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RONALD D. EX REL. TIMOTHY D. v. TITUSVILLE AREA SCH. DIST.

July 6, 2001

RONALD AND DIANE D., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF TIMOTHY D., PLAINTIFF'S,
V.
THE TITUSVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; JOHN REAGLE, PERSONALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT OF THE TITUSVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; AMANDA HETRICK, PERSONALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS AN ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL OF THE TITUSVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; TERRY KERR, PERSONALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A PRINCIPAL AND A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR OF THE TITUSVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; CHARLES HELLER, PERSONALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS AN ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL AND A PRINCIPAL OF THE TITUSVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; KAREN JEZ, PERSONALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS AN ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL OF THE TITUSVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; SHARI WYNKOOP, PERSONALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A SUPERVISOR OF INSTRUCTION FOR THE TITUSVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; TAMMY MCHENRY, PERSONALLY AND IN HER WEST PAGE 858 OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR FOR THE TITUSVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; AND MARY ROSE RAGON, PERSONALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR FOR THE TITUSVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAUGHLIN, United States District Judge

MEMORANDLM OPINION

Plaintiff's, Ronald and Diane D., initially instituted this action on behalf of their son, Timothy D., against the Titusville Area School District and various officials and administrators of the school district, for compensatory and punitive damages for alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 86 Stat. 373, as amended, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. Presently pending before the Court is a motion by the Plaintiff's to amend their complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, the Plaintiffs' motion shall be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's filed their original Complaint on June 8, 2000. plaintiff's alleged a five-year pattern and practice on the part of the School District and various school administrators of deliberate indifference to recurrent verbal and physical harassment of their son Timothy, while he was a student in the Titusville Area School District. Complaint ¶¶ 2-6, 27-29. plaintiff's claim a denial of equal protection of the law, a violation of substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and a denial of educational benefits on the basis of gender. Complaint ¶ 1. Plaintiff's sought declaratory and in relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

On March 19, 2001, Plaintiff's filed a motion to amend their original Complaint with a proposed Amended Complaint attached.*fn1 Plaintiff's assert that during discovery, they took the deposition of Thomas Hancock, the school psychologist for Defendant School District. See Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend the Complaint to Add Thomas Hancock as a Defendant and to add Two New Causes of Action, ¶ 1 [Doc. No. 17]. According to the Plaintiff's, Mr. Hancock's testimony "indicated his liability and that of the School District in failing to determine that Timothy D. was entitled to school services" pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1401, et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("the Rehabilitation Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 794. See Id. at ¶ 2. Plaintiff's seek to amend their Complaint to add Thomas Hancock as a Defendant, and assert causes of action under IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act.

In their proposed Amended Complaint, the plaintiff's reiterate in detail the conduct to which Timothy was allegedly subjected during the sixth through tenth grades of school in the School District, during the 1994-1995 through 1998-1999 school years. Amended Complaint ¶¶ 34-69.

Plaintiff's allege that as a result of the Defendants' actions, the Defendants have deprived Timothy of his right to a free, appropriate public education as guaranteed by IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act, by failing to provide him with services which would protect him from sexually oriented harassment by schoolmates so that he felt comfortable attending school. Amended Complaint ¶¶ 108-109.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that leave to amend a pleading "shall be freely given when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Although the decision to grant or deny leave to amend a complaint is committed to the sound discretion of the district court, leave should, consistent with the command of Rule 15(a), be liberally granted. Gay v. Petsock, 917 F.2d 768, 772 (3rd Cir. 1990); Coventry v. U.S. Steel Corp., 856 F.2d 514, 518-19 (3rd Cir. 1988). The United States Supreme Court has articulated the following standard to be applied in evaluating whether to grant or deny leave to amend:

In the absence of any apparent or declared reason — such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc. — the leave sought should, as the rules require, be "freely given."

Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 183, 83 S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed.2d 222 (1962).

III. DISCUSSION

Pursuant to IDEA, "children with disabilities" are entitled to "a free appropriate public education which emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs. . . ." 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d). The Rehabilitation Act, while phrased differently, guarantees the same "free appropriate public education" to each qualified handicapped person. WB. v. Matula, 67 F.3d 484, 492-93 (3rd Cir. 1995). "Children with disabilities" includes not only those traditionally recognized as handicapped, such as those children with mental retardation, hearing impairments, speech or language impairments and visual impairments, but also those with "serious emotional disturbance . . . who by reason thereof, need special education and related services." 20 U.S.C. ยง 1401(3)(A). IDEA requires state and local educational agencies receiving federal assistance under the Act ...


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