United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
P.G., a minor student by and through his parents, R.G. and A.G., et al., Plaintiffs,
RUTHERFORD COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
by and through his parents R.G. and A.G., and each parent
individually, bring suit against the Rutherford County Board
of Education (“RCBOE”). This case arises out of
alleged mistreatment of P.G. by school personnel. Plaintiffs
bring suit under (1) the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400
et seq., and the Special Education Behavior Supports
Act (“SEBSA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-10-1304,
et seq. which is incorporated therein; (2) Title II
of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”),
42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq.; (3) Section 504 of
the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”),
29 U.S.C. § 794; and (4) Tennessee common law of
negligence. Before the Court is RCBOE's Motion to
Dismiss. (Doc. No. 15.) Plaintiffs have responded in
opposition (Doc. No. 19) and RCBOE has replied (Doc. No. 22).
For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part
and denied in part.
a six year old boy with autism and developmental delay. (Doc.
No. 13 at ¶ 4.) Running, escaping, or wandering behavior
is common to such young children. (Id. at n.1) P.G.
has behavioral challenges including limitations on
interacting with others, being confrontational, and being
non-verbal. (Id. at ¶ 7.) P.G. receives special
education services under the IDEA. (Id. at ¶
4.) P.G. has a “disability” under the ADA and
Section 504. (Id.)
2016, P.G.'s teacher at Barfield Elementary School put
him in a “mechanical restraint” and fed him
crackers in order to keep him still during a preschool
graduation ceremony, even though P.G. was not misbehaving.
(Id. at ¶ 5.) The mechanical restraints
illegally restricted P.G.'s movement and humiliated him.
(Id. at ¶ 5 & n.3.)
the 2016-17 school year, P.G. attended Brown's Chapel
Elementary School (“BCES”) for kindergarten.
(Id. at ¶ 7.) There, because of his disability,
“P.G.'s classroom teacher began abusing him.”
(Id.) This was different than how the teacher
treated children who were not confrontational or who were
verbal. (Id.) The teacher's aggressive behaviors
toward P.G. included “rough handling, scratching or
choking his neck.” (Id.) On the morning of
September 8, 2016, the teacher struck P.G. in the face.
(Id. at ¶ 8.) This incident was witnessed by
one or more educational assistants who reported it to police
and the school. (Id.) P.G.'s parents were called
several hours later. (Id.)
Amended Complaint also alleges that the RCBOE (1) failed to
“properly train teachers in handling challenging
behaviors, ” causing emotional and physical injury to
P.G; (2) should not have allowed the teacher to be in the
classroom on September 8, 2016, and (3) failed to take
remedial measures such as offering counseling or support.
(Id. at ¶ 9.)
Defendant has not specified which Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure it relies upon for dismissal. Many courts have
found that, in this situation, “Rule 12(b)(1) is not an
appropriate avenue” for dismissal, Gibson v. Forest
Hills Local Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 655 Fed.Appx. 423,
430 (6th Cir. 2016) (collecting cases), because the
IDEA's exhaustion requirement is waiveable. The Court
agrees and finds the proper vehicle for dismissal in this
circumstance to be Rule 12(b)(6), not Rule 12(b)(1).
Sophie G. v. Wilson Cty. Schs., 265 F.Supp.3d 765,
768 (M.D. Tenn. 2017).
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “‘a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The plausibility standard is not akin
to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for
more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 557). “If the plaintiffs do not nudge their
claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their
complaint must be dismissed.” Lutz v. Chesapeake
Appalachia, L.L.C., 717 F.3d 459, 464 (6th Cir. 2013)
(citation and brackets omitted). Dismissal is likewise
appropriate where the complaint, however factually detailed,
fails to state a claim as a matter of law. Mitchell v.
McNeil, 487 F.3d 374, 379 (6th Cir. 2007).
contends that Plaintiffs were required to exhaust all of
their claims under the IDEA. The outcome of this motion is
largely dictated by the Supreme Court's recent opinion in
Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 137 S.Ct. 743
(2017), which requires that the Court consider the
“crux” - the “gravamen” - of the
claims in the Amended Complaint to determine whether
Plaintiffs seek relief for “denial of the IDEA's
core guarantee [of] . . . a free and appropriate education,
” id. at 748 (quotation marks omitted); if so,
then Plaintiffs must exhaust administrative remedies under
purpose of the IDEA is to provide a free and appropriate
public education (“FAPE”) to “all children
with certain physical or intellectual disabilities.” 20
U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1)(A); Fry, 137 S.Ct. at
748-49 (citations omitted). “As defined in the Act, a
FAPE comprises ‘special education and related
services' - both ‘instruction' tailored to meet
a child's ‘unique needs' and sufficient
‘supportive services' to permit the child to
benefit from that instruction.” Id. at 748-49
(citing 20 U.S.C. §§ 1401(9), (26), (29)). The IDEA
also incorporates state law. See, e.g., 20 U.S.C.
§ 1412(a)(15)(A). Indeed, a FAPE must “meet the
standards of the state educational agency.”
Id. § 1401(9)(B). Thus, even if a school
district complies with federal law, it can still run afoul of
the IDEA by violating state law. Doe ex rel. Doe v. Bd.
of Educ. of Tullahoma City Schs., 9 F.3d 455, 457 (6th
Cir. 1993). Tennessee has a statutory scheme meant to provide
“special education services sufficient to meet the
needs and maximize the capabilities of children with
disabilities.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-10-101(a)(1).
Part of that scheme is the SEBSA. The SEBSA outlines when and
how a teacher may restrain a special education student.
Id. § 49-10-1304.
enacted the ADA with the noble purpose of providing a clear
and comprehensive mandate for the elimination of
discrimination against individuals with disabilities, ”
Melange v. City of Ctr. Line, 482 Fed.Appx. 81, 84
(6th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted), by providing that “no qualified individual
with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be
excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of
the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or
be subjected to discrimination by any such entity, ” 42
U.S.C. § 12132. Similarly, “Congress sought with
[Section] 504 . . . to remedy a broad, comprehensive concept
of discrimination against individuals with disabilities,
” Ability Ctr. of Greater Toledo v. City of
Sandusky, 385 F.3d 901, 912 (6th Cir. 2004) (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted), by providing that a
qualified individual with a disability shall not,
“solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded
from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be
subjected to discrimination under any program or activity
receiving Federal financial assistance, ” 29 U.S.C.
§ 794(a). Because the ADA and Rehabilitation Act
“contain similar language and are ‘quite similar
in purpose and scope, '” they are said to be
“roughly parallel[ ].” Babcock v.
Michigan, 812 F.3d 531, 540 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting
McPherson v. Mich. High Sch. Athletic Ass'n,
Inc., 119 F.3d 453, 459-60 (6th Cir. 1997)). For
example, “[e]ach Act allows disabled individuals to sue
certain entities, like school districts, that exclude them
from participation in, deny them benefits of, or discriminate
against them in a program because of their disability.”
Gohl v. Livonia Pub. Sch. Dist., 836 F.3d 672, 681
(6th Cir. 2016) (citing Anderson v. City of Blue
Ash, 798 F.3d 338, 357 (6th Cir. 2015)). There is
“some overlap in coverage” as between the ADA,
Section 504, and IDEA's FAPE obligation, and “[t]he
same conduct might violate all three statutes.”
Fry, 137 S.Ct. at 756; see also I.L. through
Taylor v. Knox Cty. Bd. of Educ., 257 F.Supp.3d 946,
954-55 (E.D. Tenn. 2017) (stating that “[s]ome claims
can be brought under the IDEA, the Americans with
Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act, ” and
observing that “conduct by school staff can violate the
IDEA, [the ADA], and [Section] 504 all at once”).
IDEA sets forth an administrative mechanism for resolving
disputes concerning whether a school has complied. 20 U.S.C.
§ 1415. It provides for an impartial due process hearing
conducted by the state or local educational agency,
id. § 1415(f), and the right to appeal the
results to the state educational agency if the due process
hearing was conducted by the local educational agency,
id. § 1415(g). The IDEA also requires parties
to use these procedures whenever they seek relief
“available under this subchapter” even if they
are pursuing relief under other federal laws. Id.
§ 1415(1). Specifically, the IDEA provides that:
[n]othing in this chapter shall be construed to restrict or
limit the rights, procedures, and remedies available under
the Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
[42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.], Title V of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 [29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq.], or
other Federal laws protecting the rights of children with
disabilities, except that before the filing of a civil
action under such laws seeking relief that is also available
under this subchapter, the procedures under subsections ...