415 F.Supp.3d 636 (W.D.Pa. 2019), 2:19-cv-00012, D.C. v. Pittsburgh Public Schools

Docket Nº:No. 2:19-cv-00012
Citation:415 F.Supp.3d 636
Opinion Judge:Marilyn J. Horan, United States District Judge
Party Name:D.C., a minor, by and through his mother, A. T., and on behalf of all others similarly situated; A.T., his mother, on her own behalf and F.T., his grandfather, on his own behalf Plaintiffs, v. PITTSBURGH PUBLIC SCHOOLS; Marion Parker; Nicholas Sible; and MARK McClinchie, Defendants.
Attorney:Kristen C. Weidus, Ruder Law, Jeffrey J. Ruder, Pittsburgh, PA, for Plaintiffs. Aimee Rankin Zundel, Weiss Burkardt Kramer, LLC, Brian P. Gabriel, Campbell Durrant Beatty Palombo & Miller, P.C., Pittsburgh, PA, Carl P. Beard, Andrews & Beard, Elizabeth A. Benjamin, Jennifer L. Dambeck, Beard Lega...
Case Date:December 03, 2019
Court:United States District Courts, 3th Circuit

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415 F.Supp.3d 636 (W.D.Pa. 2019)

D.C., a minor, by and through his mother, A. T., and on behalf of all others similarly situated; A.T., his mother, on her own behalf and F.T., his grandfather, on his own behalf Plaintiffs,

v.

PITTSBURGH PUBLIC SCHOOLS; Marion Parker; Nicholas Sible; and MARK McClinchie, Defendants.

No. 2:19-cv-00012

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

December 3, 2019

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Kristen C. Weidus, Ruder Law, Jeffrey J. Ruder, Pittsburgh, PA, for Plaintiffs.

Aimee Rankin Zundel, Weiss Burkardt Kramer, LLC, Brian P. Gabriel, Campbell Durrant Beatty Palombo & Miller, P.C., Pittsburgh, PA, Carl P. Beard, Andrews & Beard, Elizabeth A. Benjamin, Jennifer L. Dambeck, Beard Legal Group, Altoona, PA, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

Marilyn J. Horan, United States District Judge

Plaintiffs, D.C., a minor, by and through his mother, A.T., and on behalf of all others similarly situated, as well as A.T. and F.T., who is D.C.’s grandfather, on their own behalf, bring the within action for damages, injunctive relief, and declaratory relief arising from the alleged unlawful restraint of D.C. while he was a student at Pittsburgh Public Schools. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiffs bring claims against Defendant Pittsburgh Public Schools (the District), for violations of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; the Americans with Disability Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ; the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. ; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. ; and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs also bring claims against the individual Defendants, Marion Parker, Nicholas Sible, and Mark McClinchie, for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Pennsylvania common law.

In response, the District filed Motions to Dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (ECF Nos. 8, 10). Defendants Parker and McClinchie likewise filed Motions to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). (ECF Nos. 21, 24). Defendant Sible answered the Complaint. (ECF No. 23). The parties briefed the issues, (ECF Nos. 8, 9, 10, 11, 21, 22, 24-28, and 37), and the Court heard oral argument on the Motions, (ECF No. 41).

For the following reasons, the District’s Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) will be granted, and the District’s Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) will be granted in part, denied in part, and moot in part. The Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Parker and McClinchie also will be granted. Additionally, the Court will dismiss certain claims, sua sponte, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I. Background

Plaintiff D.C. is an elementary school student enrolled in Pittsburgh Public Schools (the District). (ECF No. 1, at ¶ 13). He resides with his mother, Plaintiff A.T. (Mother). Id. at ¶ 14. D.C.’s maternal grandfather, Plaintiff F.T. (Grandfather) travels frequently from his home in Washington, D.C., to participate in D.C.’s care and education. Id. at ¶¶ 15, 84. During the 2015-2016 school year, D.C. was enrolled in kindergarten at Liberty Elementary School. Id. at ¶ 40. D.C. had difficulty staying seated and following directions, and by December 2015, his behaviors had escalated. Id. at ¶ 42. On February 23, 2016, Mother met with a school counselor regarding D.C.’s behavior. Id. at ¶ 43. At that time, Mother agreed to secure outpatient therapy services for D.C., but the District did not offer any recommendation regarding interventions and supports that the District could implement. Id.

D.C.’s behavior continued, and on March 15, 2016, he "eloped from the classroom,

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failed to follow directions, screamed and cried in the classroom, and lashed out at school staff." Id. at ¶ 44. The following day, on March 16, 2016, Mother met with a guidance counselor and D.C.’s teacher. Id. at ¶ 45. The District agreed to provide D.C. with sensory breaks, but otherwise did not evaluate D.C. to determine his eligibility for special education services. Id. at ¶¶ 44-45. Throughout D.C.’s kindergarten year, the District called Mother multiple times to discuss D.C.’s behavior, including "failing to follow directions, throwing objects, leaving the classroom, screaming, and kicking." Id. at ¶ 46.

In August 2016, D.C. began first grade, and his behaviors continued to escalate. Id. at ¶¶ 47-48. On September 16, 2016, he was suspended for two days following an altercation with another student. Id. at ¶ 48. On September 21, 2016, the District gave Mother information about a program "designed to assist school personnel in identifying issues which pose a barrier to a student’s success," rather than initiating an evaluation or giving Mother information about having D.C. evaluated for special education services. Id. at ¶ 49. On October 5, 2016, Mother had D.C. evaluated by Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, where he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD). Id. at ¶¶ 41, 50.

D.C.’s concerning behavior continued, and on October 6, 2016, he hung out of a school bus window while spitting, failed to follow the bus driver’s directions, refused to stay in his seat, and engaged in disrespectful behavior. Id. at ¶ 51. A week later, on October 13, 2016, D.C. disrupted a teacher during instruction, screamed and yelled, and threw a chair and a desk. Id. at ¶ 52. During the incident, D.C.’s teacher, Nicholas Sible, attempted to restrain D.C. by placing his knee into D.C.’s back while D.C. laid on the floor. Id. Following this incident, the District again did not initiate a special education evaluation for D.C. Id. at ¶ 54. Rather, at a meeting with Mother on October 14, 2016, the day after the incident with Mr. Sible, the District recommended that Mother medicate D.C. to assist him in managing his behaviors. Id. at ¶¶ 53-54. The following week, on October 21, 2016, D.C. stole his classmates’ pencils, threw shoes, threw a garbage can, and pushed other students. Id. at ¶ 55. In response, the District called school police officers, who transported D.C. home in a patrol car. Id. at ¶ 56.

On October 25, 2016, D.C. began attending a social skills group at school. Id. at ¶ 58. During the group meeting, D.C. ripped down posters, hid under a table, and ran back to his classroom. Id. Two days later, on October 27, 2016, D.C. threw objects, shoved other students, and screamed during movie time. Id. at ¶ 59. The District scheduled a meeting to address this incident, but did not initiate any process to determine D.C.’s eligibility for special education services. Id. On October 28, 2016, D.C. threw a desk, had a physical altercation with a teacher, pushed a cabinet in a room, used inappropriate language toward other students, and climbed onto a stone ledge in an attempt to walk over a high stairwell. Id. at ¶ 60. The District again requested school police to respond. Id. The District suspended D.C. for three days and recommended that D.C. be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility. Id. at ¶¶ 60-61.

On October 31, 2016, Mother again met with District officials and verbally requested a special education evaluation. Id. at ¶ 62. Additionally, Mother and the District agreed that Grandfather would observe D.C. during class for two days. Id. During Grandfather’s observation, he noted that D.C. and another student of color were

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made to face their desks toward the wall. Id. at ¶ 63. A school staff member also told Grandfather that they were required to call the police when they could not manage a child’s behavior. Id. at ¶ 64.

On November 1, 2016, the District created a crisis intervention plan for D.C. Id. at ¶ 65. Rather than use school staff who are certified in the appropriate use of physical intervention, the crisis plan relied upon use of school police officers. Id. Unfortunately, D.C.’s behaviors continued. Id. at ¶ 66. On November 4 and 6, 2016, D.C. received lunch detentions for incidents that occurred on the bus and in the music room. Id. On November 16, 2016, D.C. ran in the hallway, locked students in a classroom, knocked off and stomped on a staff member’s glasses. Id. at ¶ 67. Thereafter, Mother obtained an educational advocate. Id. at ¶ 68. That advocate contacted the local child welfare agency because of her concerns for the significant behavioral incidents and use of physical restraints at school. Id. at ¶ 69. A staff member from the agency informed D.C.’s advocate about another reported incident, unknown to Mother, in which D.C.’s teacher, Mr. Sible, choked D.C. Id. In a December 14, 2016 meeting, the District admitted that Mr. Sible was not certified to utilize restraints. Id. at ¶ 70. In addition, the school principal, Mark McClinchie, admitted that he never completed the required documentation for the incidents involving D.C. and Mr. Sible. Id.

The District began providing D.C. with a paraprofessional, but D.C.’s behaviors continued to escalate. Id. at ¶ 71. On December 20, 2016, D.C. was physically aggressive with the paraprofessional. Id. In response, the paraprofessional, who was not certified in the use of restraints, "pushed D.C. with a book and placed him in a physical restraint against the lockers." Id.

On January 5, 2017, D.C. destroyed school property, threw objects, pushed staff members, and failed to follow directives. Id. at ¶ 72. During the...

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2 practice notes
  • D.C. v. Pittsburgh Public Schools, 061520 PAWDC, 2:19-cv-00012
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit
    • June 15, 2020
    ...ruling on those Motions, this Court dismissed the majority of Plaintiffs' claims. (ECF No. 42); D.C. v. Pittsburgh Pub. Sch., 415 F.Supp.3d 636 (W.D. Pa. 2019). Plaintiffs then filed the present Amended Complaint, in which Plaintiffs did not reallege F.T.'s claims or the......
  • D.C. v. Pittsburgh Public Schools, 081220 PAWDC, 2:19-cv-00012
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit
    • August 12, 2020
    ...ruling on those Motions, this Court dismissed the majority of Plaintiffs' claims. (ECF No. 42); D.C. v. Pittsburgh Pub. Sch., 415 F.Supp.3d 636 (W.D. Pa. 2019). Plaintiffs then filed an Amended Complaint, in which they chose not to reallege F.T.'s claims and the cla......
2 cases
  • D.C. v. Pittsburgh Public Schools, 061520 PAWDC, 2:19-cv-00012
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit
    • June 15, 2020
    ...ruling on those Motions, this Court dismissed the majority of Plaintiffs' claims. (ECF No. 42); D.C. v. Pittsburgh Pub. Sch., 415 F.Supp.3d 636 (W.D. Pa. 2019). Plaintiffs then filed the present Amended Complaint, in which Plaintiffs did not reallege F.T.'s claims or the......
  • D.C. v. Pittsburgh Public Schools, 081220 PAWDC, 2:19-cv-00012
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit
    • August 12, 2020
    ...ruling on those Motions, this Court dismissed the majority of Plaintiffs' claims. (ECF No. 42); D.C. v. Pittsburgh Pub. Sch., 415 F.Supp.3d 636 (W.D. Pa. 2019). Plaintiffs then filed an Amended Complaint, in which they chose not to reallege F.T.'s claims and the cla......