Gaudino v. Stroudsburg Area Sch. Dist.

Decision Date23 July 2013
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 3:CV-12-2159
CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Magistrate Judge Blewitt)

I. Background.

On October 31, 2012, Plaintiff Christopher Gaudino filed a Complaint against Defendant, Stroudsburg Area School District pursuant to § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a) (Doc. 1, ¶ 4), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §12132, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), and Common Law Negligence as stated in the Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 320 (Doc. 1, ¶ 6). Both Plaintiff and Defendant are located in Stroudsburg, Monroe County, Pennsylvania. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331. The Court can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1367.

In response to Plaintiff's Complaint, the Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and for Failure to State a Claim, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), on November 30, 2012. (Doc. 4). On the same day, Defendant filed a Brief in support of its Motion toDismiss. (Doc. 5). On December 13, 2012, Plaintiff filed an Opposition Brief to Defendant's Motion. (Doc. 8). Defendant filed a Reply Brief on December 27, 2012. (Doc. 9).

On February 19, 2013, Plaintiff and Defendant both consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge for all matters. (Docs. 13-14). On February 20, 2013, the consent was approved by the Court. (Doc. 15).

Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is ripe for disposition.

II. Allegations of Complaint, Doc. 1.

Plaintiff states that from September of 2008 through June of 2012, he was a student in Defendant's schools. Plaintiff avers in his Complaint that Defendant failed to accommodate his educational needs as a handicapped student, i.e., he suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"), and that Defendant did not provide him with an educational environment free from sexual harassment. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant was negligent in protecting him from the tortious acts of another student. (Doc. 1, ¶'s 5, 7 & 10). Plaintiff avers that prior to his enrollment with Defendant's schools, he went to Sayreville School District in New Jersey and that this district prepared an Individual Education Plan ("IEP"), pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), for Plaintiff after his 8th grade year in 2008 in which it recommended he receive individual instruction for most of his academic courses (English, Reading, Math, Science, and History classes) and to be in a regular education setting less than 40% of the school day. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 14, 15).

Plaintiff's family moved to Stroudsburg in the summer of 2008 and Defendant Stroudsburg Area School District, aware of Plaintiff ‘s disability, prepared a new Individual Education Plan for Plaintiff that Fall through their Special Education Department. (Doc. 1, ¶'s 16- 17). The Defendant's Special Education Department granted the Plaintiff "Learning Support - Supplemental." (Doc. 1, ¶ 18). Plaintiff's grades in his 9th grade year (2008-2009) with Defendant's school ranged from 69 to 78 with an average below 74%. (Doc. 1, ¶ 19). Plaintiff's teachers made it clear that they were aware of Plaintiff's slow and inconsistent progress toward his academic goals. (Doc. 1, ¶ 20). According the Complaint, Plaintiff required individual instruction. (Id.). Plaintiff asked for assistance and required a classroom aide to help him to understand instructions and concepts, but no aide was provided to assist him. (Doc. 1, ¶ 21).

Plaintiff's Complaint also avers that a female student called "A.R." who suffered her own learning disability would distract and annoy the Plaintiff beginning in 9th grade. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 23, 24). Plaintiff alleges that A.R. repeatedly acted inappropriately toward the Plaintiff by calling him names, whispering to him, or touching him in ways that made him uncomfortable. (Doc. 1, ¶ 25). Plaintiff complained of A.R.'s misconduct to his teachers and caseworker, Mr. Snuffer, but the Defendant did nothing to alleviate Plaintiff's distress form the interruptions and interactions caused by A.R. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 26, 27). A.R. allegedly told Plaintiff "we are going to have sex and you can touch my breasts. (Doc. 1, ¶ 37). Plaintiff also complained to his teachers that he was having trouble and he needed more individual assistance but to no avail. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 38).

In tenth grade, spring of 2010, Plaintiff complained about A.R.'s conduct to the paraprofessional assigned to A.R., Diane Feagle. (Doc. 1, ¶ 39). Neither Ms. Feagle, nor any of Plaintiff's teachers took any action that had a lasting effect on A.R.'s conduct. (Doc. 1, ¶ 40). Plaintiff also alleges that he was bullied by mainstream students at Defendant's school and threatened to harm himself, and that Defendant did not offer him the opportunity to attend the intermediate unit. Plaintiff avers that Defendant was "callously indifferent to [his] educational and emotional needs." (Id., ¶'s 44-48).

In 10th grade, Plaintiff began study at Stroudsburg High School (Doc. 1, ¶ 28). Plaintiff's teachers recommended that he stay in learning support for all core subjects but Defendant placed him in learning support only for Reading, English, and Science (Doc. 1, ¶ 29). All of Plaintiff's other classes (Geometry, Algebra, and Auto Collision) were with mainstream students in Defendant's regular curriculum (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 29, 30). Plaintiff's mother, Diane Latham, informed the Defendant that she disagreed with Defendant's choice to mainstream the Plaintiff because she did not believe him to be capable of handling ordinary education, but Defendant said that Plaintiff had to be integrated into regular classes (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 31, 32). Plaintiff's testing indicated that he possessed academic skills at the level of an elementary school student (Doc. 1, ¶32). Plaintiff complained of his academic struggles and continued harassment to school guidance counselors and his caseworker, Ms. Diane Nelson (Doc. 1, ¶ 42).

In April of 2010 (tenth grade for Plaintiff), he was removed from Auto Collision class for alleged immature behavior, missed assignments, and an inability to follow directions.(Doc. 1, ¶ 43). Plaintiff states that he required additional guidance from the instructor to understand the course expectations. (Id.). Also in the Spring of 2010, Plaintiff suffered bullying from other mainstream students and told a guidance counselor that he wanted to hurt himself or commit suicide as a result of the bullying, academic struggles, and harassment from A.R. (Doc. 1, ¶ 44).

In October of 2010 (eleventh grade), Plaintiff avers that he continued to receive low grades and made minimal progress toward his IEP goals. Plaintiff also avers that A.R. pushed him into the lockers outside the school lunchroom and touched his private parts on purpose. (Doc. 1, ¶'s 54- 56). Lunch Monitor Maureen Hamilton instructed Plaintiff to fill out an incident report with the main office, and Plaintiff reported the incident to Stroudsbug High School Assistant Principal Thomas Burke. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 57, 58). Plaintiff did not hear back from Defendant so he re-reported the incident with the school. (Doc. 1, ¶ 59). When Plaintiff received no response again, he went with his mother to file a report with Stroudsburg Police. (Doc. 1, ¶ 60). Neither the Defendant nor the Police ever followed up regarding the incident. (Doc. 1, ¶ 62). Plaintiff states that A.R.'s conduct was so severe and pervasive that it detracted from his ability to learn. (Doc. 1, ¶ 64).

In October or November of 2010 (eleventh grade for Plaintiff), the IEP team reviewed Plaintiff's IEP Plan (Doc. 1, ¶ 51). Plaintiff's grades in the first marking period of eleventh grade averaged 71.6 but Defendant kept Plaintiff in mainstream classes for all electives. Thus, Plaintiff had half of his classes in Learning Support and half in a general education setting. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 52, 53). Plaintiff's grades in the second marking period of the same yearcarried a 65.5% average. (Doc. 1, ¶ 65). In or around February 2011, Defendant implemented a Positive Behavior Support plan to address Plaintiff's emotional struggles. (Doc. 1, ¶ 68). Defendant also sought a Psychiatric Evaluation that determined Plaintiff required a more specialized education. (Doc. 1, ¶ 69). In March 2011, a new IEP was drafted that recommended Plaintiff attend a partial hospitalization school program run through Colonial Intermediate Unit 20, which was located at Stroudsburg High School. (Doc. 1, ¶ 70). Plaintiff would receive individual instruction and support for more than 80% of each school day. (Doc. 1, ¶ 71).

In the Fall of 2011 (twelfth grade for Plaintiff), he attended the partial hospitalization program administered by Colonial Northampton IU20 at its new location, Pleasant Valley High School. (Doc. 1, ¶ 74). Plaintiff made tremendous improvements academically; his grades averaged 83.7%. (Doc. 1, ¶ 75). In June of 2012, Plaintiff graduated from Defendant. (Id., ¶ 77).

Plaintiff alleges that for over three years, Defendant failed to give him the appropriate educational environment and that Defendant failed to provide him with an environment free from sexual harassment by A.R. (Id., ¶'s 78-80).

In Count I, Plaintiff raises his claim under §504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, both compensatory and punitive damages. (Id., ¶'s 83-93).

In Count II, Plaintiff raises his claim under Title II of the ADA. As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, both compensatory and punitive damages, as well as costs andattorney's fees. (Id., ¶'s 94-100).

In Count III, Plaintiff raises his claim under Title IX. As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, both compensatory and punitive damages, as well as costs and attorney's fees. (Id.,...

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