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Butler v. Mountain View School District

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 26, 2013

JEFFREY BUTLER, as Administrator of the Estate of Aleshia Butler, the decedent, Plaintiff


MALACHY E. MANNION, District Judge.[1]

Pending before the court is the defendant's motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 8). Based upon the court's review of the motion and the materials related thereto, the motion to dismiss will be GRANTED as noted below.


During the 2010-2011 school year, the decedent was a ninth grade special education student in the Mountain View School District. (Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶6, 15). On October 10, 2010, the decedent committed suicide. (Id. at ¶7). According to the complaint, three weeks prior to her death, the decedent complained to employees of the Mountain View School District, particularly Mr. Michael Beamish, that she was being bullied by another student. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9). The bullying was reported to the principal in charge of the school, Principal Doster. (Id. at ¶10). The decedent was allegedly the victim of bullying by a fellow female student who was a former friend of the decedent. (Id. at ¶11). During this time, the decedent also allegedly performed lower than expected in both her math and reading grades. (Id. at ¶18).

Additionally, at some point prior to the decedent's death, the decedent allegedly confided in a Mountain View teacher named Melissa Berish, though it is unclear exactly what Ms. Berish may have been told regarding the alleged bullying. (Id. at ¶13). The plaintiff also claims that the Mountain View School District was aware of a history of depression in the decedent's family, as the school had previously notified the decedent's family of suicidal ideations of the decedent's older brother. (Id. at ¶14).

The plaintiff filed the present complaint on behalf of the decedent in the Middle District of Pennsylvania on October 10, 2012. (Doc. No. 1). Count 1 of the Complaint alleges a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Action, 20 U.S.C. §1400, et seq. (hereinafter "IDEA"). Count 2 alleges a violation of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §1681, et seq. (hereinafter "Title IX"). Count 3 alleges a violation of §504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §701 (hereinafter the "Rehabilitation Act"). Counts 4 and 5 allege wrongful death and survival actions respectively.

On December 14, 2012, the defendant filed the present motion to dismiss all of the plaintiff's claims. (Doc. No. 8). On December 28, 2012, the defendant also filed a brief in support of the motion to dismiss, claiming generally that the plaintiff's admitted failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA should not be excused, that the plaintiff did not ask for appropriate remedies under the IDEA, and, alternatively, that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim with respect to each count of his complaint. (Doc. No. 9). On January 21, 2013, the plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the defendant's motion to dismiss counts 1, 2 and 3, but agreeing to the dismissal of Counts 4 and 5 of the complaint. (Doc. No. 12).


The defendant's motion to dismiss is brought pursuant to the provisions of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). This rule provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States , 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005), and dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true, the plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007) (abrogating "no set of facts" language found in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. This requirement "calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id . Furthermore, in order to satisfy federal pleading requirements, the plaintiff must "provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, " which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (brackets and quotations marks omitted) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65).

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. See Sands v. McCormick , 502 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may also consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] documents." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus. , 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n , 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002). However, the court may not rely on other parts of the record in determining a motion to dismiss. See Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel , 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994).

Generally, the court should grant leave to amend a complaint before dismissing it as merely deficient. See , e.g., Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc. , 482 F.3d 247, 252 (3d Cir. 2007); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp. , 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002); Shane v. Fauver , 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000). "Dismissal without leave to amend is justified only on the grounds of bad faith, undue delay, prejudice, or futility." Alston v. Parker , 363 F.3d 229, 236 (3d Cir. 2004).


In the complaint, the plaintiff alleged violations of the IDEA, Title IX, and the Rehabilitation Act in addition to the wrongful death and survival action that the plaintiff now concedes must be dismissed.[2] The plaintiff claims that the defendant violated the IDEA by "failing to identify, evaluate and provide the decedent with a free appropriate public education" and failing to implement the decedent's Individualized Educational Program (IEP). (Doc. No. 1 at ¶20, 23). Regarding Title IX, the plaintiff asserts that the defendant failed to appropriately investigate and stop the gender-based discrimination allegedly suffered by the decedent prior to her death. (Doc. No. 1 at ¶34). Finally, the plaintiff claims that the defendant violated the Rehabilitation Act by ...

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