United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
J.C., a minor, B.C., a minor, and Mr. R.C. and Mrs. M.C. in their own right, Plaintiffs,
GREENSBURG-SALEM SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
MARILYN J. HORAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
December 19, 2018, Plaintiffs filed the present Complaint
against Defendant Greensburg-Salem School District. (ECF No.
1). Plaintiffs bring various claims against the Defendant
District under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C.
§ 794; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 12101 et seq.;the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983; and Title IX of the Education Amendments, 20
U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. Id. The Defendant
District moves to dismiss the Complaint "pursuant to
Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6), and 12(f) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure." (ECF No. 5). The parties provided
briefs, (ECF Nos. 6, 10, 13), and argued the Motion before
this Court on June 20, 2019.
following reasons, the Defendant District's Motion to
Dismiss will be denied in part and moot in part, as the Court
finds, sua sponte, that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over several claims.
J.C, a fifteen-year-old boy, is diagnosed with Autism
Spectrum Disorder, learning disabilities in math, and a
speech and language disorder. (ECF No. 1, at ¶ 23-24).
Related to his diagnoses, "J.C. has difficulty with
expressive language and communicating needs and feelings, and
has social skill deficits." Id. at ¶ 25.
These deficits "make it difficult for him to interact
with peers," as well as "make him more susceptible
to bullying and abuse." Id. Accordingly, J.C.
has received behavioral support services since the fall of
2010. Id. at ¶ 26.
has a younger brother, Plaintiff B.C., who is twelve years
old. Id. at ¶ 27. The boys' parents are
Plaintiffs Mr. R.C. and Mrs. M.C. Id. at ¶
9-10. Mr. R.C. and Mrs. M.C. own their own business, which
Mr. R.C. continues to operate. Id. at ¶ 85.
Until the events at issue in this case, Mrs. M.C. also worked
for the business, assisting in managing the business's
finances and operations. Id. at ¶¶ 85-86.
The family resides in the Defendant Greensburg-Salem School
District, where the boys were enrolled in school from at
least 2012 through the end of the 2014-15 school year.
Id. at ¶¶ 7-10, 28, 30.
summer of 2012, before J.C. began second grade and before
B.C. began kindergarten, J.C. reported to his behavior
services consultant (who was not an employee of the Defendant
District) that another student had exposed his penis to J.C.
on the school bus. Id. at ¶¶ 28, 30-31.
That student, named D.H., "was well-known in Defendant
District as a behavior and discipline problem."
Id. at ¶ 36. After the 2012-13 school year
began, J.C. became upset that D.H. "was attempting to
put himself in proximity to" B.C., and "J.C. feared
D.H. would sexually assault B.C. if J.C. did not protect
him." Id. at ¶ 32. Mr. R.C. and Mrs. M.C.
notified the school of the incident and their concerns, and
ultimately met with the school's principal on September
18, 2012 to discuss the matter. Id. at ¶ 33. At
the meeting, the principal assured the parents "that she
would share the information with J.C.'s teachers so the
students could be appropriately supervised."
Id. at¶35. The parents "trusted that the
principal would appropriately address the situation" and
that the interactions between the students would be monitored
going forward. Id. at ¶¶ 34-35, 37.
start of the 2013-14 school year, and unknown to J.C.'s
parents, J.C. and D.H. were permitted to sit with or near
each other at the back of school bus, where the bus driver
could not observe their interactions. Id. at ¶
38. D.H. repeatedly victimized J.C. by forcing J.C. to touch
his penis and by rubbing his penis on J.C. Id. at
¶¶ 39-40. Due to J.C.'s social skills deficits,
J.C. did not report these incidents immediately. Id.
at ¶ 41. Over time, J.C. began displaying, among other
things, self-harm behaviors, inability to regulate his
emotions, heightened agitation, and difficulty interacting
with his brother. Id. at ¶¶ 42-43. Mrs.
M.C. communicated her concerns about J.C.'s behaviors to
the Defendant District, which "failed to take any steps
to determine the cause of J.C.'s change in
behavior." Id. at ¶¶ 44-45.
and B.C. continued to ride the bus with D.H. the following
school year, and "[b]y early February 2015, the sexual
abuse had increased" to include D.H. pulling down
J.C.'s pants and touching J.C.'s penis. Id.
at ¶¶ 46-47, 63. On February 5, 2015, J.C. reported
the abuse to his learning support teacher, but the teacher
did not notify Mr. R.C. or Mrs. M.C. Id. at
¶¶ 48-49, Instead, Mrs. M.C. learned of the abuse
when J.C. disclosed it to her that afternoon. Id. at
¶ 50. The parents took J.C. to the pediatrician and
reported the abuse to the local police in the days that
followed J.C.'s disclosure. Id. at ¶¶
52, 54. The parents also decided to keep J.C. and B.C. home
from school until they could be assured of the boys'
safety at school and on the school bus. Id. at
¶ 53. They spoke with the principal regarding changes
that could be put in place to keep J.C. safe, Id. at
¶ 58. The Defendant District offered to provide J.C.
with alternative transportation and proposed changing
J.C.'s homeroom assignment, as D.H. was also in that
classroom. Id. at ¶ 59. The parents were
dissatisfied with the Defendant District's proposal
because it meant changes for J.C. rather than for D.H., which
J.C. perceived as punishment. Id. at ¶ 60.
Additionally, due to his Autism Spectrum Disorder, "J.C.
struggled with transitions, and these changes would have a
significant impact on him." Id.
February 26, 2015, the parents met with the Defendant
District and "confirmed that until Defendant completed
its formal investigation of the sexual abuse, J.C. and B.C.
would not be returning to school." Id. at
¶ 64. The Defendant District failed to complete or
finalize its investigation and did not provide a written
report to the family. Id. at ¶ 65. The
Defendant District also did not revise J.C.'s
individualized education plan (IEP) to ensure that J.C.
received the support and supervision he needed. Id.
at ¶¶ 66, 74. Consequently, Mr. R.C. and Mrs. M.C.
kept the boys at home for the rest of the school year.
Id. at ¶¶ 67, 76. Although the Defendant
District sent letters to the parents in March 2015 regarding
the boys' absences, the Defendant District did not meet
with the parents about attendance, discuss attendance during
J.C.'s IEP meeting in April 2015, or pursue truancy
charges against the parents. Id. at ¶¶ 69,
75. In August 2015, Mr. R.C. and Mrs. M.C. enrolled their
sons in a cyber charter school, where the boys still attend.
Id. at ¶ 77.
family contends that as a result of the sexual abuse and the
Defendant District's failure to respond appropriately,
the family has been, and continues to be, harmed mentally,
emotionally, and financially. The family alleges that
"J.C. continues to manifest and express anxiety over the
February 2015 sexual abuse and the peer involved," and
that he "remains fearful of seeing that peer
again." Id. at ¶ 82. B.C. has also
"developed issues with anger and frustration, and his
relationship with J.C. was further strained by these
incidents," because he "blames J.C. for his removal
from Defendant District." Id. at ¶¶
83, 91. The family further alleges that "Mrs. M.C. was
traumatized by J.C.'s abuse and disclosure, and to date
experiences panic attacks." Id., at ¶ 78.
She has "required extensive support" in order to
care for J.C. and B.C., including in-home tutoring to support
the boys in their cyber school program. Id. at
¶¶ 78-80. Additionally, Mrs. M.C. "was unable
to work consistently for the family business," which
"resulted in tremendous financial burden" on the
family. Id. at ¶ 78. Mr. R.C., too, "has
experienced significant anxiety and guilt over not having
been able to protect J.C." Id. at ¶ 89.
Lastly, these incidents have had a negative impact on the
parents' marriage, and the family "will require
ongoing therapeutic supports to address the traumas they have
individually and collectively experienced." Id.
at ¶¶ 87, 92.
result of the foregoing, the parents filed an administrative
due process complaint with the Office for Dispute Resolution
on May 17, 2017. Id. at ¶ 16. They alleged that
the Defendant District violated the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), § 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) "by failing to provide J.C. a free, appropriate
public education" and by "discriminat[ing] against
J.C. on the basis of his disability." (ECF No. 16, at 2;
ECF No. 1, at ¶ 16). Related to the due process
complaint, the parties "entered into a Tolling
Agreement, establishing the filing date for purposes of the
timely filing determination as February 17, 2017." (ECF
No. 1, at ¶ 17). Following several hearings, the Hearing
Officer issued a decision on February 15, 2018, finding that
the Defendant District failed in its "free, appropriate
public education" (FAPE) obligations to J.C. under the
IDEA, from February 17, 2015 through the end of the 2014-15
school year. Id. at ¶ 20. The Hearing Officer
also found that the Defendant District had acted with
deliberate indifference toward J.C. and thus had
discriminated against J.C. in violation of § 504.
Id. at ¶ 21. The Hearing Officer ordered the
Defendant District to provide six hours of compensatory
education per day for each day that the Defendant District
was in session from February 17, 2015 through the end of the
2014-15 school year, Id. at ¶ 20. Lastly, the
Hearing Officer denied the parents' claim for
reimbursement for private professional services they obtained
for J.C. as a result of the Defendant District's failure
to provide a FAPE, because the parents did not present
evidence sufficient to make a determination. (ECF No. 16, at
23-24). Neither the parents nor the Defendant District
appealed the Hearing Officer's decision. (ECF No. 1, at
December 19, 2018-ten months after the issuance of the
Hearing Officer's decision, and more than three years and
ten months after J.C.'s disclosure of continued sexual
abuse by D.H.-Plaintiffs, Mr. R.C., Mrs. M.C., J.C, and B.C.,
filed the present Complaint. (ECF No. 1). In Counts I and II,
J.C. asserts violations of § 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act and the ADA, respectively, claiming that because the
Hearing Officer found the Defendant District acted with
deliberate indifference, Plaintiffs are entitled to
compensatory damages. Id. at ¶¶ 93-103. In
Counts III and IV, Mr. R.C., Mrs. M.C., and B.C. bring
associational claims under § 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act and the ADA, respectively. Id. at ¶¶
104-21. In Count V and VI, J.C. asserts § 1983 claims
for breach of a special custodial relationship and
stated-created danger, respectively. Id. at
¶¶ 122-43. In Count VII, Mr. R.C. and Mrs. M.C.
also bring a § 1983 claim, asserting a violation of the
parents' liberty interest "in the parenthood and
companionship of their child," and in "the
maintenance and integrity of their family." Id.
at ¶¶ 144-148. In Count X,  J.C. asserts a violation of
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, caused by sex-
based harassment. Id., at ¶¶ 149-52.
Lastly, in Count XI, Plaintiffs assert a claim for
attorneys' fees and costs under § 504 and the ADA.
Id. at ¶¶ 153-61.
Defendant District moves to dismiss the Complaint
"pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6), and
12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure," arguing that Counts I and II were not timely
filed; that the remaining claims are barred by the applicable
statutes of limitations; and that the § 1983 claims are
improperly duplicative of the § 504 and ADA claims, as
well as legally insufficient. (ECF Nos. 5, 6).
12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides
that a court may dismiss a complaint for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Subject matter
jurisdiction is the court's "(]
Jurisdiction over the nature of the case and the type of
relief sought; the extent to which a court can rule on the
conduct of persons or the status of things." Subject
Matter Jurisdiction, Black's Law Dictionary (10th
ed. 2014). In other words, "a court's subject-
matter jurisdiction is its power to hear cases."
Lightfoot v. Cendant Mortg. Corp., 137 S.Ct. 553,
560 (2017). The plaintiff has the burden of establishing that
the court has subject matter jurisdiction, Reg'I Med.
Transp., Inc. v. Highmark, Inc., 541 F.Supp.2d 718, 725
(E.D. Pa. 2008), and the defendant can challenge whether the
plaintiff has done so, through either a facial challenge or a
factual challenge to the complaint. In re Horizon
Healthcare Servs. Data Breach Litig, 846 F.3d 625, 632
(3d Cir. 2017).
facial challenge, the court looks to the face of the
complaint and accepts as true the facts alleged by the
plaintiff. Hartig Drug Co. v. Senju Pharm. Co., 836
F.3d 261, 268 (3d Cir. 2016). If the court cannot conclude,
based on face of the complaint, that jurisdictional
requirements are met, then the court must dismiss the
complaint. In re Horizon Healthcare Servs. Data Breach
Litig., 846 F.3d at 633 (citing Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In a factual
challenge, however, the plaintiffs factual allegations are
not presumed to be true, and the court "is free to weigh
the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its
power to hear the case." Hartig Drug Co., 836
F.3d at 268.
even if the defendant does not mount a challenge under Rule
12(b)(1), the court has "an independent obligation to
determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists."
Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006).
The court cannot exercise jurisdiction where Congress has not
given it, even if all parties assume subject matter
jurisdiction exists. Hartig Drag Co., 836 F.3d at
deciding a motion to dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6),
a court must first "accept all factual allegations as
true" and "construe the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff." Eid v. Thompson,
740 F.3d 118, 122 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotations
omitted). The court then must "determine whether, under
any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be
entitled to relief." Id. A complaint is
sufficient only when it is facially plausible, meaning that
the court is able "to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556
(2007)). To be plausible on its face, the complaint must
contain more than "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements
of a cause of action" and "mere conclusory
statements." Id. The court need not
"accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted
inferences." Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160,
165 (3d Cir. 2013).
court grants a motion to dismiss, the court "must permit
a curative amendment unless such an amendment would be
inequitable or futile." Great Western Mining &
Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP,615 F.3d 159, 174 (3d
Cir. 2010) (internal quotations omitted). Further amendment
is inequitable where there is "undue delay, bad faith,
dilatory motive, [or] unfair prejudice." Grayson v.
May view State Hosp.,293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002).
Amendment is futile "where an amended complaint
'would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be
granted.'" M. U. v. Downingtown ...