United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division
A.G. and C.F., Plaintiffs,
TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION and LEWIS COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM, Defendants.
WILLIAM J. HAYNES, JR. Senior United States District Judge.
A.G., a minor, and C.F., his mother, filed this action
against the Defendants Tennessee Department of Education
("TDOE") and Lewis County School System
("LCSS") under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et
seg,, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
("Rehabilitation Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 794, and
the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42
U.S.C. § 12117. Plaintiffs assert claims that the
Defendants denied A.G. a free appropriate pubic education
("FAPE") and discriminated against him based on his
disabilities. Plaintiffs also assert a claim for breach of a
settlement agreement by the Defendants LCSS.
the Court is the Defendant LCSS's motion to dismiss
(Docket Entry Nos. 8 and 9) and the Defendant TDOE's
motion to dismiss (Docket Entry No. 13). Both Defendants
contend that Plaintiffs failed to exhaust the administrative
remedies available to them and this action must be dismissed
for failure to state a claim upon which this Court can grant
their responses, Plaintiffs argue that given their
experiences in prior administrative proceedings, exhaustion
is futile (Docket Entry Nos. 10 and 15) and that
Plaintiffs' breach of settlement agreement claim does not
require exhaustion under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2)(F).
(Docket Entry No. 10 at 3-4).
Analysis of the Complaint
to the complaint, Plaintiff A.G. started kindergarten at
Lewis County Elementary School in the fall of 2014 after his
fifth birthday in June. (Docket Entry No. 1, Complaint, at
¶¶38, 45 n.3). Based upon a scoring system,
Plaintiff was placed in a transitional kindergarten class.
Id. at ¶ 38. A.G., who has been diagnosed with
ADHD for which he takes medication, has made progress in
mastering new skills, but was recommended for a second year
of kindergarten based, in part, on A.G.'s performance on
the Educational Discovery assessment that was administered
four times that year. Id. at ¶¶ 39-40, 44.
Plaintiffs mother sought an explanation and invoked
Plaintiffs' rights under the IDEA. Id. at ¶
39, 43-53, 59-110.
filed four administrative complaints, the last was on August
4, 2015 with A.G.'s Individual Education Plan
("IEP") Team meeting. Id. at ¶¶
51-52, 59-65, 76-66. Plaintiff also filed complaints with the
TDOE that investigated Plaintiffs' complaints and found
procedural violations in two instances for which TDOE ordered
corrective action regarding the procedural defects, but did
not render findings of substantive violations of the IDEA.
Id., at ¶¶ 52, 62, 65, 78. C.F. filed
another due process complaint on August 17, 2015 seeking
redress under the IDEA. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 79.
C.F. and LCSS reached a settlement agreement regarding
Plaintiffs' due proces complaint on September 25, 2015.
Id. at ¶¶ 3, 80.
disagreements arose on LCSS's evaluation of A.G., his IEP
development, and related procedures. Id.
at¶¶ 81-107. On September 29, 2015 and December 18
2015, C.F. filed additional administrative complaints.
Id. at ¶¶ 85, 103. TDOE investigated each
complaint, but did not find any procedural or substantive
violation of the IDEA. Id. at ¶¶ 87, 105.
C.F.'s December 18th complaint attacked LCSS's
failure to develop an adequate IEP and other procedural
deficiencies. Id. at ¶¶ 4, 106. On January
11, 2016, C.F. filed another due process complaint that LCSS
breached the settlement agreement by moving A.G. from Tier
III support to Tier II support. Id. at ¶¶
January 19, 2016, an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") found that Plaintiffs' due process
complaints "fail[ed] to adequately comply with the legal
requirements for filing a Due Process Compalint" because
netiher complaint provided the required
"'description of the nature of the problem of the
child relating to the proposed or refused initiation or
change [by the LEA], including facts relating to' any
matters concerning the identification, evaluation, or
educational placement of a child with a disability, or the
provision of a free, appropriate public education."
Id. at ¶ 6, 109, 116. Plaintiffs were granted
leave to file an amended complaint that complied with
IDEA'S pleading requirements and the ALJ's order.
Id., at ¶ 6. C.F. filed an amended complaint
entitled "Pro Se Amendment List of Problems" on
February 9, 2016. Id. at ¶ 7, 110. The ALJ also
entered a scheduling order on February 17, 2013 that, among
other things, set the deadline for LCSS's response and
noted, "[u]pon receipt of the LEA's Response, this
case will be declared 'at issue' and assigned to a
Hearing Judge for further proceedings." (Docket Entry
No. 14-3, February 16, 2016 Order, at 1).
filed its answer and moved to dismiss the administrative
charges, to which Plaintiffs replied. (Docket Entry No. 14-4,
March 4, 2016 Order, at 1). The ALJ found that the amended
complaint lacked sufficient detail to allow LCSS to
understand how LCSS improperly implemented or failed to
implement A.G.'s IEP or harmed or interfered with
A.G.'s education, and Plaintiffs' proposed remedy.
(Docket Entry No. 1, Complaint, at ¶ 8). The ALJ found
several claims had been earlier litigated and resolved and
struck claims from the amended complaint. (Docket Entry No.
13-4 at 1-2). The ALJ, however, found that paragraphs 5-11 of
the amended complaint "may raise justiciable issues for
a full hearing, and will not be dismissed at this time, but
will be forwarded to a hearing judge for further
consideration and proceedings." Id. at 3
(footnote omitted). On March 30, 2016, C.F. voluntarily
dismissed her last administrative complaint. (Docket Entry
No. 1, Complaint, at ¶¶ 9, 112).
Conclusions of Law
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must construe the complaint
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept all
well-pled factual allegations as true, and determine whether
the "complaint states a plausible claim for
relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S. 662, 679
(2009. This standard "requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly.
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In a word, the "complaint must
contain either direct or inferential allgations respecting
all the material elements to sustain a recovery under some
viable legal theory." Rippy ex. rel. Rippy v.
Hattaway, 270 F.3d 416, 419 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops. Inc., 859 F.3d 434,
436 (6th Cir. 1988)).
courts are typically limited to review of the pleadings when
faced with a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a document
may be considered without converting the motion into one for
summary judgment when the document governs the plaintiffs
rights and is necessarily incorporated by reference. In such
instances, a court may properly consider '"exhibits
attached [to the complaint], public records, items appearing
in the record of the case and exhibits attached to
defendant's motion to dismiss so long as they are
referred to in the complaint and are central to the claims
contained therein...."' L.H. v. Hamilton Cntv.
Dep't of Educ. No. 1:14-cv-126-CLC-SKL, 9014 WT.
667444S at * 1 (F.D.Tenn. Nov. 24.2014) (quoting Rondigo.
L.L.C. v. Two, of Richmond, 641 F.3d 673, 680-81 (6th
Cir. 2011)). Thus, the Court concludes that the attachments
to TDOE's motion to dismiss can be considered on these
motions to dismiss.
the IDEA, all children with disabilities are entitled to a
free appropriate public education ("FAPE"). 20
U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1). FAPE's purpose is implemented
by a individualized educational plan for each disabled child
for which the local LEA is responsible. School Comm. of
Town of Burlington. Mass. v. Dep't of Educ. of
Mass.. 471 U.S. 359, 368 (1985). The IDEA also creates
procedural requirements to "ensure that children with
disabilities and their parents are guaranteed procedural
safeguards with respect to the provision of a [FAPE]."
20 U.S.C. § 1415(a). Thus, an aggrieved student has the
right to file a complaint and request an impartial due
process hearing on "any matter relating to the
identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the
child, or the provision of a [FAPE] to such child ...."
Id. § 1415(b)(6)(A); see also id
§ 1415 (f). The IDEA requires such complaints to contain
"a description of the nature of the problem of the child
relating to such proposed initiation or change, including
facts relating to such problem; and a proposed resolution of
the problem to the extent ...