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E.H. v. Brentwood Union School District

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 4, 2013

E.H., Plaintiff,



This matter came before the Court on October 7, 2013, on Defendants' motion to dismiss. Having considered the arguments of the parties and the papers submitted, the Court now GRANTS IN PART, and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion for the reasons set forth below.


Plaintiff E.H. is a disabled minor child, who suffers from autism and emotional disturbance issues. Compl., Attachment at 1 (Individualized Education Program "IEP"). He alleges that while he was a student at Loma Vista Elementary School, [1] within the Brentwood Union School District (the "District" or "BUSD), he was inappropriately restrained and subjected to harmful neglect while at school. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 18, Attachment at 1 (IEP).

Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that during a period from August 17, 2011 to December 3, 2012, he was placed in "dangerous and harmful basket holds in addition to other physical restraints." Id. ¶ 24. In one such restraint incident, he suffered deep scratches to his neck after being restrained by Defendant Lisa Traum, his one-on-one aide. Id. ¶¶ 25, 36. In another incident, he was "bodily forced into the school office" whereby his feet were off the ground and he was "harmfully dragged" by both Defendant Traum and Defendant Jasmine Altman, the school psychologist. Id. ¶ 27. On or about October 23, 2013, Plaintiff was grabbed by his biceps and pulled in several directions by Defendant Traum and by Defendant Tim Brainerd, his second-grade teacher, at the direction of Defendant Ann Marie Maxwell, a school instructional support provider. Id. ¶ 38.

During the relevant time period, Plaintiff also ran away from school 29 times. Id. ¶ 22. During these 29 incidents, school staff placed him in physical restraints and brought him back to school. Id. ¶ 23. On September 10, 2012, Plaintiff ran away from school and after almost being hit by a car, he was restrained by a delivery truck driver until school personnel arrived and escorted him back to school. Id. ¶ 31. Plaintiff's parents were not immediately notified of this incident. Id. ¶ 31.

Based on the above, Plaintiff, by and through his parents, alleges the following causes of action against various school and school district officials: (1) violation of his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 right to substantive due process and freedom from unreasonable seizure; (2) violation of his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 right to equal protection; (3) violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794; (4) violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.; (5) assault; (6) battery; (7) negligence; and (8) intentional infliction of emotional distress. He seeks damages and injunctive relief in the form of requiring training of school district employees in appropriate restraint techniques.

Defendants move to dismiss each of Plaintiff's causes of action for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).


Dismissal is appropriate under Rule 12(b)(6) when a plaintiff's allegations fail "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must "accept all material allegations of fact as true and construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the non-moving party." Vasquez v. Los Angeles Cnty., 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007). Courts are not, however, "bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted).

A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Plausibility does not equate to probability, but it requires "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Dismissal of claims that fail to meet this standard should be with leave to amend unless it is clear that amendment could not possibly cure the complaint's deficiencies. Steckman v. Hart Brewing, Inc., 143 F.3d 1293, 1296 (9th Cir. 1998).


I. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Plaintiff brings three separate claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all the individual Defendants in this case. He alleges they violated his rights to substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, freedom from unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. ...

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