Conklin v. Jefferson Cnty. Bd. of Educ.

Citation205 F.Supp.3d 797
Decision Date01 September 2016
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-CV-8 (BAILEY)
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of West Virginia
Parties William CONKLIN, individually and by his guardian, Susan Conklin, Plaintiffs, v. JEFFERSON COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Howard Guth, Principal, in his individual and official capacity, and Terry Taylor, in his official and individual capacity, Defendants.

Nancy A. Dalby, Charles Town, WV, for Plaintiffs.

Tracey B. Eberling, Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC, Matthew R. Whitler, Pullin Fowler Flanagan Brown & Poe PLLC, Martinsburg, WV, for Defendants.



On this day, the above-styled civil action came before this Court for consideration of Defendant Terry Taylor's and Defendants Jefferson County Board of Education and Howard Guth's Motions to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint [Docs. 5; 7], filed April 13, 2016. The plaintiffs filed their Responses to both motions [Docs. 12; 13] on May 2, 2016. Defendant Taylor filed his Reply [Doc. 14] on May 9, 2016. Defendants Jefferson County Board of Education ("Board") and Guth filed their Reply [Doc. 15] on May 12, 2016. Having been fully briefed, this matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons set forth herein, this Court hereby grants in part and denies in part the Motions to Dismiss.

A . Factual Allegations

The plaintiff's challenged Complaint alleges facts as follows. [Doc. 1]. Plaintiff William Conklin (hereinafter "the plaintiff") had been a special education student in the Jefferson County school system since the age of seven years old. During the 2013-2014 school year, the plaintiff was placed in Defendant Terry Taylor's special education classroom at Jefferson High School. [Id. at ¶ 27]. On January 16, 2014, in Defendant Taylor's classroom, the plaintiff "spoke to or made a comment about a classmate," at which point Defendant Taylor grabbed the plaintiff "by the neck, choking him, and pushed him into a bookcase." [Id. at ¶ 28]. This caused marks on his body, aggravated a prior back injury, caused pain, caused extreme humiliation and embarrassment, and caused the plaintiff to have "extreme fear." [Id. ]. A criminal investigation commenced thereafter, and Defendant Taylor was criminally charged with unlawful restraint and battery. [Id. at ¶ 29].

Following the January 16 incident, the plaintiff and Plaintiff Susan Conklin, his mother and guardian, met with Assistant Principal Tony Roman, Director of Pupil Services Charles Hampton, and Defendant Howard Guth, the principal. Defendant Guth "told William the assault [was] William's fault." [Id. at ¶ 30].

Defendant Taylor then returned to his special education classroom, which was the only appropriate special education classroom for the plaintiff at Jefferson High School. The plaintiff "was fearful of being around Mr. Taylor and emotionally unable to return to the same classroom" once Defendant Taylor returned. The defendants offered the plaintiff early graduation "even though he had not accomplished the goals on his Individual Education Plan ("IEP") including transition services." The plaintiff and his mother refused, and the plaintiff was placed on homebound instruction, which was initially located "in a trailer classroom" that was "only a few feet from the door of Defendant Taylor's classroom." The plaintiff remained fearful of seeing Defendant Taylor, so his homebound instruction was moved to the public library, where an instructor provided him with academic services three times per week. The plaintiff states this caused him "embarrassment, humiliation and isolation from his peers." [Id. at ¶ 31].

The following school year was the plaintiff's final year of high school. Defendant Taylor was rehired for that school year and assigned as the teacher in the special education classroom, to which the plaintiff had been assigned and which had been identified by his IEP team as the appropriate classroom for his educational needs prior to the January 16 incident. Aside from Defendant Taylor's classroom, the school had "nothing to offer except an autism

classroom deemed inappropriate at an out of district school or continued homebound instruction." The plaintiff continued to receive his education via homebound services and "continued to request that he be placed back in Jefferson High School for his senior year," particularly because he wanted to participate in class outings. Approximately two months before the end of the school year, the school agreed to move the plaintiff's homebound instruction to the school library three days per week and to prevent Defendant Taylor from being in the bus pick-up area while the plaintiff was leaving school. The plaintiff states that he "feared each day that he would encounter Defendant Taylor." [Id. at ¶ 32].

While receiving homebound instruction, the plaintiff was "very unhappy and angry," and would have "outbursts of anger at home where he was verbally abusive to his mother and at his counselor's office," which resulted in him being banned from the counseling office and losing his long-time mental health counselor, whom he has been unable to replace. His isolation from the school community "[led] to feelings of sadness, isolation, and humiliation." [Id. at ¶ 34]. Homebound instruction also caused the plaintiff to lose his transition services that were intended to increase his independence and employability, "which were only available in the school setting." The plaintiff states that he continues to struggle to obtain vocational skills. [Id. at ¶ 36].

The plaintiff graduated in June of 2015, but he was "so fearful of seeing Defendant Taylor that he was emotionally unable to attend his graduation ceremony." [Id. at ¶¶ 32-33].

Prior to the January 16 incident, the plaintiff had a pre-existing back injury from a car wreck and, following the incident, "experienced increased pain requiring increased pain management and medication as well as evaluations of his back." [Id. at ¶ 37]. He alleges that the "physical violence" toward him has been "allowed and condoned" by each of the defendants. [Id. at ¶ 38]. He also alleges that the actions of the defendants served no legitimate educational or other purposes, but that they instead "were inflicted to punish and humiliate with a [wanton] and reckless disregard for the rights, feelings, safety and welfare" of the plaintiff. [Id. at ¶ 39]. Further, the plaintiff states that he "is informed and believes, and therefore alleges, that the above-described pattern and practice of condoning the use of violence toward disabled children in the Jefferson County Public Schools is not appropriate to achieve educational goals, and they instead have resulted in lasting and irreparable damage to the plaintiff." [Id. at ¶ 40].

B . Procedural History

The plaintiff and his guardian filed their Complaint [Doc. 1] in this Court on January 14, 2016. The Complaint alleges seven causes of action, including violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a violation of 29 U.S.C. §§ 794 et seq. , a violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 et seq. , intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a state tort claim for personal injury. As relief, the plaintiff requests appropriate relief at law and equity; economic losses on all claims allowed by law including $3000 for medical and psychological treatment; compensatory, consequential, and future damages, including damages for emotional distress, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and other pain and suffering on all claims allowed by law in an amount to be determined at trial; punitive damages on all claims allowed by law and in an amount to be determined at trial; attorney fees and all costs associated with this action, including expert witness fees, on all claims allowed by law; pre– and post-judgment interest at the highest lawful rate; and any further relief that this Court deems just and proper, and any other relief as allowed by law.

The defendants moved to dismiss the entire Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [Docs. 5; 7] on April 13, 2016.


To state a claim for relief, a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). A complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ; Giarratano v. Johnson , 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir.2008). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court accepts all well-pled facts in the complaint as true and construes those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678–79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) ; Adcock v. Freightliner LLC , 550 F.3d 369, 374 (4th Cir.2008). Legal conclusions, recitations of the elements of a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement do not constitute well-pled facts for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes. See Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937.

"A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin , 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir.1992). "But in the relatively rare circumstances where facts sufficient to rule on an affirmative defense are alleged in the complaint, the defense may be reached by a motion to dismiss filed under Rule 12(b)(6)," so long as "all facts necessary to the affirmative defense ‘clearly appear[ ] on the face of the complaint.’ " Goodman v. Praxair, Inc. , 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir.2007) (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. v. Forst , 4 F.3d 244, 250 (4th Cir.1993) ).

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