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Mallory v. Knox County School Dist.

November 30, 2006

TARA AND FRANK MALLORY, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THEIR DAUGHTER, BM, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KNOX COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leon Jordan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This civil action is before the court for consideration of several dispositive motions. Defendants, Knox County Board of Education, Lynn Draper in her official capacity as Principal, Judy Pickering in her official capacity as Administrative Assistant, Karen Carter in her official capacity as Teacher, John McCook in his official capacity as Director of Pupil Personnel, and Charles Lindsey in his official capacity as Superintendent, have filed a motion for summary judgment [doc. 24]. Plaintiffs have responded [doc. 36], and defendants have submitted a reply [doc. 40].

John McCook, Lynn Draper, and Karen Carter in their individual capacities have filed a motion to dismiss [doc. 33]. Plaintiffs have responded by adopting their response to the motion for summary judgment [doc. 38], and defendants have filed a reply [doc. 42]. Charles Lindsey and Judy Pickering in their individual capacities have filed a motion to dismiss [doc. 34] in which they adopt and incorporate by reference the motion to dismiss filed by the other individual capacity defendants [doc. 33]. Plaintiffs again adopted their response to the motion for summary judgment as their response to this motion [doc. 38]. For their reply [doc. 43], defendants adopted and incorporated by reference the reply to the motion to dismiss filed by the other individual capacity defendants [doc. 42].*fn1 The court has determined that oral argument is unnecessary, and all the motions are ripe for the court's consideration and determination.

Plaintiffs have brought this action for compensatory and punitive damages for alleged violation of their constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs also allege multiple claims under state law.

I. Standard of Review

The two motions to dismiss filed by the individual capacity defendants are brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). "Motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) are designed to test 'whether a cognizable claim has been pleaded in the complaint.'" Fed. Express Corp. v. U.S. Postal Serv., 40 F. Supp. 2d 943, 947 (W.D.Tenn. 1999) (quoting Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1988)). When reviewing a motion for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true. Grindstaff v. Green, 133 F.3d 416, 421 (6th Cir. 1998) (citing Meador v. Cabinet for Human Res., 902 F.2d 474, 475 (6th Cir. 1990)).

However, when materials outside the pleadings are presented, the district court has the ability to convert a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) to a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56, and such a decision is within the court's discretion. See Shelby County Health Care Corp. v. S. Council of Indus. Workers Health & Welfare Trust Fund, 203 F.3d 926, 931 (6th Cir. 2000). Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 provides that if "matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided for in Rule 56 . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b). Rule 12 also requires that before the district court may treat a motion to dismiss as a summary judgment motion, it must give "all parties . . . reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to" the issue. The Sixth Circuit interpreted this requirement to mean that it is "serious error" for a district court to convert the motion sua sponte to a summary judgment motion without notice to parties and without further discovery.

Ball v. Union Carbide Corp., 385 F.3d 713, 719 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Helwig v. Vencor, Inc., 251 F.3d 540, 552 (6th Cir. 2001).

In this case, plaintiffs responded to the motions to dismiss by adopting their response to the summary judgment motion. Attached to that response is a page from a meeting transcript and the affidavit of plaintiff Tara Mallory. In the reply brief in support of their motions to dismiss, the individual capacity defendants dispute that plaintiffs properly responded to the motion to dismiss, noting that the standard for a motion to dismiss is distinct from that of a motion for summary judgment. They did not, however, mention the possibility that the court could consider the motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment, though under Rule 12 that possibility exists. In any event, these defendants acknowledged and addressed statements in the Tara Mallory affidavit in their reply.

Under the circumstances of this case, especially in light of the materials already before the court in support of the motion for summary judgment, the court believes that notice is unnecessary and the parties will not be prejudiced if the motions to dismiss are converted. Therefore, the court will in its discretion consider the motions to dismiss filed by the individual capacity defendants as motions for summary judgment.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Canderm Pharmacal, Ltd. v. Elder Pharms., Inc., 862 F.2d 597, 601 (6th Cir. 1988) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). In order to defeat the motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must present probative evidence that supports its complaint. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986). The non-moving party's evidence is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in that party's favor. Id. at 255.

II. Factual Background

Plaintiffs' daughter, BLM, was a special education student in the Knox County School System. As such, she was entitled to special services pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA" or "the Act"), 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq. One of those services is the development of an individual education plan ("IEP"). BLM's first IEP was formulated in April 2003 and was reviewed and updated periodically. In 2005, an IEP was developed for BLM to have a different elementary special education placement, and as a result she was placed at Spring Hill Elementary School ("Spring Hill").

BLM attended Spring Hill on October 17, 18, and 19, 2005. On October 19, BLM was in her classroom under the supervision of classroom assistants; her teacher was not present. BLM began to engage in inappropriate conduct. When the assistants stopped her, she became agitated and was restrained by defendant Judy Pickering, an administrative assistant. The affidavit of Diana Gossett, Special ...


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