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Webb v. Susquehanna Township School District

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 27, 2015

GREGORY WEBB and CLARICE WEBB, Plaintiffs
v.
SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants

Page 344

For Gregory Webb, Clarice Webb, Plaintiffs: Nathan C. Pringle, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Harrisburg, PA.

For Susquehanna Township School District, Dr. Susan M. Kegerise, Cathy Tashner, Jesse Rawls, John A. Fabian, Daniel K. Fuller, M.D. Peter J. Sakol, John F. Dietrich, Kathy L. DelGrande, Mark Y. Sussman, Linda T. Butler, Esquire Michael S. Ferguson, Defendants: Carl P. Beard, Jr., David M McGoron, Elizabeth A. Benjamin, Andrews & Beard Law Offices, Altoona, PA.

Page 345

MEMORANDUM

Sylvia H. Rambo, United States District Judge.

The student, a black male, was observed in school wearing a multifunctional tool with a small knife on a keychain around his neck. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants imposed a harsher disciplinary treatment for the student's actions in comparison to lesser disciplinary treatments imposed on three white students for more serious violations. Defendants moved for dismissal of all claims asserted by the student's mother under Section 1983 for lack of standing and expiration of the statute of limitations, all claims against the individual defendants under Title VI, and all claims under the PHRA for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted.

I. Background

As required when deciding a motion to dismiss, the court will accept as true the well-pleaded factual averments set forth in the complaint (Doc. 1), and view them in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs as the nonmoving party.

A. Parties

Plaintiff Gregory Webb (" Plaintiff Student" ) is a black male, residing within the Middle District of Pennsylvania. ( Id. at ¶ 3). Plaintiff Clarice Webb (" Plaintiff Mother" ) is a black female and the mother of Plaintiff Student, who also resides within the Middle District of Pennsylvania. ( Id. at ¶ 4). Plaintiff Student was enrolled at Susquehanna Township High School (" Susquehanna High School" ), which is a public high school under the operation of Defendant Susquehanna Township School District (" Defendant School District" ), a public school district in Susquehanna Township, within the Middle District of Pennsylvania. ( Id. at ¶ 5). Defendant Dr. Susan M. Kegerise (" Defendant Superintendent" ) was the Superintendent of the School District. ( Id. at ¶ 6). Defendant Cathy Tashner (" Defendant Assistant Superintendent" ) was Assistant Superintendent of the School District. ( Id. at ¶ 7). Defendants Jesse Rawls, John A. Fabian, Daniel K. Fuller, Peter J. Sakol, M.D., John F. Dietrich, Linda T. Butler, Kathy L. DelGrande, Michael S. Ferguson, Esq., and Mark Y. Sussman, are all members of the School District's Board of School Directors (collectively " Defendant School Board Members" ). ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 8-16).

B. Facts

On January 9, 2012, a teacher at Susquehanna High School saw Plaintiff Student wearing a multifunctional tool that included a small knife on a keychain around his neck.[1] (Doc. 1, ¶ 20). The tool was confiscated and Plaintiff Student was

Page 346

placed on a six-day out-of-school suspension. ( Id. at ¶ 21). Defendant Superintendent and Defendant Assistant Superintendent recommended to Defendant School Board Members that Plaintiff Student be expelled ( Id. at ¶ 22); and on January 18, 2012, Defendant School Board Members voted to permanently expel Plaintiff Student. ( Id. at ¶ 25). At the time of the expulsion, Plaintiff Student was sixteen years old and in the eleventh grade. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 19 & 28). Permanent expulsion meant that Plaintiff Student was placed on home study for both the remaining half of the 2011-2012 academic school year and the entirety of his senior year during 2012-2013. ( Id. at ¶ 27).

On June 24, 2012, Plaintiff Mother learned of three situations in which white male students were treated differently than her son. ( Id. at ¶ 30). The first situation involved a white male student who brought two airsoft pistols onto school grounds; the student crouched behind a vehicle and aimed at other students as they exited the building. ( Id. at ¶ 31). The second situation involved a white male student who brought marijuana into a classroom. ( Id. at ¶ 33). The third situation involved a white male student who brought a BB gun onto school grounds. ( Id. at ¶ 35). On each of these occasions, Defendant Superintendent and Defendant Assistant Superintendent did not recommend to expel the students, and Defendant School Board Members voted accordingly. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 32-36). On June 25, 2012, Plaintiff Mother attended a School Board meeting at which she highlighted the disparate treatment and asked Defendant School Board Members for equitable treatment for her son. ( Id. at ¶ 37). Plaintiff Student's expulsion was not modified. ( Id. at ¶ 38).

C. Procedural History

Plaintiffs initiated this action by filing a complaint on June 11, 2014. On October 24, 2014, Defendants waived service. (Doc. 4). On December 11, 2014, Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss[2] (Doc. 11) and the supporting brief (Doc. 12). On January 2, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a response (Doc. 17) to which Defendants replied on ...


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