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Case Name R.A.G. v. Buffalo City Sch. Dist. Bd. Of Educ. ED-NY-0019
Docket / Court 1:12-cv-00960 ( W.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Education
Special Collection Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Case Summary
This case is about the denial of access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to educationally disabled students in the Buffalo City School District. A student with an educational disability received an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the 2011 school year that included speech and ... read more >
This case is about the denial of access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to educationally disabled students in the Buffalo City School District. A student with an educational disability received an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the 2011 school year that included speech and language therapy. Though the IEP projected services to commence with the school year, the school district delayed the start of IEP related services until the third week. The student's parent claimed the delay was a result of the school district’s policy and not the result of any discussion with the parent or an individualized assessment of their child’s needs. The student’s parent, individually and on behalf of their child, filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York on October 11, 2012. They alleged this policy denied parents meaningful participation in the educational decision-making process, denied individualized determinations of IEPs, and, therefore, denied students of a FAPE. The plaintiff sued the Buffalo City School District Board of Education and its superintendent under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDIEA), and state law. The plaintiffs, represented by private attorneys specializing in disability law, sought declaratory relief, injunctive relief, additional services for the student to compensate for delayed implementation of therapy, and attorneys’ fees and cost.

The case was automatically referred to mediation on December 18, 2012 and assigned to Judge Leslie G. Foschio. The parties agreed to and selected a private mediator in March 2013.

On November 2, 2012, the plaintiffs sought class certification of those students with learning disabilities and their parents who had been similarly denied services in the first two weeks of school and meaningful participation by the parents in their children’s educational decision-making process. The defendants sought to stay the decision on class certification, but on June 30, 2013 Judge William M. Skretny granted class certification and denied the defendant’s motion to stay. 2013 WL 3354424. The court defined the certified class as:
[C]hildren, and parents of children, between the ages of 5 and 21 residing in the Buffalo City School District, present and future, who are classified as disabled per the definition in [IDEA] . . . and receive related services.

On July 3, 2013, the defendants appealed Judge Skrenty’s decision granting class certification to the Second Circuit. On June 17, 2014, the appeals court affirmed Judge Skrenty’s decision to grant class certification because the plaintiffs’ case was based on a policy that applied uniformly to all students, satisfying the class commonality requirement. (Circuit Judges Rosemary S. Pooler, Peter W. Hall, Susan L. Carney). 569 Fed.Appx. 41.

Mediation and settlement discussions continued throughout the remainder of 2014, and on January 27, 2015 the parties reached a written settlement subject to approval of the Buffalo Board of Education and the court. Judge Skrenty finalized and approved the settlement on March 24, 2015. The settlement involved injunctive relief, compensatory services in the form of 10 hours of speech and language therapy services to the named plaintiff, and attorneys’ fees. The Board of Education agreed to void any practices or procedures indicating that speech and language services shall begin no later than a certain date. They agreed that the start date for speech and language services would be made basis of individual assessments and data of each child, and individual speech and language therapy would be presumed to begin at the start of the school year. Additionally, they agreed that group therapy would begin no later than two weeks after the start of each school year. The firm representing the plaintiffs was assigned to conduct monitoring during the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 school years. Within 90 days, the Board of Education was to provide notice to class members of the settlement. Any disputes related to the implementation and/or interpretation of the settlement were agreed to be handled through arbitration. The attorneys were awarded $165,000. The case is now closed.

Emily Kempa - 02/04/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Auditing
Monitoring
Remedial education
Reporting
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Disability
disability, unspecified
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Education
Individualized planning
Parents (visitation, involvement)
School/University policies
Special education
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Mental Disability
Intellectual/developmental disability, unspecified
Learning disability
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Indv. w/ Disab. Educ. Act (IDEA), Educ. of All Handcpd. Children Act , 20 U.S.C. § 1400
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
State law
Defendant(s) Buffalo City School District
Plaintiff Description All children, and parents of children, between the ages of 5 and 21 residing in the Buffalo City School District, present and future, who are classified with disabilities per the definition in Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, and receive related services.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2015 - 2017
Filing Year 2012
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:12-cv-00960 (W.D.N.Y.)
ED-NY-0019-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
ED-NY-0019-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/11/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Decision and Order Granting Class Certification [ECF# 40] (W.D.N.Y.)
ED-NY-0019-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/30/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation and Order of Settlement [ECF# 58] (W.D.N.Y.)
ED-NY-0019-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/24/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Foschio, Leslie G. (W.D.N.Y., W.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
ED-NY-0019-9000
Skretny, William M. (W.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
ED-NY-0019-0002 | ED-NY-0019-0003 | ED-NY-0019-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ackerhalt, Arthur H (New York) show/hide docs
ED-NY-0019-0001 | ED-NY-0019-9000
Goldstein, Bruce A (New York) show/hide docs
ED-NY-0019-0001 | ED-NY-0019-9000
Pletcher, Jay Charles (New York) show/hide docs
ED-NY-0019-0001 | ED-NY-0019-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Foss, Kelly S (New York) show/hide docs
ED-NY-0019-9000
Sullivan, Richard T (New York) show/hide docs
ED-NY-0019-9000
Weiss, Jeffrey Joel (New York) show/hide docs
ED-NY-0019-9000

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