the requirements of section 1415(b)(7)(A).

A complaint is sufficient if it contains: (1) a description of the nature of the problem of the child relating to the proposed initiation or change concerning the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the child; (2) facts relating to the problem; and (3) a proposed resolution of the problem to the extent known and available to the party at the time.3 These requirements prevent vague and confusing complaints, and promote fairness by providing the

1 A request for a due process hearing under Education Code section 56502 is the due process complaint notice required under Title 20 United States Code section 1415(b)(7)(A). All subsequent statutory references are to Title 20 United States Code, unless otherwise indicated.

2 § 1415(b) & (c).

3 § 1415(b)(7)(A)(ii)(III) & (IV) named parties with sufficient information to know how to prepare for the hearing and how to participate in resolution sessions and mediation.4

The complaint provides enough information when it provides “an awareness and understanding of the issues forming the basis of the complaint.”5 The pleading requirements should be liberally construed in light of the broad remedial purposes of the IDEA and the relative informality of the due process hearings it authorizes.6

Whether the complaint is sufficient is a matter within the sound discretion of the ALJ.7


Student has alleged that she was denied a FAPE for the 2010-2011 school year because the District’s September 2, 2010 offer of interim placement and services: was not the LRE and did not meet Student’s unique needs (Issues One, Two, and Nine); was predetermined (Issues One, Two, Three, and Ten); was based on an IEP from a former District that Student never agreed to (Issues One, Two, and Three); was based on inadequate present levels of performance (Issues One, Two, and Five); contained inadequate goals (Issues One, Two, and Six); contained inadequate related services, accommodations and modifications to meet Student’s unique needs (Issues One, Two, and Seven); and was not accompanied by a discussion of the scientifically based methods of instruction would be used to implement it (Issues One, Two, and Eight). Student also alleges that she was denied a FAPE for the 2010-2011 school year because the District did not consider the “pending” IEE by Student’s doctor (Issues One and Four). Student also alleges that she was denied a FAPE for the 2010-2011 school year because she did not receive proper prior written notice when: District refused to place Student in an NPS as requested by Parent (Issues One and Ten); and District refused to identify the scientifically based methodology would be implemented in the September 2, 2010 offer of placement and services.

Student has alleged related facts about her educational history, learning disabilities and psychological issues prior to enrolling in the District, and in particular, that Student had not agreed to the last proposed IEP from her former district. The facts also include allegations that an assessment that is “pending” this month recommends an NPS placement. The proposed resolutions are for District to provide a particular NPS placement near Student’s home, including transportation and social skills training, plus reimbursement for any parental expenses related to the NPS. Although the issues alleged by Student contain some overlap, they can be understood as set forth above.

4 See, H.R.Rep. No. 108-77, 1st Sess. (2003), p. 115; Sen. Rep. No. 108-185, 1st Sess. (2003), pp. 34-35.

5 Sen. Rep. No. 108-185, supra, at p. 34.

6 Alexandra R. v. Brookline School Dist. (D.N.H., Sept. 10, 2009, No. 06-cv-0215-JL) 2009 WL 2957991 at p.3 [nonpub. opn.]; Escambia County Board of Educ. v. Benton (S.D.Ala. 2005) 406 F. Supp.2d 1248, 1259-1260; Sammons v. Polk County School Bd. (M.D. Fla., Oct. 28, 2005, No. 8:04CV2657T24EAJ) 2005 WL 2850076 at p. 3[nonpub. opn.] ; but cf. M.S.-G. v. Lenape Regional High School Dist. (3d Cir. 2009) 306 Fed.Appx. 772, at p. 3[nonpub. opn.].

7 Assistance to States for the Education of Children With Disabilities and Preschool Grants for Children With Disabilities, 71 Fed.Reg. 46540-46541, 46699 (Aug. 14, 2006).

In essence, District’s NOI contends that Student’s allegations do not make sense because it is the District’s position that it has yet to hold an IEP for Student, District does not believe that Student has enrolled at an NPS as of the date of the NOI, and Student’s own factual allegations show that Student’s IEE was “pending” at the time of filing, such that District could not have considered it. However, District’s objections to the complaint go to the merits, not whether it was provided notice of what Student’s contentions are. Whether or not factually supported once the evidence is taken, the complaint is sufficiently alleging that Student was not provided a FAPE upon enrollment under various substantive and procedural theories. The related facts sufficiently allege Student’s unique needs, and there is no requirement that a Student state the exact reasons why a particular proposed resolution is required to provide a FAPE. As pleaded, the complaint is sufficient to put the District on notice of Student’s allegations.


1. The complaint is sufficient under section 1415(b)(7)(A)(ii).

2. All mediation, prehearing conference, and hearing dates in this matter are confirmed.

Dated: September 13, 2010


Administrative Law Judge

Office of Administrative Hearings