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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, February 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Thorny Money Question Punted to CA High Court

PASADENA, Calif. (CN) - The 9th Circuit on Wednesday asked the California Supreme Court to decide which state agency is responsible for funding the placement of a special education foster child in an out-of-state residential treatment facility.

A three-judge panel said it could not be sure that the onus fell to the school district in which the student's decision-making parent resides.

"We certify this question because deciding it would require us to answer novel and difficult questions of California law about the relationships among multiple provisions of the California Education Code and among numerous California governmental entities," according to the unsigned order. "We acknowledge that the question raises issues of particular interest to California and its courts, and we note that three cases pending in our court may rely upon the answer to this question. Unfortunately, the state administrative and federal judicial bodies that have addressed the certified question to date have reached conflicting and inconsistent conclusions. Therefore, considerations of comity and federalism favor resolution of the certified question by California's highest court."

The question arose from a dispute over funding for A.S., a child with emotional disturbances who has been a ward of Orange County since 1996. Three years later, the juvenile court terminated the parental rights, including educational rights, of the boy's biological parents.

A.S.'s foster parent from 2000 to 2004 is an Orange County resident. That county has been paying for A.S. to attend Cinnamon Hills, a residential treatment facility in Utah, since 2006 upon the recommendation of the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Responsibility for A.S.'s education could fall to the Orange County Department of Education, the California Department of Education, the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Charter Oak Unified School District. These other districts are home to institutions that housed A.S. between 2004 and 2006, including San Gabriel Children's Center in Charter Oaks, the Orangewood Children's

Home in Orange County and the Gateways Hospital in Los Angeles.

"[Orange] County argued that California law fails to make any public agency responsible for providing special education programs to children like A.S., who have no parents and are placed in residential treatment centers outside California," according to the 9th Circuit.

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