United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
J. Schwab, United States District Judge
case was initiated by Pennsylvania International Academy, LLC
(“the Academy”), a company which operates a
residential boarding facility for high school students who
attend Mercyhurst Preparatory School (“Mercyhurst
Prep”), located in Erie, Pennsylvania. The
Academy's residential facilities fall within the
boundaries of the Fort LeBoeuf School District (“School
Academy originally filed this lawsuit in the Court of Common
Pleas of Erie County, Pennsylvania, but the matter was
removed to the United States Court for the Western District
of Pennsylvania. Because Count Three of the Academy's
Complaint sets forth a federal civil rights claim, under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, for deprivation of property without due
process of law, the removal was proper, as this District
Court has original jurisdiction over this matter.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
addition to its Section 1983 claim, the Academy seeks a
mandamus in the form of a permanent injunction requiring the
School District to provide free transportation to its
students to and from Mercyhurst Prep. The Academy's
request for mandamus alleges that the School District, after
six years of providing free bus transportation between the
Academy's residential facility and Mercyhurst Prep,
refused to provide free transportation for the 2016-2017
the Academy's Complaint also sets forth a subrogation
claim to recover the costs it incurred for its students'
transportation for the 2016-2017 school year, when the School
District refused to provide free transportation to the
Academy's students. To this end, the Academy seeks
reimbursement in the amount of $26, 207.00 to recoup its
transportation payment and costs for the 2016-2017 school
before the Court are the Parties' cross-motions for
summary judgment. The parties have fully briefed their
cross-motions and there are no relevant, material facts in
dispute. Thus, this matter is ripe for disposition.
Standard of Review
judgment may be granted if, drawing all inferences in favor
of the non-moving party, “the movant shows that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a); see also Melrose, Inc. v. City of Pittsburgh,
613 F.3d 380, 387 (3d Cir. 2010).
is “material” if proof of its existence or
non-existence might affect the outcome of the suit under
applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Lamont v. New Jersey,
637 F.3d 177, 181 (3d Cir. 2011). Disputes must be both: (1)
material, meaning concerning facts that will affect the
outcome of the issue under substantive law, and (2) genuine,
meaning there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed
factual dispute “to require a jury or judge to resolve
the parties' differing versions of the truth at
trial.” In re Lemington Home for Aged, 659
F.3d 282, 290 (3d Cir. 2011).
moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of
supporting its assertion that fact(s) cannot be genuinely
disputed by citing to particular parts of materials in the
record - i.e., depositions, documents, affidavits,
stipulations, or other materials - or by showing that: (1)
the materials cited by the non-moving party do not establish
the presence of a genuine dispute, or (2) that the non-moving
party cannot produce admissible evidence to support its
fact(s). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The moving party may
discharge its burden by “pointing out to the district
court” the “absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case” when the nonmoving party
bears the ultimate burden of proof for the claim in question.
Conoshenti v. Public Service Elec. & Gas Co, 364
F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004), quoting Singletary v.
Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections, 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.
2 (3d Cir. 2001), quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. 317, 325
in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the
non-moving party must support its assertion that fact(s) are
genuinely disputed by citing to particular parts of materials
in the record, or by showing that: (1) the materials cited by
the moving party do not establish the absence of a genuine
dispute, or (2) the moving party cannot produce admissible
evidence to support its fact(s). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). When
determining whether there are any genuine issues of material
fact, all inferences should be drawn in favor of the
non-moving party. Berckeley Inv. Group, Ltd. v.
Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006).
reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court does not
make credibility determinations, and summary judgment is
“inappropriate when a case will turn on credibility
determinations.” El v. Southeastern Pennsylvania
Transp. Authority, 479 F.3d 232 (3d Cir. 2007), citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
instant case, the parties have filed cross-motions for
summary judgment. It is well established that the filing of
contradictory motions for summary judgment, “does not
constitute an agreement that if one is rejected the other is
necessarily justified or that the losing party waives
judicial consideration and determination whether genuine
issues of material fact exist.” Lawrence v. City of
Philadelphia, Pa., 527 F.3d 299, 310 (3d Cir. 2008),
quoting Rains v. Cascade Indus., Inc., 402 F.2d 241,
245 (3d Cir. 1968).
Relevant Material Uncontested Facts
Academy operates a residential building facility for high
school-aged students who attend a private school, known as
Mercyhurst Prep. The students, who reside at the
Academy's facility and attend Mercyhurst Prep, possess
F-1 Visas. The possession of an F-1 Visa renders these
students lawful residents of the United States of America and
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Academy's residential facility is located within the
School District. Mercyhurst Prep is located within ten miles
of the School District's boundaries by way of the nearest
years prior to the 2016-2017 school year, the School District
provided free bus transportation to the students who resided
at the Academy's residential facility and who attended
Mercyhurst Prep. Then, in June of 2016, the School District
notified the Academy that it would no longer provide free bus
transportation to the students residing at the Academy
because of their F-1 Visa status. However, the School
District offered to transport the Academy's students to
and from the Academy's facility to and from Mercyhurst
Prep at a cost of $765.00 per student for the 2016-2017
school year. Rather than pay approximately $87, 975.00 to the
School District, the Academy contracted with the same
transportation service provider to provide transportation for
its students for the 2016-2017 school year at a cost of $26,
Academy brought the instant lawsuit against the School
District seeking: (1) a mandamus in the form of a permanent
injunction requiring the School District to provide free
transportation to its students; (2) subrogation of the $26,
207.00 amount the Academy incurred during the 2016-2017
school year in costs to transport its students from their
residence to Mercyhurst Prep; and/or (3) damages in the
amount of $26, 207.00, for the School District's alleged
violation of the Academy's students' property right
to be provided with free bus transportation from their place
of residence (the Academy) to their private school
(Mercyhurst Prep) as per Pennsylvania law.
The School District's Motion for Summary Judgment i.
Pennsylvania's Busing Statute
School District has argued that all three of the
Academy's claims set forth in its Complaint are
“founded upon the flawed legal premise that the
[School] District is legally obligated to provide the
Academy's students with [free] transportation to and from
their private secondary school.” Doc. no. 6, p. 4.
Public School Code, 24 Pa. C. S. A. §1-101 et
seq., contains a provision for the transportation of
public school students (herein, “the busing
statute”), which reads in pertinent part:
(1) The board of school directors in any school district may,
out of the funds of the district, provide for the free
transportation of any resident pupil to and from the
kindergarten, elementary school, or secondary school in which
he is lawfully enrolled, provided that such school is not
operated for profit and is located within the district
boundaries or outside the district boundaries at a distance
not exceeding ten miles by the nearest public highway . . . .
When provision is made by a board of school directors for the
transportation of public school pupils to and from such
schools or to and from any points within or without the
Commonwealth in order to provide field trips as herein
provided, the board of school directors shall also make
identical provision for the free transportation of pupils who
regularly attend nonpublic kindergarten, elementary and high
schools not operated for profit to and from such schools or
to and from any points within or without the Commonwealth in
order to provide field trips as herein provided. Such
transportation of pupils attending nonpublic schools shall be
provided during regular school hours on such dates and
periods that the nonpublic school not operated for profit is
in regular session, according to the school calendar
officially adopted by the directors of the same in accordance
with provisions of law. . . .
24 Pa. C. S. A. § 13-1361.
Court applies the rules of statutory construction when
interpreting the above-quoted state statute. “It is
well settled that the first step in interpreting a statute is
to determine whether the language at issue has a plain and
unambiguous meaning with regard to the particular dispute in
the case.” United States v. Cooper, 396 F.3d
308, 310 (3d Cir. 2005) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). “Where the language of the statute is clear .
. . the text of the statute is the end of the matter.”
Steele v. Blackman, 236 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir.
2001). “The plainness or ambiguity of statutory
language is determined by reference to the language itself,
the specific context in which that language is used, and the
broader context of the statute as a whole.” Marshak
v. Treadwell, 240 F.3d 184, 192 (3d Cir. 2001),
quoting Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 341
Court finds Pennsylvania's busing statute, quoted above,
to be unambiguous. The statute specifically indicates that
“[w]hen provision is made by a board of school
directors for the transportation of public school pupils to
and from such schools . . . the board of school directors
shall also make identical provision for the free
transportation of pupils who regularly attend nonpublic . . .
schools not operated for profit to and from such
schools[.]” Simply put, Pennsylvania's busing
statute requires a school district to provide free bus
transportation to students residing within the school
district who attend nonpublic, nonprofit schools, if it
provides free bus transportation to its students who attend
upon the uncontested facts presented herein, the School
District provides free bus transportation to its public
school students. The state's busing statute requires the
same free bus transportation to its nonpublic school
students. The parties to this lawsuit concur that the
Academy's students reside within the school district and
attend Mercyhurst Prep, a nonpublic, nonprofit school which
is located outside the district boundaries, but at a distance
not exceeding ten miles by the nearest public highway.
these uncontested facts, the Court finds that
Pennsylvania's busing statute requires the School
District to provide free bus transportation to the students
who reside at the Academy to and from Mercyhurst Prep.
Overview of Conflict Preemption
the School District argues that the above-quoted busing
statute, which this Court has now determined would require
the School District to provide free bus transportation from
the residential facility operated by the Academy to and from
Mercyhurst Prep, conflicts with federal law. The School
District argues that under the Supremacy Clause of ...