The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER
Plaintiff has brought this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging defendants violated her rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments, and seeking declaratory, injunctive and monetary damages. Various motions to dismiss and to strike portions of plaintiff's complaint are pending, along with a motion to seal the record in this case. Following the filing of these motions, one defendant, James J. Hogan, Bishop of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, was dismissed from the case by stipulation. Motions filed by the other defendants are still pending and will be decided herein.
Plaintiff is a guidance counselor employed by the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 08 ("IU") who was at all times relevant to this action assigned to the IU's non-public school program. The defendants remaining in this action include the Intermediate Unit itself, as well as the elected members of the IU's Board of Directors and the Executive Director of the Intermediate Unit. The Intermediate Unit is part of the public school system established by the Commonwealth to provide on a regional basis certain auxiliary educational services to both public and nonprofit, nonpublic school districts assigned to it. See Public School Code of 1949, P.L. 30 § 901-A, 24 P.S. § 9-951 et seq., as amended (1983-84); Commonwealth ex rel. Waychoff v. Tekavec, 456 Pa. 521, 523, 319 A.2d 1 (1974). The Intermediate Units are regulated by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education which agency has promulgated regulations at 22 Pa. Code § 112.1, et seq. Each Intermediate Unit is also governed by its board of directors.
Eleventh Amendment Issues
The Intermediate Unit argues that all claims against it and its officers and board members are barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and cannot be brought in federal court since the Intermediate Unit is a state agency, or as plaintiff indicates, "an extension of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." Complaint, Paragraph 4.
States and state agencies may not be sued in federal court without their consent unless Congress, pursuant to a valid exercise of power, unequivocally abrogates this immunity. Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-99, 79 L. Ed. 2d 67, 104 S. Ct. 900 (1984). Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 52 L. Ed. 714, 28 S. Ct. 441 (1908), created a narrow exception to this general rule by finding that a suit may be brought against state officials challenging the federal constitutionality of their official actions. The Young exception has been limited to suits for prospective injunctive relief, see Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 673, 39 L. Ed. 2d 662, 94 S. Ct. 1347 (1974); Green v. Mansour, 474 U.S. 64, 54 U.S L.W. 4011, 88 L. Ed. 2d 371, 106 S. Ct. 423 (1985), which seek vindication of federal rights rather than rights grounded in state law. Pennhurst II, supra.
We believe that the Intermediate Unit is neither a political subdivision, nor a local governmental unit. It is financed by the Commonwealth, 24 P.S. §§ 9-957, 9-967.1, 9-972.1, and is also empowered to accept funds from federal, local and other sources. The IU has no independent ability to levy taxes. Thus we find it distinguishable from the local independent school boards and school districts which may be sued under Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978). The Intermediate Unit here is part of a state agency and is not subject to suit in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment. See Mount Healthy Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280, 97 S. Ct. 568, 50 L. Ed. 2d 471 (1977). No exception or waiver exists under the facts of this case for this defendant and it will be dismissed.
Whether claims against the individual defendants in their official capacity are barred by the Eleventh Amendment depends on the nature of the suit, the relief demanded and the way in which that relief would affect the state. Ford Motor Co. v. Department of Treasury, 323 U.S. 459, 89 L. Ed. 389, 65 S. Ct. 347 (1945). Plaintiff may not obtain monetary damages since there is no doubt that the state is the real party in interest and any such award would necessarily be paid with state funds. If appropriate, however, the court could issue prospective injunctive relief since plaintiff alleges that the adoption of an official policy by defendants has violated her federally established rights. Pennhurst State School & Hospital, supra. Since some scenario exists in which this plaintiff's claims would not be barred, the motion to dismiss of the individual defendants sued in their official capacity will not be granted on Eleventh Amendment grounds, but will be considered in connection with the discussion on the merits hereinafter.
Plaintiff states that she brings a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 "for the purpose of enjoining the combined action of Appalachia Intermediate Unit 08 and the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese, for the purpose of having declared and adjudged unconstitutional certain regulations"
of the Intermediate Unit which were promulgated by the Board. See Complaint, p. 1. Plaintiff states that the provisions of the Intermediate Unit's Handbook and certain actions of the IU and the Diocese are in violation of the constitution because they impose the will of the Diocese on plaintiff through the Intermediate Unit violating the First Amendment principle of separation of Church and State and violating Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection.
Fourteenth Amendment Claims
We find plaintiff's complaint entirely devoid of any allegations which would state a due process claim against these defendants. Plaintiff has not alleged any conduct by the individual defendants remaining in this action which deprived her of any federal right. Plaintiff alleges conduct by Sister Paula DelGrosso, assistant superintendent of education for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, by Sister George Ann Biscan, principal of West End Catholic School, and by the "Diocese." This conduct is alleged to have occurred in 1982. ...