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Niki Mcguire v. Northwest Area School District; and Hunlock Creek Elementary School

November 8, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)


Presently before the Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 5) of Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1). McGuire's action stems from an alleged sexual assault that occurred against her in Defendant Hunlock Creek Elementary School's bathroom on November 7, 1997. Plaintiff alleges that by allowing the assault to occur, Defendants caused a denial of Plaintiff's right of equal protection. Plaintiff therefore asserts a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as several state-law tort claims. In their Motion to Dismiss, the Defendants claim that Plaintiff fails to state a claim on her Fourteenth Amendment action and that the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction against Plaintiff's state-law claims, which they argue also fail to state claims upon which relief can be granted. As McGuire fails to sufficiently plead an equal protection claim, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and will decline supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.


On November 7, 1997, while McGuire was a student at Hunlock Creek Elementary School, a seventeen (17) year-old male sexually assaulted her in the school's restroom. (Compl. at ¶¶ 6-9, Doc. 1). He was not a student and he was not permitted to be on the premises. (Id. at ¶¶ 9-10). As a result of the assault, Plaintiff has suffered physical and psychological harm. (Id. at ¶ 13). McGuire alleges that the Defendants' lack of supervision, lack of security, and failure to take legal action against the assailant deprived her of her right of equal protection secured by the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-17). On May 27, 2011, Plaintiff brought the instant action alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and various state-law tort claims. (Doc. 1).

Defendants have moved to dismiss, stating, in essence, that each of Plaintiff's claims fails as a matter of law. (Doc. 5). The issue has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.


A. Legal Standard

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. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of their claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

"A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Detailed factual allegations are not required. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). However, mere conclusory statements will not do; "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211. Instead, a complaint must "show" this entitlement by alleging sufficient facts. Id.

As such, the inquiry at the motion to dismiss stage is "normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "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), meaning enough factual allegations "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. "When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

B. Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Claim

Section 1983 allows actions for damages against individuals for the "deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, but a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred by those parts of the United States Constitution and federal statutes that it describes." City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes, 526 U.S. 687, 749 n.9 (1999) (internal quotation omitted). To prevail in an action under Section 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) a violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d Cir. 2000); Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682, 685 (3d Cir. 1993).

McGuire founds her Section 1983 claim upon the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which mandates that "[n]o State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. Fundamentally, this is a requirement that "all persons similarly situated should be treated alike." Shuman v. Penn Manor Sch. Dist., 422 F.3d 141, 151 (3d Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). "In order to bring a successful section 1983 claim for the denial of equal protection, ...

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