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A.G., et al. v. Lower Merion School District

December 20, 2011

A.G., ET AL.
v.
LOWER MERION SCHOOL DISTRICT



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs A.G. and her parents Charles and Cindy Gregory bring this complaint against Lower Merion School District (the "School District") for violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("§ 504"), 29 U.S.C. § 794 and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Before the court is the motion of the School District to dismiss the complaint in part under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The School District has also moved to dismiss Charles and Cindy Gregory as plaintiffs for lack of standing under Rule 17.

I.

When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008); Umland v. Planco Fin. Servs., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). We must then determine whether the pleading at issue "contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim must do more than raise a "'mere possibility of misconduct.'" Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). Under this standard, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. This court may consider the allegations in the complaint along with matters of public record and any exhibits attached to the complaint. E.g., Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

II.

The following facts are taken in the light most favorable to plaintiffs as the nonmoving parties. A.G. is an eighteen-year old African American former student of the School District. The School District identified her as a student with a speech and language disorder and a specific learning disability when she was in elementary school.

In 2008, the School District reevaluated A.G. and determined that she no longer had a specific learning disability. However, the School District determined that A.G. was "other health impaired." As a result, she continued to receive special education services. In the summer of 2010, A.G.'s father and grandmother met with the School District and inquired as to the nature of A.G.'s disability. The School District did not specifically identify A.G's disability and merely stated that she had "organizational and attention issues."

On December 15, 2010, plaintiffs initiated a request for an administrative due process hearing under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"). See 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. Plaintiffs asserted that the School District incorrectly identified A.G. as a student with a disability and improperly placed her into special education programs.

While that complaint was pending, plaintiffs sent a letter on January 21, 2011 to the School District requesting an independent educational evaluation ("IEE") of A.G. at the School District's expense. The School District refused plaintiffs' request and filed an administrative due process complaint for a hearing seeking a determination that its evaluation was appropriate as required under the IDEA. See 34 C.F.R. § 300.502(b)(2). The parties then agreed to continue the hearing on the plaintiffs' earlier complaint until the School District's complaint regarding the IEE was resolved.

During the hearing on its complaint, the School District asserted that it suspected that A.G. had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD") but avoided using that label due to a belief that A.G.'s parents would react negatively to that diagnosis. The hearing officer concluded that plaintiffs were not entitled to an IEE at public expense.

Shortly thereafter, the parties resumed the hearing on the plaintiffs' complaint regarding the misidentification of A.G. The hearing officer found that he lacked jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims under the IDEA because A.G. claimed she was not a student with a disability as required under that statute. See 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400(d)(1)(A), 1415. He also found that he lacked jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims for modification of A.G.'s educational records under § 504. As a result, he dismissed plaintiffs' due process complaint.

A.G. was graduated from Lower Merion High School in June, 2011. Shortly thereafter, A.G.'s parents had her privately evaluated by Tawanna Jones, a certified school psychologist. Jones concluded that A.G. did not meet the criteria for ADHD or other health impairment.

Plaintiffs then filed their complaint in this court alleging that A.G. was discriminated against because she was "regarded as" disabled by the School District in violation of ยง 504 and the ADA. They seek a judgment that the School District "wrongly identified Plaintiff A.G. as a student with a disability" and monetary damages "based upon the psychological impact of her misidentification and a calculation of her potential economic loss as a result of her improper placement in special education." Plaintiffs ...


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