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M.S. v. Marple Newtown School District

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 5, 2015

M.S., minor child through next best friend MARIALISA SHIHADEH, et al.
v.
MARPLE NEWTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For M.S., MINOR CHILD THROUGH NEXT BEST FRIEND MARIALISA SHIHADEH, MARIALISA SHIHADEH, RAYMOND SHIHADEH, Plaintiffs: ROBERT B. GIDDING, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT B. GIDDING, BALA CYNWYD, PA.

For MARPLE NEWTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT, MARPLE NEWTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS, Defendant: SUZANNE MCDONOUGH, LEAD ATTORNEY, HOLSTEN & ASSOCIATES, MEDIA, PA; LISANNE L. MIKULA, DIORIO SERENI, MEDIA, PA; MARK A. SERENI, DIORIO & SERENI, LLP, MEDIA, PA.

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MEMORANDUM

L. FELIPE RESTREPO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint (ECF Document 12) alleges claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (" Section 504" or " RA" ),[1] 29 U.S.C. § 794, see Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 43-52, 53-61 (Counts I & II), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ),[2] 42 U.S.C. § 12132, see Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 62-65 (Count III). Defendants, Marple Newtown School District and Marple Newtown Board of School Directors, have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 60), and plaintiffs have filed a Response in opposition thereto.[3] In addition, the parties were ordered to file respective briefs addressing the issue of whether, in light of Batchelor v. Rose Tree Media School District, 759 F.3d 266 (3d Cir. 2014), this case should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because of a failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Defendants request that the Court dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in light of Batchelor, see Defs.' Br. (Doc. 91) at 3, and plaintiffs urge the Court not to dismiss the case despite Batchelor, see Pl.'s Br. Re: Exhaustion (Doc. 92). For the reasons which follow, the case is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Furthermore, as explained below, even assuming arguendo the Court had jurisdiction, summary judgment in favor of defendants would be warranted.

1. Background

At the time plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit, M.S. was a 17-year old minor who was beginning her senior year in high school.[4] Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges that M.S. was traumatized in or about November 2007, during M.S.'s eighth grade academic year, when her sister was sexually assaulted by B.C., who was a student at the high school which M.S. eventually attended.[5] See Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶ 8; Pl.'s Br. in Opp. to Defs.' Summ. J. Mot. (Doc. 71) (hereinafter cited as " Pls.' Br." ) at 3-4. Plaintiffs state that B.C. and his family " lived just a few doors

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away" from M.S.'s family and that the two families were " close friends and neighbors . . . before B.C. sexually assaulted [M.S.'s sister]." Id.

Plaintiffs further indicate that " [a]fter the assaults, the families became estranged enemies which resulted in numerous confrontations leading to police involvement and a lawsuit between the families in state court." Id. (emph. omitted). Plaintiffs claim that: " These confrontations consisted of frequent incidents of intimidation: for example, [B.C.'s] family members would drive slowly by M.S.'s house and 'stare' at her and her family; [B.C.'s] family members would confront M.S.'s family members by snapping photographs of them without permission; [B.C.'s] family members would 'stare them down,' give them the 'evil eye'; make faces at them." Id. According to plaintiffs, " [t]his type of harassment behavior continued in the high school." Id. at 5.

" M.S. became traumatized in the presence of B.C., her sister's molester, and also in the presence of J.C. (B.C.'s minor brother) because J.C. brought up the pain and trauma of her sister's victimization and the hatred between the two families." See Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶ 15 (parenthetical added). " J.C. became estranged from M.S. and engaged in hostile behavior towards M.S. during confrontations in their neighborhood." Id. ¶ 13. As plaintiffs describe it, M.S. " [e]ndured the resulting estrangement and hatred between the two families." Id. M.S. also " endured a rape and a car accident at [the] end of her first year of high school." Id.

Plaintiffs state that " M.S. began ninth grade with J.C. in her classes and B.C. in the same building" and that " M.S.'s school performance deteriorated -- she started cutting classes and receiving detentions." Id. ¶ ¶ 18-19. In particular, plaintiffs claim that " M.S.'s ability to function in the school and her ability to learn was substantially harmed by the presence of J.C. in her classes and the presence of B.C. . . . in the building." Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiffs further claim that " M.S.'s tenth grade school performance deteriorated further with low grades, temporary suspensions, and detentions." Id. ¶ 27.

According to plaintiffs, M.S.' psychotherapist diagnosed her with anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress syndrome on or about August 2009 and the psychotherapist " communicated directly with the district's guidance counselor" toward the end of M.S.'s sophomore year " on or about March 2010, and informed [her] of M.S.'s diagnoses and disability and the necessity for a change in class." Id. ¶ ¶ 28-29. Plaintiffs state that M.S.'s " last day at the high school was December 20, 2010, when M.S. became hysterical because of the situation" and " [t]he district agreed to provide homebound instruction starting January, 2011." Id. ¶ 37.

Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges three Counts: (1) " Causing/Aggravating a Disability and/or Failure to Accommodate Same" under Section 504 (Count I), id. ¶ ¶ 43-52; (2) " Retaliation Against Parents of M.S. and M.S." under Section 504 (Count II), id. ¶ ¶ 53-61; and (3) Violation of the ADA (Count III), id. ¶ ¶ 62-65. Plaintiffs' claims include allegations that " defendants' conduct prevented or interfered with the ability of M.S. to learn or access an appropriate education," her " disability substantially limited one or more of the major life activities of M.S., i.e., the ability to learn in school," and defendants " interfered with, discriminated against, or denied ...


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