United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
TAMMY SMITH, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF A MINOR, S.S., Plaintiff,
MID-VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT, and SALISBURY BEHAVIORAL HEALTH, INC., d/b/a NEW STORY THROOP Defendants.
Richard Caputo United States District Judge.
before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant
Mid-Valley School District (“the District”). The
IDEA requires exhaustion of administrative procedures before
the filing of a civil action in federal court, and Plaintiff
Tammy Smith (“Plaintiff”) admits she failed to
exhaust these procedures before commencing this action.
Because exhaustion of these procedures is not futile, this
Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the
claims raised by Plaintiff against the District. For this
reason, I will dismiss Counts I, III, V, and VIII of the
Amended Complaint without prejudice.
Tammy Smith is the mother to S.S., a minor. (Doc.
10, at ¶ 2.) S.S. is an autistic student who was
enrolled at the District with an Individualized Education
Plan (“IEP”) for behavioral support. In
evaluating S.S., the District believed that he would be best
served by enrolling in the New Story Throop Program, operated
by Defendant Salisbury Behavioral Health, Inc. (“New
Story Throop”). (Doc. 10, at ¶¶
10-11.) New Story Throop is a private entity licensed to
offer education to students upon referral from participating
school districts. (Doc. 10, at ¶ 4.) S.S. was
placed in this program.
“Quiet Room” Incidents
about February 16, 2016, the Throop Police Department
received a report of suspected child endangerment and neglect
at the New Story Throop facility. Three days later, an
officer was dispatched to the New Story Throop facility to
investigate the report. During his investigation the officer
discovered that S.S. had been placed in a “quiet
room” on February 8, 2016 and again on February 9, 2016
for alleged behavioral problems. While in the quiet room,
school employees observed S.S. taking off all his clothes and
urinating on the floor. They continued to stand idle as he
began to play in the urine on his hands and knees and,
ultimately, drink the urine from the ground. (Doc.
10, at ¶¶ 12-18.) Both of the quiet room incidents
happened on school property and during school hours.
(Doc. 10, at ¶ 42.)
days, the District's Special Education Director was
informed of S.S.'s conduct and the associated lack of
action by staff. (Doc. 10, at ¶ 19.) With this
knowledge, the Director, along with other school district
officials, conducted an investigation into the incidents.
Shockingly, this investigation concluded with no findings of
fault and triggered no change in S.S.'s IEP.
(Doc. 10, at ¶ 36.)
Removal from the New Story Throop Program & the
Mid-Valley School District
Smith was informed of the quiet room incidents by the
District at some time following the District's
investigation. (Doc. 10, at ¶ 20.) S.S. was
unable to inform his mother of the quiet room incidents
because he is non-verbal. (Doc. 10, at ¶ 9.)
After learning of the incident, Tammy Smith immediately
requested IEP meetings as she believed-and still
believes-that the District's IEP was insufficient and
denied her son the free appropriate public education
(“FAPE”) he was entitled to under the law. As a
result of Tammy Smith's involvement, S.S. was removed
from the New Story Throop Program. (Doc. 10, at
regressed in his mental progression and development due to
the quiet room incident. In an effort to enhance his
development, his mother elected to remove him from the
District, and he was placed in a full-time institution
providing education services tailored to support students
living with autism. (Doc. 10, at ¶¶
26-27.) Plaintiff also alleges that S.S. suffered severe
emotional distress, exhibited aggressive behavior, and
continued to require counseling as a result of his placement
in the New Story Throop Program. (Doc. 10, at ¶
date, Plaintiff has not exhausted the administrative
procedures set forth in the Individuals with Disability
Education Act (“IDEA”). Namely, she has not
requested a due process hearing. (Doc. 10, at ¶ 31.)
Plaintiff claims that such a hearing would have been futile
because those procedures could not remedy the
“educational violations that have occurred in the past
and that are no longer on-going.” (Doc. 20, at
a result of S.S.'s treatment in the New Story Troop
Program, Tammy Smith, individually and on behalf of her son,
filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 10.) on March 23,
2018 alleging: (1) a Violation of Title IX of the Education
Amendments of 1972; (2) Retaliation Under Title IX of the
Education Amendments of 1972; (3) a Violation of the
14th Amendment; (4) a Violation of the Individuals
with Disability Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et
seq.; (5) a Breach of a Fiduciary
Duty; and (6) a Violation of § 504 of the
Federal Rehabilitation Act. The District has filed a Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (Doc.
11.) This Motion if ripe for review.
Motion to ...