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Kevin Dewitt v. Delaware Valley School District

July 25, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court is the motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of Defendants Delaware Valley School District, Joseph Casmus, Christopher Pietraszewski, and Ryan Dippre (Doc. 2). For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss will be granted in part.

I. Background

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges as follows.

Plaintiff Kevin DeWitt was a student at Delaware Valley High School. While a student, he complained to Principal Casmus and Assistant Principal Pietraszewski that another student, Defendant Michael Reese, threatened to hurt him. On March 29, 2008, Mr. Reese harassed Mr. DeWitt outside their fifth period classroom. Inside that classroom, Mr. Reese again taunted Mr. DeWitt and tried to get him into a fight. The teacher, Mr. Dippre, did not initially stop Mr. Reese. Mr. DeWitt attempted to contact the school administration regarding the threats. Following fifth period, Mr. Reese assaulted Mr. DeWitt, causing him to lose consciousness. As a result of his injuries, Mr. DeWitt suffered and will continue to suffer pain and anguish.

Plaintiff brings a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Delaware Valley School District for acting with deliberate indifference when establishing, maintaining, and entering policies, procedures, customs, or practices (Count I): § 1983 claims against Mr. Casmus, Mr. Pietraszewski, and Mr. Dippre for violating his substantive due process rights (Counts II - IV); state common law negligence claims against all Defendants (Counts V, VII,

IX); state common law assault and battery claims against Mr. Reese and his parents (Count VI); and state common law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Mr. Reese and his parents (Count VIII). Plaintiff filed his complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Pike County, Pennsylvania, on August 3, 2010. The school Defendants, consisting of the school district, Mr. Casmus, Mr. Pietraszewski, and Mr. Dippre, timely removed the matter to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Now, they move to dismiss the § 1983 claims for failure to state a claim and request qualified immunity. (Doc. 2) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard on a Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, courts "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any 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). Dismissal is appropriate only if a plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), which is to say "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal[ity]." In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 319 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Arista Records, LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110, 120 (2d Cir. 2010) (alteration in Arista Records)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. "Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not 'shown'-'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id. at 1950.

In line with the pleading standards established by the Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly and Iqbal, the Third Circuit has instructed district courts to conduct a two-part analysis when disposing of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). This analysis proceeds as follows:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts.

Id. at 210--11 (internal citations ...

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