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Spence v. Brownsville Area School District

July 15, 2008

SHANNA L. SPENCE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BROWNSVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, INTERMEDIATE UNIT ONE, AND SCHOOL POLICE OFFICER LAZER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Presently before the Court are the following:

* MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT IN ITS ENTIRETY PURSUANT TO F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) AND FOR AN AWARD OF COUNSEL FEES, with brief in support (Document Nos. 9 and 10, respectively) filed by Defendant Intermediate Unit 1, and the response in opposition filed by Plaintiff, Shanna L. Spence (Document Nos. 14 and 15); and

* MOTION TO DISMISS, with brief in support, filed by Defendant Brownsville Area School District (Document Nos. 12 and 13), and the response in opposition filed by Plaintiff, Shanna L. Spence (Document Nos. 17 and 18);

The issues have been fully briefed and are ready for disposition. After careful review of the filings, both Motions will be denied.

Background

As the law requires, all disputed facts and inferences are resolved most favorable to Plaintiff. The following background is drawn from the Complaint and the factual allegations therein are accepted as true for the purpose of this opinion.

Plaintiff, Shanna Spence, was a student enrolled in the Brownsville Area School District ("BASD") from 1992 - 2004. In 1999, while Plaintiff was attending junior high school, she allegedly "due to inadvertence" carried a pair of hair styling shears to school.*fn1 Plaintiff was suspended pending an investigation by the BASD and thereafter involuntarily transferred to "Intermediate Unit 1," an alternative educational program for disruptive students. Plaintiff remained at Intermediate Unit 1 for a period of one (1) school year. The following year, Plaintiff returned to BASD, where she continued her schooling until 2004, when she dropped out of school.

Plaintiff alleges that she was afforded no opportunity to be heard before either her suspension or her transfer to Intermediate Unit 1. Further, Plaintiff alleges that she was required to remain at Intermediate Unit 1 for a period of time in excess of that reasonably necessary "or that she was kept at the school without regard to any administrative review of her situation to discern if she was ready to return to her normal school placement." P's Memo. at 5 (Document No. 18).

Additionally, Plaintiff avers that she, unlike other students, was required to endure an atmosphere of fear, degradation, and humiliation both at BASD and at Intermediate Unit 1.

Plaintiff also alleges that while in attendance at Intermediate Unit 1, she was the "victim of harassment and untoward behavior by School Security Officer Lazer." See Complaint, at ¶ 10.

On June 26, 2007, Plaintiff initiated this action by the filing of a praecipe for writ of summons in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. On December 12, 2007, Plaintiff filed a three-count Complaint in which she alleges that BASD and Intermediate Unit 1 violated her federal constitutional due process and equal protection rights; that Defendant Lazer violated her Fourth Amendment right with his "unconsented to touching and handcuffing" of her; and that BASD and Intermediate Unit 1 have each breached their fiduciary duty under Pennsylvania common law.

On May 9, 2008, Defendants removed the lawsuit to this Court. The pending motions to dismiss have been fully briefed and are now ready for ruling.

Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of the Complaint. "[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ...


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