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Cleveland v. Blount County School Dist. 00050

September 20, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge



This civil action is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 16] filed by defendant Blount County School District 00050 ("School District"). The defendant has raised a panoply of arguments as to why the claims against it should be dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The plaintiffs have responded in opposition to the pending motion and the motion is now ripe for determination. The Court has carefully reviewed the pending motion and related pleadings [Docs. 17, 18, 19].


This case was filed on August 4, 2005 by plaintiffs John Cleveland and Connie Cleveland individually and on behalf of their minor child, Brittney Cleveland, and by plaintiff Pat Johnson individually and on behalf of her minor children, Markiya Morrison and Vincent Morrison. The complaint stems from plaintiffs' allegations that they were subjected to a racially hostile educational environment. The minor plaintiffs claim that they were subjected to racial harassment and racial stereotypes and they have been denied the full benefits of the educational programs at William Blount High School.

In addition to the School District, plaintiffs also sued Alvin Hord, William Blount High School, Christy Martin, Melissa Crabtree, John Dalton, Danny Galyon, and the Board of Education. The official capacity claims against the individual defendants were dismissed upon a motion to strike and the claims against William Blount High School and the Board of Education were dismissed because they are not entities capable of being sued [Doc. 14]. The parties subsequently agreed to the dismissal without prejudice of the individual defendants [Doc. 15], leaving the School Board as the sole remaining defendant.


A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) should not be granted "unless it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). All well-pleaded allegations must be taken as true and be construed most favorably toward the non-movant. Trzebuckowski v. City of Cleveland, 319 F.3d 853, 855 (6th Cir. 2003). While a court may not grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion based on disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations, Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1199 (6th Cir. 1990), the court "need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences." Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987). Consequently, a complaint will not be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) unless there is no law to support the claims made, the facts alleged are insufficient to state a claim, or there is an insurmountable bar on the face of the complaint.


The Court will address the arguments made as outlined in defendant's motion.

1. Defendant first argues that the complaint contains legal conclusions and is devoid of factual allegations to support the plaintiffs' claims. Correspondingly, defendant argues that the allegations against the School District are so vague and generalized that the School District cannot reasonably determine applicable defenses. The plaintiffs respond that the complaint satisfies the requirements for notice pleading.

The plaintiffs are correct that they are only required to provide a short and plain statement of their claims. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Moreover, if the defendant believes that the complaint is so vague or ambiguous such that it cannot reasonably frame a responsive pleading, the defendant may move for a more definite statement of the claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). Such a motion is a more appropriate remedy than the dismissal of the complaint. The plaintiffs' complaint will not be dismissed on this ground.

2. The defendant next argues that the adult plaintiffs, John and Connie Cleveland and Pat Johnson, have no standing to sue on their own behalf. Further, the defendant argues that the adult plaintiffs have failed to allege facts necessary to establish an invasion of a legally protected interest or a causal relationship between any injury and the School District's conduct. Specifically, the defendant contends that the School District owes no duty to the parents and that they are not the intended beneficiaries of any school program. The plaintiffs respond by pointing to several paragraphs of the complaint in which they allege that the adult plaintiffs have suffered injuries as a result of defendant's conduct.

The adult plaintiffs will necessarily continue as parties in this case inasmuch as they are required to prosecute the claims of their minor children. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c). Whether the adult plaintiffs can establish standing and pursue a claim on their own behalf under the asserted causes of action is more appropriately determined upon a properly supported dispositive motion or at trial following ...

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