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R.G. v. Glen Ridge Board of Education

December 2, 2005

R.G. O/B/O MINOR CHILD, E.G., PLAINTIFF,
v.
GLEN RIDGE BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martini, U.S.D.J.

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Glen Ridge Board of Education's ("Glen Ridge") motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Oral argument occurred on November 14, 2005. As discussed below, Glen Ridge's motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff R.G., on behalf of her daughter E.G., brought this action against Glen Ridge under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"). See 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1490 (2005). E.G. is an eighth grade student suffering from certain disabilities. From 1995 to 2002, E.G. received her education from Glen Ridge. Plaintiff claims that, during these years, Glen Ridge denied E.G. a free and appropriate education ("FAPE") as required under the IDEA. See 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1). In 2002, as E.G. was entering the sixth grade, Plaintiff moved her daughter from the Glen Ridge school system to a private school (the "Craig School").*fn1

Plaintiff then petitioned the New Jersey Department of Education for due process on February 9, 2004, arguing that the Individualized Education Plan ("IEP") and placement provided by Glen Ridge were inappropriate. In her petition, Plaintiff sought reimbursement for E.G.'s tuition at the Craig School for the 2002-2003 school year.*fn2 The matter was assigned to Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Jesse H. Strauss. On January 17, 2005, Glen Ridge moved before ALJ Strauss for summary decision on the following grounds: (1) that Plaintiff did not provide Glen Ridge with advance written notice of its placement of E.G. at the Craig School; and (2) that Plaintiff acted unreasonably by enrolling E.G. in the Craig School.*fn3 ALJ Strauss granted Glen Ridge's motion for summary decision and dismissed Plaintiff's petition. In particular, he held that: (1) Plaintiff did not provide Glen Ridge with notice that it was rejecting the proposed IEP, as required by N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.10(c)1; (2) Plaintiff failed to provide Glen Ridge with written notice of her intent to enroll E.G. in the Craig School 10 days prior to removal of E.G. from the district, as required by N.J.A.C. 6:A:14-2.10(c)2; and (3) Plaintiff acted unreasonably under N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.10(c)4 by entering into a contract with the Craig School prior to involving Glen Ridge in the consideration of this placement. Notably, the ALJ did not rule on whether Glen Ridge violated the substantive provisions of the IDEA by failing to provide a FAPE. His decision only considered those issues raised by Glen Ridge's motion for summary decision.

Plaintiff subsequently filed a civil action before this Court under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2). Glen Ridge then moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because it contains issues not ruled upon by the ALJ and issues not raised before the ALJ. In addition, Glen Ridge argues that Plaintiff's complaint is barred under the statute of limitations for filing IDEA civil actions in federal district courts. This motion is now before the Court.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

The standard of review on a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction varies depending on whether the defendant makes a facial or factual challenge. Gould Elecs., Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000). The standard for reviewing a facial attack is similar to the standard governing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. "In reviewing a facial attack, the court must only consider the allegations of the complaint and documents referenced therein and attached thereto, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Id. at 176. In contrast, in reviewing a factual challenge, the allegations of the complaint are not accepted as true, and "the court may consider evidence outside the pleadings."

Id. This case concerns a facial challenge.

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), all allegations in the complaint must be taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc., v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court may consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents if the plaintiff's claims are based upon those documents. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). If, after viewing the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it appears beyond doubt that no relief could be granted "under any set of facts which could prove consistent with the allegations," a court may dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Zynn v. O'Donnell, 688 F.2d 940, 941 (3d Cir. 1982).

II. This Court Has Subject Matter Jurisdiction To Hear Those Issues Not Decided By The ALJ.

Glen Ridge argues that this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over issues raised before, but not decided by, the ALJ. As such, Glen Ridge would have us review only those rulings made by the ALJ -- namely, whether Plaintiff provided adequate notice to Glen Ridge and whether Plaintiff's actions were reasonable. Glen Ridge argues, in effect, that our role in this matter is purely appellate in nature. This is incorrect.

This Court's subject matter jurisdiction is controlled by 20 U.S.C. §§ 1415(i)(2)(A) and 1415(i)(2)(C). See Kominos v. Upper Saddle River Bd. of Educ., 13 F.3d 775, 778 (3d Cir. 1994); Rancocas Valley Reg'l High Sch. Bd. of Educ. v. M.R., 380 ...


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