THE PARENT/PROFESSIONAL ADVOCACY LEAGUE; DISABILITY LAW CENTER, INC.; M.W., a minor, by his temporary guardian, F.D., on behalf of himself and other similarly situated students, Plaintiffs, Appellants/Cross-Appellees,
CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS; SPRINGFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Defendants, Appellees/Cross-Appellants, S.S., a minor, by his mother, S.Y., on behalf of himself and other similarly situated students, Plaintiff, DOMENIC SARNO, in his official capacity as Mayor of City of Springfield; SUPERINTENDENT DANIEL J. WARWICK, in his official capacity as Superintendent of Springfield Public Schools, Defendants.
APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. Mark G. Mastroianni, U.S.
Goldman, with whom Robert E. McDonnell, Michael D. Blanchard,
Elizabeth Bresnahan, Matthew T. Bohenek, Morgan, Lewis &
Bockius LLP, Alison Barkoff, Deborah A. Dorfman, Sandra J.
Staub, Center for Public Representation, Ira Burnim, Jennifer
Mathis, and Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law were on
brief, for appellants/cross-appellees.
M. Panner, Matthew M. Duffy, and Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel
& Frederick, P.L.L.C. on brief for Former U.S. Department
of Education Officials, Massachusetts Advocates for Children,
Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, and Mental
Health America, amici curiae.
Schiffman, Thomas P. DeFranco, and Schulte Roth & Zabel
LLP on brief for National Disability Rights Network, American
Association of People with Disabilities, and National Council
on Independent Living, amici curiae.
Stephen L. Holstrom and Lisa C. deSousa, with whom Edward M.
Pikula, City of Springfield Law Department, Melinda M.
Phelps, and Bulkley, Richardson & Gelinas LLP were on
brief, for appellees/cross-appellants.
Torruella, Lynch, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
consolidated appeals raise significant questions about the
overlap between Title II of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134, and the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C.
§ 1400 et seq., about class certification in
special education litigation, and about organizations'
standing to sue on behalf of certain constituents.
underlying suit alleges that the City of Springfield,
Massachusetts, and Springfield Public Schools (SPS) violated
Title II of the ADA by unnecessarily segregating students
with mental health disabilities in a separate and inferior
school, the Springfield Public Day School (SPDS). S.S., then
an SPDS student, brought the suit on his own behalf and on
behalf of a class of all students with a mental health
disability who are or have been enrolled at SPDS. Two
associations, the Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PPAL)
and Disability Law Center (DLC), joined S.S. as plaintiffs.
They seek injunctive and declaratory relief, including an
order that defendants provide the class plaintiffs with
"school-based behavior services in neighborhood schools
to afford them an equal educational opportunity and enable
them to be educated in neighborhood schools."
district court denied class certification. S.S. by S.Y.
v. City of Springfield (S.S. II), 318
F.R.D. 210, 224 (D. Mass. 2016). It later ruled that the
associations had standing but granted the defendants'
motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the associations.
S.S. by S.Y. v. City of Springfield
(S.S. III), 332 F.Supp.3d 367, 379 (D. Mass. 2018).
plaintiffs' consolidated appeal challenges the district
court's rulings that this suit was subject to the
IDEA's exhaustion requirement and that the proposed class
did not satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)'s
requirements for certification. After briefly addressing a
threshold issue related to the grant of a motion to
intervene, we reject plaintiffs' arguments that the
district court erred as to class certification. The
defendants' appeal argues that the district court erred
in concluding that PPAL and DLC had standing. We agree that
these organizations lack standing to pursue the claims in the
complaint, and we affirm the district court's grant of
judgment on the pleadings as to PPAL and DLC on that ground.
begin, we give background on the ADA and IDEA. We next turn
to this suit's history.
II of the ADA states that "no qualified individual with
a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded
from participation in or be denied the benefits of the
services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be
subjected to discrimination by any such entity." 42
U.S.C. § 12132. Title II's regulations generally
require a public entity to make "reasonable
modifications" to its "policies, practices, or
procedures" when necessary to avoid violations of Title
II. 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(7)(i).
II, as implemented by regulation, prohibits two types of
discrimination relevant here. First, regulations implementing
Title II prohibit inequality in services, programs, or
activities provided by public entities. Public entities may
not "[a]fford a qualified individual with a disability
an opportunity to participate in or benefit from the aid,
benefit or service that is not equal to that afforded
others" or "[p]rovide a qualified individual with a
disability with an aid, benefit or service that is not as
effective in affording equal opportunity to obtain the same
result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level
of achievement as that provided to others." Id.
the regulations require public entities to "administer
services, programs, and activities in the most integrated
setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals
with disabilities." Id. § 35.130(d).
"The most integrated setting" is defined as a
setting that "enables individuals with disabilities to
interact with nondisabled persons to the fullest extent
possible." Id. pt. 35, app. B.
Title II and the integration and reasonable modification
regulations, the Supreme Court held in Olmstead v.
L.C. ex rel. Zimring, 527 U.S. 581 (1999), that the
ADA prohibits the unjustified institutionalization of people
with mental disabilities. Id. at 600. The Court
concluded that public entities must provide
"community-based [services] for persons with mental
disabilities," when "the affected persons do not
oppose such" services, and the community placement
"can be reasonably accommodated." Id. at
607. Cases like this one challenging the separation of
individuals with disabilities under the ADA are often called
IDEA provides federal funds to assist states in educating
children with disabilities "and conditions such funding
upon a State's compliance with extensive goals and
procedures." Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ.
v. Murphy, 548 U.S. 291, 295-96 (2006) (quoting
Bd. of Ed. v. Rowley, 548 U.S. 176, 179
(1982)). These conditions include the commitment to furnish a
"[f]ree appropriate public education" (FAPE), 20
U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1), and to do so in the "[l]east
restrictive environment" (LRE), id. §
defined in the IDEA, a FAPE encompasses both "special
education and related services." Id. §
1401(9). "Special education" is "specially
designed instruction." Id. § 1401(29).
"Related services" are the support services __
including "psychological" and "counseling
services" __ "required to assist a child to benefit
from" that instruction. Id. § 1401(26)(A).
A state must also provide special education and related
services "in conformity with the [child's]
individualized education program," or IEP. Id.
are "comprehensive plan[s]" developed by the
child's teachers, school officials, and parents.
Endrew F. ex rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch.
Dist. RE-1, 137 S.Ct. 988, 994 (2017). The IDEA requires
that every IEP document the child's "present levels
of academic achievement," identify "measurable
annual goals," and outline the "special education
and related services" to be given so that the child can
"advance appropriately toward [those] goals." 20
U.S.C. §§ 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(I), (IV).
every IEP must specify "the extent, if any, to which the
child will not participate with nondisabled children in the
regular class." Id. § 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(V).
This requirement reflects the state's obligation to
educate children in the LRE, which the IDEA defines as:
(5) Least restrictive environment
(A) In general
To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities
. . . are educated with children who are not disabled, and
special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of
children with disabilities from the regular educational
environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the
disability of a child is such that education in regular
classes with the use of supplementary aids and services
cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
Id. § 1412(a)(5)(A).
IDEA also details procedures for resolving disputes between
parents and schools about the content of an IEP. Parents may
file a complaint with the appropriate local or state
educational agency, id. § 1415(b)(6), spurring
a "[p]reliminary meeting," id. §
1415(f)(1)(B)(i), which, if unsuccessful in resolving the
dispute, leads to a mediation process, id. §
1415(e), and then ultimately to a formal "due process
hearing," id. § 1415(f)(1)(A).
officers can grant substantive relief, such as reimbursement
for private school tuition or an order that a school district
must offer the student an appropriate educational program.
See Sch. Comm. of Burlington v. Dep't of
Educ. of Mass., 471 U.S. 359, 370 (1985) (discussing
both prospective relief and reimbursement). But relief may
only be granted "based on a determination of whether the
child received a [FAPE]." 20 U.S.C. §
1415(f)(3)(E)(i). The standard for determining whether a
child receives a FAPE is whether the educational program
offered to the child is "reasonably calculated to enable
[the] child to make progress appropriate in light of the
child's circumstances." Endrew F., 137
S.Ct. at 1001.
Massachusetts, the initial hearing officer's decision can
be appealed to the Board of Special Education Appeals (BSEA).
The general rule is that only after these procedures have
been exhausted may parents seek review of IDEA claims in a
civil action in state or federal court. See id.
§ 1415(i)(2)(A). C. The IDEA's Exhaustion
Supreme Court first considered the interactions between the
IDEA and antidiscrimination laws like the ADA in Smith v.
Robinson, 468 U.S. 992 (1984). Smith held that
the IDEA totally foreclosed claims asserted under statutes
other than the IDEA to challenge the appropriateness of a
disabled child's education. See id. at 1009.
Congress overrode Smith in 1986 when it added an
exhaustion requirement to the IDEA. The provision, at 20
U.S.C. § 1415(l), reads:
Nothing in [the IDEA] shall be construed to restrict or limit
the rights, procedures, and remedies available under the
Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,
title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or other Federal
laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities,
except that before the filing of a civil action under such
laws seeking relief that is also available under [the IDEA],
the [IDEA's administrative] procedures . . . shall be
exhausted to the same extent as would be required had the
action been brought under [the IDEA].
Id. Under § 1415(l), a plaintiff is
thus not barred from bringing claims under the ADA even if
those claims allege the denial of an adequate education.
However, a plaintiff bringing suit under the ADA must first
exhaust the IDEA's administrative procedures if the suit
is "seeking relief that is also available under [the
Supreme Court first interpreted this key phrase in 2017, in
Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 137
S.Ct. 743 (2017). Fry held that a suit is subject to the
IDEA's exhaustion requirement if it "seek[s] relief
for the denial of a FAPE, because that is the only
'relief' the IDEA makes 'available.'"
Id. at 752 (quoting 20 U.S.C. §
1415(l)); see also id. at 753-55. And, in
discerning "whether a suit indeed 'seeks' relief
for such a denial, a court should look to the substance, or
the gravamen, of the plaintiff's complaint."
Id. at 752; see also id. at 755-57. That is
in contrast to analyses under other, "stricter
exhaustion statute[s]" that ask "whether the suit
could have sought [certain] relief" or
"whether [certain] remedies are available under
that law." Id. at 755 (emphasis added)(internal
quotation marks omitted).
a court determines that a complaint seeks relief that is
available under the IDEA, exhaustion is not required where it
"would be futile or inadequate." Honig v.
Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 327 (1988). The plaintiffs argue
that two species of futility are relevant here, one to the
class plaintiffs and the other to DLC and PPAL. But for
reasons explained in our analysis, we reach only the argument
about the class plaintiffs.
PPAL, and DLC filed the operative complaint in
2015. PPAL is an organization that advocates for
improved access to services for children with a mental health
disability. And DLC is designated under the Protection and
Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (PAIMI), 42
U.S.C. § 10801 et seq., as the protection and
advocacy system (P & A) for individuals with mental
health disabilities in Massachusetts. S.S., then a high
school student at SPDS, had been diagnosed with Attention
Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder and depression. S.S.
sought to sue on behalf of a class of "[a]ll students
with a mental health disability who are or have been enrolled
in SPS's Public Day School who are not being educated in
an SPS neighborhood school." This class, the complaint
alleges, contains PPAL and DLC constituents.
complaint alleges the following facts about Springfield's
public school system. SPS, the second largest school district
in Massachusetts, enrolls around 26, 000 students in about
fifty schools. Most of those schools are neighborhood schools
__ elementary and middle schools that enroll students based