University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Spieler v. Mount Diablo Sch. Dist. ED-CA-0015
Docket / Court 98-ED-00951 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Education
Case Summary
On March 10, 1998, a student with a mobility disability filed this class-action suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Mount Diablo Unified School District. Suing under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12181, the plaintiff, represented by ... read more >
On March 10, 1998, a student with a mobility disability filed this class-action suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Mount Diablo Unified School District. Suing under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12181, the plaintiff, represented by the Office of the Attorney General and the Disability Rights Advocates, sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the plaintiff sought the school's compliance with the Disability Access Requirements and that all playboxes be made minimally accessible to the plaintiff and other mobility disabled children.

The parties almost immediately began amicably resolving the complaint, and on May 13, 1998, Judge Claudia Wilken extended indefinitely the time required for the defendants to answer as long as the parties continued to negotiate in good faith.

On May 24, 2000, the parties entered into a consent decree that resolved the class action providing that the school district would provide equal access to school buildings, educational programs and social programs. As a result of the settlement, the school district created three new programs for disabled students to assist in communication with disabled students and to train classroom aides to assist children with disabilities.

Pursuant to the consent decree, the defendant fixed its playboxes to make them minimally accessible to mobility-disabled children. Defendant replaced the surface of some playboxes with a rubberized surface; it replaced the surface of other playboxes with engineered wood fiber (EWF). According to Defendant, it costed at least
$85,000 to install a rubberized surface in a playbox, far more than it costs to install EWF.

In 2005, the parties disputed whether the school district had satisfied its obligation under the consent decree, specifically whether the use of EWF to fix the playboxes satisfied the requirements of the consent decree. After a year of neutral observation, there were still instances where the surfaces made of EWF in the playboxes exceeded a slope found to be accessible for children with disabilities.

On May 1, 2007, the Court granted the plaintiff's motion for enforcement of the consent decree. Both parties were ordered to meet and confer regarding an appropriate remedy. The parties could not reach an agreement and both sides submitted proposed remedial orders. The matter of an appropriate remedy was heard on June 21, 2007.

Thus, on August 16, 2007, the Court adopted in part plaintiff’s proposed remedial order, and ordered the school district to replace all EWF surfacing with the more appropriate rubberized surfacing within 5 years to meet the requirements of the consent decree in spite of alleged financial constraints. The court also ordered the parties to meet and confer concerning attorney's fees.

On September 7, 2007, Mount Diablo Unified School District filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On November 2, 2007, the District Court issued an order denying the school district's requested stay of the Court's remedial order pending appeal on the basis that the balance of hardships tilted in the plaintiff's favor and that the school district had a low likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal.

On November 21, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the school district's appeal without prejudice to reinstatement in the event that the District Court would not approve the terms and agreements of the parties' settlement.

On December 5, 2008, the District Court issued an order modifying the original consent decree finding that the EWF surfaces did in fact meet the requirements of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines. The modified decree also provided for continual monitoring of the performance of the school districts implementation plans.

The consent decree created equal access to school buildings, educational programs, and social programs. Mt. Diablo School District committed $20 million over ten years to ensure equal access for its 5,000 students with disabilities at 55 school sites, enabling all students with disabilities in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District to attend their neighborhood schools. The consent decree also reformed the District's special education system, with policies supporting the integration of disabled children into all educational and social programs.

As a result of the settlement, Mt. Diablo Unified School District created three new programs to benefit disabled students: a Model Augmentative Communication Program for children who need assistive technology, a Model Aide Training Program to train classroom aides to assist children with disabilities, and a full-time Parent Liaison to assist parents to navigate the special educational system.

The complaint and early orders are not available in the Clearinghouse documents.

Maria Ricaurte - 11/15/2015
Ginny Lee - 04/01/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Disability
Mobility impairment
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Mount Diablo Unified School District
Plaintiff Description A mobility-disabled child who files on behalf of himself and others similarly situated
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2000 - 2010
Filing Year 1998
Case Closing Year 2008
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
4:98-cv-00951 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0015-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/05/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Consent Decree
ED-CA-0015-0004.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 05/24/2000
Order Enforcing Consent Decree [ECF# 147] (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0015-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/06/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Stay Pending Appeal [ECF# 172] (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0015-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/02/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Modifying Consent Decree [ECF# 177] (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0015-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/05/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges James, Maria-Elena (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
ED-CA-0015-9000
Wilken, Claudia Ann (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0015-0001 | ED-CA-0015-0002 | ED-CA-0015-0003 | ED-CA-0015-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Benedetti, Rhoda (California)
ED-CA-0015-0004
Burger, Lisa Margaret (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Chavez, Mark A. (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Markwalder, Alexius M. (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Peltz, Maxwell S. (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Wolinsky, Sidney M. (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Zimmerman, Sara Lillian (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bourne, Nancy B. (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Flanagan, Bridget A. (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Luhe, Kathryn (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Macy, Megan Elizabeth (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Rolen, Gregory J. (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000
Wedner, Gregory Alan (California)
ED-CA-0015-9000

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