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Chester Upland School District, et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

April 17, 2012

CHESTER UPLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL.
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

I. Introduction

The briefs related to the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Department of Education, Governor Corbett and Secretary Tomalis raise a number of issues, but they can largely be grouped into four separate categories:

1. Ripeness - the claims are not "ripe" because the schools are currently functioning and there is no harm being suffered by anyone, and any future harm is speculative.

2. Lack of standing - the named Plaintiffs and Intervenors do not have a sufficient interest in the lawsuit to satisfy the constitutional and judicial standards for standing to sue.

3. Failure to exhaust administrative remedies - Plaintiffs have not asserted their claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., through administrative channels such as a due process hearing before filing their claims in this Court.

4. Failure to state a claim - the claims are not supported by facts, are legally insufficient, or do not show that the Plaintiffs are entitled to relief.

Although the Court will deal with the arguments and the grounds raised by the Defendants in some detail, the Court has concluded that the case will go forward, limited to federal statutory claims under the IDEA statute and the Rehabilitation Act, brought by Plaintiffs, including Chester Upland School District ("District") and Intervenors, Pennsylvania-NAACP and parents of children attending schools in the District. As previously stated, this case and the upcoming trial will not concern disputes between the District schools and charter schools.

For the reasons stated below, all federal constitutional claims have been stayed, and will be dismissed without prejudice with leave to file a Second Amended Complaint within ninety

(90) days.*fn1

II. Legal Standard

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), courts may look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). Courts must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985).

A valid complaint requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Iqbal clarified that the Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), which required a heightened degree of fact pleading in an antitrust case, "expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions.'" 555 U.S. at 684.

Iqbal explained that although a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in a complaint, that requirement does not apply to legal conclusions; therefore, pleadings must include factual allegations to support the legal claims asserted. Id. at 678, 685. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) ("We caution that without some factual allegation in the complaint, a claimant cannot satisfy the requirement that he or she provide not only 'fair notice,' but also the 'grounds' on which the claim rests." (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 n.3)). Accordingly, to survive a motion to dismiss, a ...


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