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B.L. v. Boyertown Area School Dist.

February 24, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Slomsky, J.


I. Introduction

On October 31, 2008, Plaintiffs B.L., a minor, and D.N., as parent of B.L. and in her own right, filed a complaint against Defendants Boyertown Area School District, Principal Christopher Iacobelli, and Pennsylvania State Trooper Brian M. Shpock. Defendants Boyertown Area School District ("BASD") and Iacobelli filed a motion to dismiss on January 20, 2009, to which Plaintiffs filed a response on February 3, 2009.

Defendants BASD and Iacobelli's (collectively, "Moving Defendants") Motion to Dismiss is before the Court. For reasons that follow, the Court grants the Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs, however, will be permitted thirty (30) days in which to amend their complaint.

II. General Background.

B.L. is a special needs student who attended Washington Elementary School, part of the Defendant Boyertown Area School District. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 9). He had an Individualized Education Plan ("IEP") created under the Individuals with Disabilities Act ("IDEA") and supplemental Behavioral Intervention Plan ("BIP"). (Id. ¶¶ 13, 27). In addition to assisting B.L. with his academic needs, these plans were created to address B.L.'s behavioral problems, which included frequent use of derogatory and/or inappropriate remarks. (Id. ¶22). Among other things, the BIP provided that if B.L. hurts, uses profanity, or threatens others, he will be immediately sent to the Principal. The Principal will then:

- investigate the situation - take any or all of the following actions depending on the situation:

- ask the school counselor to talk with B.L. - assign a consequence such as (but not limited to) loss of recess, privileges, 6th grade detention, ISS, OSS - other, which are all at the discretion of the Principal - call the parents. (Id. ¶29). B.L. also had a one-to-one disability aide assigned to him, Shelley Raymock, who his mother, D.N., had repeatedly requested be replaced. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 33).

On February 23, 2007, B.L. called Ms. Raymock a "fucking bitch" while he was in the lunchroom eating with his friends. Id. ¶¶ 32, 27). Ms. Raymock escorted him to the principal's office, and Principal Christopher Iacobelli called the Pennsylvania State Police. (Id. ¶¶ 38-39). Pennsylvania State Trooper Brian M. Shpock arrived at the elementary school and issued a non-traffic citation to B.L. for disorderly conduct under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5503(a)(3) for calling Ms. Raymock a "fucking bitch." (Id. ¶ 40). D.N. was called to pick up B.L. after the citation was issued. (Id. ¶ 41). Ms. Raymock's last day assigned to B.L. was February 27, 2007. (Compl. ¶36).

On or about April 20, 2007, Iacobelli allegedly contacted the Pennsylvania State Police and informed them that D.N. had attempted to make contact with Ms. Raymock on BASD grounds. D.N. claims that this did not occur, and the Pennsylvania State Police found this allegation to be without merit. (Id. ¶¶ 42-43). On October 22, 2007, B.L. was found not guilty on the non-traffic citation issued February 23, 2007, for violating 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5503(a)(3) (disorderly conduct). (Id. ¶ 44).

Plaintiffs allege that B.L. continues to suffer severe emotional trauma proximately related to the February 23, 2007 incident, which is reasonably expected to continue indefinitely; that D.N. suffered and continues to suffer distress related to the negative impact on her relationship with B.L., proximately related to the incident; and that the harms suffered are the result of the actions Defendants have taken under color of Pennsylvania law. (Id. ¶¶ 45-47).

Plaintiffs' seven-count Complaint alleges a malicious prosecution claim based on the Fourth Amendment brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); violations of the Rehabilitation Act and Americans With Disabilities Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 and 42 U.S.C. § 12132 et seq. (Count II); a Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III); First and Fourteenth Amendment retaliation claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV); a Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest claim (Count V); a state law malicious prosecution claim (Count VI); and a state law loss of consortium claim (Count VII).

III. The Motion to Dismiss Standard

Defendants BASD and Iacobelli have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule12(b)(6), a court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under a reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted) (reasoning that this statement of Rule 12(b)(6) standard remains accurate following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)). To withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 234. This standard "simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Id. However, a court "need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss." Hunt v. United States Tobacco Co., 538 F.3d 217, 227 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation omitted).

The "general standard for 12(b)(6) motions is modified, however, when civil rights claims are brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983. In such cases there is an added requirement that the 'complaint contain a modicum of factual specificity, identifying the particular conduct of defendants that is alleged to have harmed plaintif[f].'" Gines by Gines v. Bailey, No. 92-4170, 1992 WL 394512, at *2 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (quoting Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 666 (3d Cir. 1988)). The Third Circuit has added this specificity requirement in order to "'weed out frivolous claims and those that should be heard in state court'" and "'to provide the defendant with sufficient notice of the claims asserted.'" Id.(quoting Frazier v. Southeastern Pa. Transp. Auth., 785 F.2d 65, 67 (3d Cir. 1986)). Plaintiffs' Section 1983 claims will be analyzed pursuant to this standard.

IV. Discussion

Moving Defendants claim that Plaintiffs' Complaint fails to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted and all counts should be dismissed with prejudice. The Court will also address the issue of Defendant Iacobelli's entitlement to qualified immunity. Following that discussion, the Court will explain why Moving Defendants are entitled to dismissal on all seven counts of the Complaint. However, because of the Third Circuit's decision in Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 108 (2002), the ...

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