United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MARY E. PRICE Plaintiff, pro se
COMMONWEALTH CHARTER ACADEMY- CYBER Defendant
I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, U.S.D.C. J.
April 25, 2017, Plaintiff Mary E. Price
(“Plaintiff”), the parent of minor child T.R.,
and the aunt and legal guardian of minor child J.H.,
commenced this action, in her own right and on behalf of T.R.
and J.H., against Defendants Commonwealth Charter Academy -
Cyber (“Defendant CCA” or “CCA”),
Bureau of Special Education (“Defendant BSE”),
and Ruth Furman (“Defendant Furman”)
(collectively, “Defendants”). [ECF 1]. In her
initial complaint (the “Initial Complaint”),
Plaintiff asserted claims under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (the “IDEA”),
U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq.; Title II of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), 42
U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.; Section 504 of
the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504” or
“§ 504”), 29 U.S.C. § 794; and 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983” or
“§ 1983”), all premised on Defendants'
alleged failure to comply with, implement, and/or enforce the
administrative due process decisions that addressed the
special education services ordered for J.H. and T.R. On July
21, 2017, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint (“the
Amended Complaint”), in which she presented the same
claims against Defendants that had been asserted in the
Initial Complaint, but only on her own behalf. [ECF 17].
before this Court is a motion to dismiss filed by
Defendant CCA pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
(“Rule”) 12(b)(6) and 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B), which seeks the dismissal of the claims
asserted against it in the Amended Complaint. [ECF
Defendant CCA also seeks an award of attorneys' fees
pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B)(i)(III). Plaintiff
has opposed Defendant CCA's motion to dismiss. [ECF 26].
For the reasons stated herein, Defendant CCA's motion to
dismiss is granted, and its request for an award of
attorneys' fees is denied.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Court will recite only those portions of the procedural and
factual histories necessary to address the instant motion.
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, initiated this civil
action on behalf of herself, minor J.H., and minor T.R., by
filing an application to proceed in forma pauperis
(“IFP”) and the Initial Complaint. [ECF 1]. By
Order dated May 1, 2017, the IFP application was granted and
the Clerk of Court was directed to docket the Initial
Complaint. [ECF 2]. Defendants were served with the summons
and a copy of the complaint by the United States Marshal
Service. [ECF 13]. Thereafter, Plaintiff was granted
permission to amend the Initial Complaint. [ECF 15].
21, 2017, Plaintiff filed the operative Amended Complaint, in
which she asserts the same claims against Defendants that had
been presented in the Initial Complaint, but only on her own
behalf, and not on behalf of J.H. and T.R. [ECF 17]. In the
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant CCA
failed to comply with, implement, and/or enforce the
administrative due process decisions (the
“Decisions”) issued on September 17, 2016, by an
independent Pennsylvania special education hearing officer
who had held evidentiary hearings and addressed the
sufficiency of J.H.'s and T.R.'s education under the
IDEA. (See Am. Compl. at Introduction). Plaintiff
also alleges that Defendant CCA's failure to comply with
and implement the Decisions constituted
“discrimination” under Title II of the ADA and
Section 504, and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(Id. at ¶ 92).
CCA filed the underlying motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), in which it
seeks dismissal of all of the claims asserted against it in
the Amended Complaint on various grounds, including,
inter alia, lack of standing and failure to state a
claim. When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), this Court must accept, as true, all relevant and
pertinent factual allegations in the Amended Complaint and
construe those facts in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d
203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). The salient allegations, as found
in the Amended Complaint and attached exhibits,
summarized as follows:
Minors J. H. and T.R. are students enrolled at CCA, a
cyber-charter school that serves students in Pennsylvania.
(See Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 5, 8, 11). Plaintiff
is J.H.'s aunt and legal guardian, and T.R.'s mother.
(Id. at Introduction). J.H. and T.R. have been
diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a
number of other learning disorders, and were deemed eligible
for special education services under the IDEA for the
2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. (See Id. at
In 2016, Plaintiff filed administrative due process
complaints against Defendants on behalf of J.H. and T.R. On
September 17, 2016, following nine days of evidentiary
hearings, the special education hearing officer assigned to
the administrative complaints issued the Decisions, (see
Id. at ¶¶ 1, 4), which essentially ordered
Defendant CCA to provide each student with up to 990 hours
each of compensatory education each calendar year “for
as long as it takes for each student to achieve his
[individualized education plan goals]” and allowed
Plaintiff to select a third-party provider to deliver the
ordered compensatory education services. (Id. at
¶¶ 3, 5; see also Ex. 2 to Am. Compl. at
p. 27; Ex. 3 to Am. Compl. at p. 21). The Decisions also
ordered Defendant CCA to pay for the educational services
provided by a third party of parent's choice. (Am. Compl.
at ¶¶ 3, 5; Ex. 2 at p. 28; Ex. 3 at p. 22). The
Decisions did not, however, expressly order Defendant CCA to
pay for J.H. or T.R.'s transportation to and from school,
meals, or other expenses associated with the third-party
educational provider's services. (See generally
Ex. 2 & 3 to Am. Compl.). Neither Plaintiff nor Defendant
CCA appealed the Decisions.
On September 26, 2016, Plaintiff informed Defendant CCA that
she had selected the Woodlynde School
(“Woodlynde”) as the third-party provider. (Am.
Compl. at ¶ 18). Woodlynde sent Plaintiff an
enrollment packet, which included a contract for Plaintiff to
sign, (id. at ¶ 19), and a stipulation that
Plaintiff would assume full responsibility for the payment of
T.R. and J.H.'s tuitions and any related fees.
(Id. at ¶ 27). Defendant CCA informed Plaintiff
that, consistent with the Decisions, it would pay for T.R.
and J.H.'s tuitions but would not reimburse Plaintiff for
the costs of their uniforms, lunches, and transportation to
and from school. (Id. at ¶ 29). Plaintiff
refused to sign the enrollment contract, and J.H. and T.R.
were not enrolled at Woodlynde. (See Id. at
¶¶ 18-22, 24).
On October 27, 2016, Plaintiff informed Defendant CCA that
she had selected Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes
(“LBLP”) as the alternative third-party provider
for J.H. and T.R. (Id. at ¶ 32). On November
22, 2016, Defendant CCA and LBLP entered into an agreement
that LBLP would provide educational services to J.H. and T.R.
from November 7, 2016, through February 28, 2017.
(Id. at ¶ 35). According to Plaintiff,
Defendant CCA refused to provide for the daily transportation
and lunch costs for J.H. and T.R., and excluded Plaintiff
from the contract negotiations with LBLP. (Id. at
¶¶ 33, 34).
On January 11, 2017, and January 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed
formal complaints with Defendant BSE on behalf of J.H. and
T.R. in which she complained that Defendant CCA had failed to
comply with the Decisions. (Id. at ¶ 48;
see also Ex. 9 to Am. Compl.). On January 26, 2017,
Defendant BSE informed Plaintiff by letter that it had
determined that Defendant CCA had fully complied with and
implemented the Decision concerning J.H, and that no further
action on its part was required. (See Am. Compl. at
¶ 50; see also Ex. 10 to Am. Compl.). Plaintiff
alleges that BSE never contacted her or informed her of any
determination it made with regard to the complaint she filed
on T.R.'s behalf. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 74).
noted, the instant motion to dismiss was filed pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) and 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). A court may grant a motion to dismiss an
action under Rule 12(b)(6) if the complaint “fail[s] to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, a court must “accept all of the
complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard
any legal conclusions.” Fowler, 578 F.3d at
210-11. The court must determine “whether the facts
alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the
plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief'”
Id. at 211 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). The complaint must do more than merely
allege the plaintiffs entitlement to relief: it must
“show such an entitlement with its facts.”
Id. (citations omitted).
determine the sufficiency of a complaint, “a court . .
. must take three steps.” Connelly v. Lane Constr.
Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). First, a court
must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must
plead to state a claim.” Id. (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). Second, the court must
identify allegations that are merely legal conclusions
“because they . . . are not entitled to the assumption
of truth.” Id. While a complaint need not
assert detailed factual allegations, “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Third, a court should assume
the veracity of all well-pleaded factual allegations and
“then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement to relief.” Connelly, 809 F.3d at
787 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
may determine that a complaint's factual allegations are
plausible if the court is able “to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). âBut where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the
court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct,
the complaint has alleged-but it has not
'show[n]'-'that the pleader is entitled to
relief'” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)) (alterations in original). In other words,
“[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Thus, to survive a motion
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a plaintiff must
allege facts sufficient to 'nudge [his] claims across the
line from conceivable to plausible.'” Phillips
v. Cnty. of Allegheny,515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008)
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “Although
the plausibility standard 'does not impose a probability
requirement, ' it does require a pleading to show
'more than a ...