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A.T. v. Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 16, 2017

A.T., a minor, by and through his Guardian ad Litem L.T., Plaintiff,
v.
DRY CREEK JOINT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT; PLACER COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION; PLACER COUNTY CHILDREN'S SYSTEM OF CARE; KD ASHTON; BECKY BRAVO; PETER BALDO; LIZ LEE; CINDY STONE; RENEE VERDUGO; MARY BOEHM; CHRISTY CARTER; WENDY DEVORE; DONNA KEARNS; LISA HEWITT; TAMMY PETERSON; STEPHANIE DILBECK; JEN ROGERS; VALERIE MILLER; DAVID MOUL; DEBBIE CANNON; JUDY BENNEY; REBECCA RATEKIN; CARLEY ROSE JACKSON; LAURI McNALLY; SANDRA MORE; and DOES 1-30, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MORRISON C. ENGLAND, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff A.T., a minor represented by his guardian ad litem L.T., brings claims against Defendants Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District, Placer County Office of Education, Placer County Children System of Care (collectively, the “Institutional Defendants”), as well as several of their employees (collectively, the “Individual Defendants”) based on alleged abuse he suffered while a student at Secret Ravine School. He brings claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, and under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, against the Institutional Defendants, while his claims against the Individual Defendants are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Now before the Court are Defendants' Motions to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. ECF Nos. 10, 40-41.[1] For the reasons that follow, those motions are GRANTED. Furthermore, because Plaintiffs' ADA and § 504 claims are time-barred, the dismissal of those claims is with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND[2]

         In 2005, shortly after beginning kindergarten at Cobblestone Elementary School, which is located in non-party Rocklin Unified School District, Plaintiff was referred for special education after being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. Toward the end of the 2004-2005 school year, Rocklin Unified convened an individualized education program (“IEP”) meeting to determine whether Plaintiff was eligible for special education and related services. The IEP determined that he was. After Plaintiff's behavior grew more and more inappropriate and after three more IEP meetings, Plaintiff was placed in a non-public school pending his admission to a program operated by Defendant Placer County Office of Education. Plaintiff was eventually placed at Secret Ravine School, which is operated by the Placer County Office of Education, in February 2006. By the end of the 2006-2007 school year, Plaintiff moved within the boundaries of Defendant Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District.

         Placement at Secret Ravine also required another IEP meeting, in which Plaintiff's father signed a document authorizing “therapeutic containment.” Therapeutic containment was defined as “placing the student on the floor and holding him until he has regained control.” Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 47 (emphasis removed). That document authorized such containment when “external control are unsuccessful and a student's behavior is escalating to such a degree that there is a clear and present danger of bodily harm to self or other or property damage.” Id. (emphasis removed). It also states that it would be used “only when it is clear that any less restrictive interventions would prove ineffective in controlling the student” and that Plaintiff's parents would be notified of the use of any such restraint. Id. (emphasis removed).

         In August 2009, however, Plaintiff's parents requested his records and discovered that the school had repeatedly restrained and isolated Plaintiff without informing his parents. On November 19, 2010, Plaintiff's parents requested an administrative hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings for the State of California (“OAH”), alleging that the Institutional Defendants denied Plaintiff a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). On March 28, 2011, OAH issued a Decision by Settlement, ordering the parties to implement a settlement agreement.

         Over five years later, on December 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant action, alleging the Institutional Defendants denied him statutory rights on the basis of his disability and that the Individual Defendants violated his constitutional rights.

         STANDARD

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact must be accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). Rule 8(a)(2) “requires only ‘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. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not require detailed factual allegations. However, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (citation omitted). A court is not required to accept as true a “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (3d ed. 2004) (stating that the pleading must contain something more than “a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action”)).

         Furthermore, “Rule 8(a)(2) . . . requires a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Id. at 555 n.3 (citation omitted). Thus, “[w]ithout some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirements of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.” Id. (citing Wright & Miller, supra, at 94-95). A pleading must contain “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. If the “plaintiffs . . . have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed.” Id. However, “[a] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and ‘that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Id. at 556 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). A court granting a motion to dismiss a complaint must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. Leave to amend should be “freely given” where there is no “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, . . . undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment . . . .” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003) (listing the Foman factors as those to be considered when deciding whether to grant leave to amend). Not all of these factors merit equal weight. Rather, “the consideration of prejudice to the opposing party . . . carries the greatest weight.” Id. (citing DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 185 (9th Cir. 1987)). Dismissal without leave to amend is proper only if it is clear that “the complaint could not be saved by any amendment.” Intri-Plex Techs. v. Crest Grp., Inc., 499 F.3d 1048, 1056 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing In re Daou Sys., Inc., 411 F.3d 1006, 1013 (9th Cir. 2005); Ascon Props., Inc. v. Mobil Oil Co., 866 F.2d 1149, 1160 (9th Cir. 1989) (“Leave need not be granted where the amendment of the complaint . . . constitutes an exercise in futility . . . .”)).

         ANALYSIS

         A. Claims Against the Individual Defendants Under § 1983

         Plaintiff's first and second causes of action are made against the Individual Defendants, claiming that they violated Plaintiff's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by subjecting him to unreasonable force and by subjecting him to a state-created danger. Defendants move to dismiss those causes of action, arguing that the Complaint is “not sufficient to put the Individual Defendants on notice of which allegations are directed against them and to permit them to properly respond to these allegations.” CSOC MTD, at 9; see also First PCOE MTD, at 8 (challenging the specificity of the allegations against the Individual Defendants); Second PCOE MTD, at 4 (same). In response, Plaintiff argues that it is “reasonable to infer that during the 112 episodes of physical restraint . . . at least one and . . . likely two or more of the individual non-supervisory Defendants were involved.” Pl.'s Opp'n to MTDs, ECF No. 49, at 14. Furthermore, he argues that requiring greater specificity in the complaint would set “a standard far beyond even fact-pleading requirements.” Id. Plaintiff, however, misapprehends the Rule 8(a)'s requirements.

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a defendant caused a deprivation of the plaintiff's rights while acting under color of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see also West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1998). “[A] government official . . . may be held liable under [§] 1983 only when his or her own actions have caused a constitutional deprivation.” Sanchez v. Riverside Cnty. Code Enf't Agency, Case No. EDCV 15-2493 SJO(JC), 2016 WL 6810798, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 1, 2016) (citing OSU Student All. v. Ray, 699 F.3d 1053, 1069 (9th Cir. 2012)). Furthermore, “the plaintiff must . . . ‘set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's' actions which ...


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