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Hinson v. Merritt Educational Center

November 13, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge


Plaintiff Darlene Hinson brings this action behalf of her minor son, N.H., pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et. seq., as well as 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq.,*fn1 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq., and the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs name as Defendants to this action the District of Columbia, Merritt Educational Center, a public school in the District of Columbia, and District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty (collectively "Defendants"). Defendants have moved for partial dismissal of Plaintiffs' Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim under section 1983, section 1985, the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, or the Fifth Amendment, and similarly fail to state a claim against any Defendant other than the District of Columbia. Upon a searching review of the Complaint, the filings in connection with Defendants' Motion for Partial Dismissal, and the relevant statutes and caselaw, the Court shall grant Defendants' Motion for Partial Dismissal.As a result, the Court shall dismiss Mayor Fenty and Merritt Educational Center as Defendants in this action, and shall dismiss Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Section 1983, Section 1985, the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and the Fifth Amendment.


The IDEA provides that all children with disabilities will be provided a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE"), and provides for procedural safeguards to ensure that disabled children receive individualized education programs ("IEP") to fulfill the Act's goals. The Complaint in this action asserts that "N.H. is a twelve-year-old boy, special education with the classification of multiple disabilities in the area of other health impaired and emotional disturbed." Compl. ¶ 7.*fn2 N.H. is enrolled at Merritt Educational Center, a public school in the District of Columbia. Id. ¶¶ 4, 8. Plaintiffs allege that N.H. has not received FAPE since the 2005-2006 school year. According to Plaintiffs, in November 2003, the parties reached a settlement wherein District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") agreed to comprehensively reevaluate N.H., to develop an IEP for N.H., to issue a notice of placement, and to provide compensatory services for the period of time in which N.H. was not provided FAPE. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiffs further allege that DCPS did not complete the evaluation as required, and that as a result, Plaintiff Hinson obtained an independent evaluation of N.H., submitted the independent evaluation to DCPS, and requested that DCPS convene a multidisciplinary team meeting. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. Plaintiffs appear to allege that "DCPS took 14 months from the settlement and 6 months from the date parent submitted evaluation before," developing an IEP for N.H. Id. ¶ 13.*fn3 According to Plaintiffs, during that time, N.H. suffered several academic and behavioral difficulties and was hospitalized at a mental hospital. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Plaintiffs further allege that while waiting for DCPS to develop an IEP, N.H. was "suspended several times or sent home without proper interventions." Id. ¶ 16.

DCPS developed an IEP for N.H. on February 20, 2007, which Plaintiffs assert "was not tailored to meet NH's educational and related service needs," such that N.H. still does not have an appropriate IEP or placement. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. Plaintiffs allege that they filed a due process hearing request and were granted a due process hearing, but that the hearing officer denied the relief they sought. Id. ¶ 23. They therefore appeal the hearing officer's decision of April 25, 2007. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiffs' Complaint includes three Counts, each of which asks the Court to determine that Defendants have denied N.H. FAPE in a particular way. Specifically, Count I alleges that DCPS has failed to perform required evaluations and particularly failed to honor the terms of the 2003 settlement agreement, id. ¶¶ 25-30; Count II alleges that DCPS failed to develop an appropriate IEP for N.H. for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years and that his current IEP is not tailored to his needs, id. ¶¶ 31-34; and Count III alleges that DCPS failed to issue a notice of placement to an appropriate setting for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years, id. ¶¶ 35-38.

Based on these allegations, Plaintiffs ask the Court to require DCPS to revise N.H.'s IEP, id. ¶ 20; to "provide appropriate educational and related services to enable NH to become a productive member of the society," id. ¶ 21; to "issue a notice to an appropriate setting where NH'[s] multiple disability would be addressed," id. ¶ 22; to fund N.H.'s placement at Sunrise Academy or Cross Creek school, and to provide compensatory education services for the period of time in which N.H. was denied FAPE, id. at 4 (Wherefore clause). Defendants moved for partial dismissal of Plaintiffs' Complaint on June 14, 2007, Plaintiffs filed their Opposition on July 3, 2007, and Defendants filed their Reply on July 12, 2007.*fn4


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957));*fn5 accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (per curiam); see also Fed R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide the "grounds" of "entitle[ment] to relief," a plaintiff must furnish "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. at 1964-65; see also Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). The complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (citations omitted).

In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pleaded factual allegations. In re United Mine Workers of Am. Employee Benefit Plans Litig., 854 F. Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C. 1994); see also Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979) ("The complaint must be 'liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff,' who must be granted the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged."). While the court must construe the Complaint in the Plaintiff's favor, it "need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff[] if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Moreover, the court is not bound to accept the legal conclusions of the non-moving party. See Taylor v. FDIC, 132 F.3d 753, 762 (D.C. Cir. 1997). The court is limited to considering facts alleged in the complaint, any documents attached to or incorporated in the complaint, matters of which the court may take judicial notice, and matters of public record. See E.E.O.C. v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Marshall County Health Care Auth. v. Shalala, 988 F.2d 1221, 1226 n.6 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Factual allegations in briefs of memoranda of law may not be considered when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, particularly when the facts they contain contradict those alleged in the complaint. Henthorn v. Dep't of Navy, 29 F.3d 682, 688 (D.C. Cir. 1994); cf. Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 309, 116 S.Ct. 834, 840, 133 L.Ed. 2d 773 (1996) (when a motion to dismiss is based on the complaint, the facts alleged in the complaint control).


Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims other than their IDEA claim, as well as to dismiss Merritt Educational Center and Mayor Fenty as Defendants in this action. The Court addresses each aspect of Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Dismissal in turn.

A. Plaintiffs Fail to State a Claim Pursuant to Section 1983

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, "[A]ny person who, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State, shall subject or cause to be subjected, any person to the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution of the United states, shall . . . be liable to the party injured . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Supreme Court has held that this language evidences congressional intent to permit municipal liability under specific circumstances:

Local governing bodies, therefore, can be sued directly under § 1983 for monetary, declaratory, or injunctive relief where, as here, the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officers. Moreover, although the touchstone of the § 1983 action against a government body is an allegation that official policy is responsible for a deprivation of rights protected by the Constitution, local governments, like every other § 1983 "person," by the very terms of the statute, may be sued for constitutional ...

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