United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
D.T., a minor, by and through his parents B.K.T. and B.H.T., Plaintiffs,
SUMNER COUNTY SCHOOLS and VENA STUART ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion for a
Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction,
requesting that the Court enjoin Defendants from pursuing
state truancy charges against Plaintiffs in Sumner County
Juvenile Court, and order the Juvenile Court to dismiss
Defendant's truancy petition against Plaintiffs. (Doc.
No. 6). For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs'
motion is DENIED.
Verified Complaint and the pending Motion for Temporary
Restraining Order include many allegations. The Court,
however, will only address the few allegations relevant to
its analysis of the pending motion. Plaintiff D.T. is a minor
child with autism. (Doc. No. 6 at 2). D.T.'s parents made
numerous attempts to find appropriate educational placement
for D.T., finding that the only documented progress D.T. made
during the 2016-2017 academic year was through a home-based
program he attended after school. (Id.). In late
2017, D.T.'s parents worked with Defendants to create and
Individualized Educational Program (“IEP”) for
D.T., but experienced delay and disagreements with Defendants
over an appropriate IEP. (Id. at 3-4).
further allege that in October 2017, Defendants began
threatening Plaintiffs with truancy charges related to
D.T.'s attendance in school, despite being aware of
Plaintiffs' ongoing attempts to develop an IEP. (Doc. No.
6 at 4). Plaintiffs allege that D.T.'s parents allowed
him to begin attending Venn Stuart Elementary School
(“VES”) in November 2017 because of these
threats, but that D.T. sustained “staggering
regression” in the following 67 days while attending
VES. (Id. at 6). Thus, Plaintiffs removed D.T. from
VES at the beginning of February 2018 and transferred him to
Hope Autism and Behavioral Health Services, a private
facility. (Id. at 5, 7). Plaintiffs allege that
Defendants renewed its threats of truancy charges against
Plaintiffs, and on March 9, 2018, filed a truancy petition
against Plaintiffs in Sumner County Juvenile Court, Docket
No. 18-000815. (Id. at 8).
truancy petition against Plaintiffs is scheduled to be heard
on May 31, 2018. Citing to the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et. seq.
and principles of the Supremacy Clause, Plaintiffs request
this Court to temporarily restrain Defendants from pursuing
the truancy charges and order the Juvenile Court to dismiss
the petition. Because Plaintiffs' motion asks this Court
to interfere with a pending state proceeding and federal
courts generally are required to abstain from doing so, this
Court must first consider principles of abstention before
considering the relief Plaintiffs seek.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 36 (1971), the United
States Supreme Court held that federal court abstention
generally is appropriate where a plaintiff invokes federal
jurisdiction as a basis for obtaining injunctive relief
against state court criminal proceedings. Id. at
53-54. Younger abstention is appropriate if three
criteria are met: (1) the state proceedings are ongoing; (2)
the state proceedings implicate important state interests;
and (3) the state proceeding provide an adequate opportunity
to litigate the plaintiff's federal constitutional claim.
Squire v. Coughlan, 469 F.3d 551, 555 (6th Cir.
2006). All three requirements are met in the present case.
there are ongoing proceedings against Plaintiffs.
Defendants' truancy petition is pending with a hearing
set for May 31, 2018, and will remain pending until
Plaintiffs have “exhausted [their] state appellate
remedies.” See Loch v. Watkins, 337 F.3d 574,
578 (6th Cir. 2003). Plaintiffs do not dispute the truancy
action was pending at the time they filed the instant motion.
Second, Defendants' truancy petition implicates important
state interests because the State of Tennessee has a
substantial interest in educating children. See Crites v.
Smith, 826 S.W.2d 459 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1991) (holding
that education is a “prime objective of American
government” and Tennessee has a compelling interest in
ensuring children receive an adequate education). Plaintiffs
do not dispute the State's significant interest in
educating children. Finally, Plaintiffs have an adequate
opportunity in the state proceedings to present and litigate
the constitutionality of the truancy charges, and have not
asserted that they have been denied such an opportunity.
See Lewis, 2014 WL 6612092 at *2
(“[P]resumably state court proceedings provide an
adequate forum in which the plaintiff can raise
constitutional challenges . . .”).
the pending state truancy proceeding meets all three
requirements for Younger abstention, the Court must
abstain from granting, or even considering, Plaintiffs'
requested injunctive relief. Accordingly, Plaintiffs'
motion is DENIED. The Court also notes that
the abstention doctrine may necessitate a stay or dismissal
of the entire case, but will reserve consideration of that
possibility until Defendants have an opportunity to respond
to Plaintiffs' Verified Complaint.
 Given that Plaintiff's Verified
Complaint and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order were
filed just yesterday, Defendants have not been afforded an
opportunity to respond and raise the issue of abstention.
This Court, however, may raise Younger abstention
sua sponte. See e.g., O'Neill v.
Coughlan, 511 F.3d 638 (6th Cir. ...