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B. W. v. Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 17, 2019

B.W., Plaintiff
v.
CAREER TECHNOLOGY CENTER OF LACKAWANNA COUNTY and VALLEY VIEW SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants R.P., Plaintiff
v.
CAREER TECHNOLOGY CENTER OF LACKAWANNA COUNTY and VALLEY VIEW SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants M.W. and T.W., as parents and natural guardians of M.W., Plaintiffs
v.
CAREER TECHNOLOGY CENTER OF LACKAWANNA COUNTY and LAKELAND SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants J.K., Plaintiff
v.
CAREER TECHNOLOGY CENTER OF LACKAWANNA COUNTY and MID VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants J.R., a minor, by his parents and natural guardians, S.M. & J.R.,, Plaintiffs
v.
CAREER TECHNOLOGY CENTER OF LACKAWANNA COUNTY and LAKELAND SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants R.P. a minor, by his parent and natural guardian, D.P., Plaintiff
v.
CAREER TECHNOLOGY CENTER OF LACKAWANNA COUNTY and SCRANTON SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants M.W. as parent and natural guardian of S.W., a minor, Plaintiffs
v.
CAREER TECHNOLOGY CENTER OF LACKAWANNA COUNTY and LAKELAND SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants E.P., Plaintiff
v.
CAREER TECHNOLOGY CENTER OF LACKAWANNA COUNTY and LAKELAND SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On November 4, 2019, the court issued a Memorandum and Order, [1] (Docs. 19 & 20), in which it found as follows:

the motions to dismiss of CTC and the school districts will be GRANTED IN PART, and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, the motions to dismiss of CTC and the school districts with respect to the Title IX claims in Count I of the complaints will be DENIED. The motions to dismiss of CTC and the school districts with respect to Count II of the complaints will be GRANTED, and the Title IX claims in Count II will be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. The motions to dismiss of CTC and the school districts with respect to Count III of the complaints will be GRANTED, and the Title IX retaliation claims in Count III will be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. The motions to dismiss of CTC and the school districts with respect to Count IV, 14th Amendment due process claims, and Count VI, failure to train and supervise claims, will be DENIED. The motions to dismiss of CTC and the school districts with respect to Count V of the complaints will be GRANTED, and the state-created danger claims in Count V will be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         The court specifically found it would be futile to allow an amendment of all of the plaintiffs' claims in Counts II, III and V. (citing Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 236 (3d Cir. 2004) (“Dismissal without leave to amend is justified only on the grounds of bad faith, undue delay, prejudice, or futility.”)).

         Presently pending before the court is the November 18, 2019 joint motion of the plaintiffs for reconsideration, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), of the court's November 4, 2019 Order, (Doc. 20), pertaining only to the dismissal with prejudice of their Count III retaliation claims under Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §1681, et seq. (hereinafter “Title IX”). The motion has been fully briefed. After reviewing the filings, as well as the record, the court will GRANT IN PART, and DENY IN PART plaintiffs' joint motion for reconsideration.[2] The Title IX retaliation claims in Count III of the complaints of B.W., 19-1146, and J.R., 19-1150, will be REINSTATED only as to defendant CTC. The Title IX retaliation claims in Count III of the complaints of the other six plaintiffs will remain DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 59(e) provides the procedural mechanism for altering or amending a judgment that has been entered. It may be used to seek remediation for manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence which, if discovered previously, might have affected the court's decision. Schumann v. Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals, L.P., 769 F.3d 837, 848 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Max's Seafood Café v. Quineros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999)); Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). A party seeking reconsideration must demonstrate at least one of the following grounds prior to the court altering, or amending, a standing judgment: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice. Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 669 (3d Cir. 2010); Max's Seafood Café, 176 F.3d at 677 (citing North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)). However, “[b]ecause federal courts have a strong interest in the finality of judgments, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly.” Continental Casualty Co. v. Diversified Indus. Inc., 884 F.Supp. 937, 943 (E.D. Pa. 1995).

         Reconsideration is generally appropriate in instances where the court has “misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the [c]ourt by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning, but of apprehension.” York Int'l Corp. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 140 F.Supp.3d 357, 360-61 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Rohrbach v. AT & T Nassau Metals Corp., 902 F.Supp. 523, 527 (M.D. Pa. 1995)). It may not be used as a means to reargue unsuccessful theories that were presented to the court in the context of the matter previously decided “or as an attempt to relitigate a point of disagreement between the [c]ourt and the litigant.” Id. at 361 (quoting Ogden v. Keystone Residence, 226 F.Supp.2d 588, 606 (M.D. Pa. 2002)). Thus, “a motion for reconsideration may not be used to give a litigant a ‘second bite at the apple,' and therefore should not be ‘grounded on a request that a court rethink a decision already made.'” Jarzyna v. Home Properties, L.P., 185 F.Supp.3d 612, 622 (E.D.Pa. 2016) (internal citations omitted). As such, “a motion for reconsideration may address ‘only factual and legal matters that the Court may have overlooked' and may not ‘ask the Court to rethink what it had already thought through-rightly or wrongly.'” Id. (citations omitted). Further, “[m]ere ‘disagreement with the Court's decision' does not suffice.” Rich v. State, 294 F.Supp.3d 266, 273 (D.N.J. 2018) (citation omitted).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs request the court to reconsider the dismissal with prejudice of their Title IX retaliation claims in order to prevent a clear error of law or fact, and to prevent manifest injustice. They seek the court to reinstate their retaliation claims under Title IX, or, alternatively, ask the court to hold its dismissal of these claims in abeyance to allow the parties to conduct further discovery with regard to the alleged retaliation. Plaintiffs also request reconsideration with respect to plaintiff J.R. (Civil No. 19-1150) and plaintiff B.W. (Civil No. 19-1146), since they contend that J.R.'s and B.W.'s complaints specifically plead additional retaliatory facts unique to these two students.

         “To survive a motion to dismiss on a Title IX claim, ‘it is true that [a] plaintiff does not need to provide detailed factual support for its allegations ... [but] the plaintiff's allegations must amount to more than mere conclusory allegations.'” Colombo v. Bd. of Educ. for Clifton Sch. Dist., 2017 WL 4882485, at *10 (D.N.J. Oct. 29, 2017) (citation omitted).

         As the court stated in its prior Memorandum:

In Count Ill. plaintiffs basically allege that CTC and the school districts failed to offer the plaintiff students any type of remedial measures or provide, offer, recommend, or coordinate adequate health, psychological, counseling, or academic assistance and services to the plaintiff students who were abused and harassed by Humphrey, and that they deliberately and recklessly chose not to do so in retaliation of the plaintiff students' involvement in the sexual abuse scandal by reporting the sexual abuse by Humphrey and cooperating with the law enforcement authorities. (Doc. 1-1, ¶'s 81-88, 19-1154).
It is also alleged that after Humphrey was arrested on May 30, 2017, “[CTC], by and through its employee, Robert Hudak, an instructional aide or paraprofessional in the automotive technology class, addressed the class in the days after Mr. Humphrey's arrest and accused minor students, including [plaintiffs], of being liars and attempting to ruin Mr. Humphrey's reputation, allegedly stating that he hoped they all get what they have coming to them.” (Doc. 1-1, ¶86, 19-1154).
Further, it is alleged that “[plaintiffs] suffered additional and often daily materially adverse actions and retaliation levied against [them] by agents, employees, supervisors, administrators and principals of Defendants by being called to the principals office and reprimanded for trivial issues that no other ...

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