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R.K. v. Y.A.L.E. Schools

April 20, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge


This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration [Docket Item 36] of aspects of the Court's October 30, 2008 Opinion and Order [Docket Items 33 and 34]. Plaintiff R.K., individually and on behalf of her minor son, S.K.B., filed this action against the Medford Township Board of Education (the "Board"), a corporation called Y.A.L.E. Schools, Inc., and numerous employees of each entity, asserting a variety of claims premised upon federal and New Jersey law. In its October 30, 2008 Opinion and Order, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motions to dismiss, as is explained in detail below. Plaintiffs move for reconsideration of three aspects of that Opinion: (1) the dismissal of R.K.'s defamation and false light claims, (2) the limitation of the factual scope of S.K.B.'s defamation claim, and (3) the determination that Plaintiffs' intentional infliction of emotional distress claims are subject to the New Jersey Tort Claims Act's verbal threshold. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration.


A. Facts

Plaintiffs' factual allegations were reviewed in detail in the Court's October 30, 2008 Opinion, and are discussed herein only to the extent necessary to resolve the issues raised in the motion presently under consideration. Plaintiff R.K. is the mother of S.K.B., a child who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. (Compl. ¶ 15.) In 2006, pursuant to his individualized education plan ("IEP") and through an agreement between the Board and Y.A.L.E. Schools, Inc., S.K.B. attended the Y.A.L.E. School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. (Id. at ¶¶ 3, 15.) On February 28, 2006, the principal of the Y.A.L.E. School, Defendant Morgan, "improperly employed a face[-]down, take[-]down restraint" upon S.K.B., a use of force which Plaintiffs allege ran contrary to S.K.B.'s IEP. (Id. at ¶ 15.)

Following this allegedly inappropriate use of force upon S.K.B., R.K. complained to the individually named Medford and Y.A.L.E. Defendants.*fn1 (Id. at ¶ 16.) According to Plaintiffs, the school employees' response to R.K.'s complaint was to inform R.K. that she would need to find an alternative school placement for S.K.B. (Id.) In addition, Plaintiffs allege that the school's employees continued to mistreat S.K.B. after R.K. complained. (Id.)

In response to this perceived mistreatment, on March 9, 2006, R.K. contacted Defendant Gelardo, an employee of the Medford Township Board of Education, and informed him that she believed that her son's civil rights were being violated, and stated that she intended to file a complaint with the USDOE's Office for Civil Rights (the "OCR"). (Id. at ¶ 17.) R.K. followed through on her statement to Defendant Gelardo on May 22, 2006, when she filed a civil rights complaint. (Id.) Additionally, R.K. informed the Medford and Y.A.L.E. Defendants that she "could not keep her son in such a hostile environment," requested that the Board find a different school placement for S.K.B., and advised Defendants that if the situation was not resolved, she would not be able to send S.K.B. to the Y.A.L.E. School out of concern for his safety. (Id. at ¶ 18.) R.K. subsequently "revoked consent for the placement of her son at the Y.A.L.E. School and requested school district home instruction and related services pending appropriate alternative school placement." (Id. at ¶ 19.)

The Complaint alleges that, in response to R.K.'s announced intent to file a civil rights complaint against Defendants with the OCR, Defendants took various steps to retaliate against Plaintiffs. First, Plaintiffs allege that the individual Defendants conspired to make a "false and malicious complaint of sexual abuse" perpetrated by R.K. against S.K.B. to the Department of Youth and Family Services ("DYFS"). (Id. at ¶ 20.) DYFS agents, in turn, made an unannounced visit to Plaintiffs' home, where they determined that the allegations against R.K. were "wholly lacking in merit and summarily closed the file." (Id. at ¶ 21.)

Subsequently, R.K. filed an application for "emergency due process relief" with the Department of Education's Office of Administrative Law in order to secure a new school placement for S.K.B. (Id. at ¶ 22.) To retaliate against R.K. for filing this application, Defendant Del Rossi allegedly filed a false truancy complaint against R.K. and S.K.B. with the Medford Township Police Department. (Id. at ¶ 23.) This complaint was ultimately dismissed after the court found that probable cause did not exist. (Id.) As a result of Defendants' alleged acts of retaliation, Plaintiffs claim that they have suffered severe emotional distress. (Id. at Count V, ¶ 3.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed this action on October 30, 2007 in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County.*fn2 The Medford Defendants timely removed the matter to this Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), on December 12, 2007 [Docket Item 1]. The Medford Defendants and the Y.A.L.E. Defendants filed separate motions to dismiss, which the Court addressed in its October 30, 2008 Opinion and Order.

Only three aspects of that Opinion are relevant here.

First, the Court held that R.K.'s defamation and false light claims were barred by the one-year statute of limitations,*fn3 and accordingly granted Defendants' motions to dismiss these claims. The Court explained:

The comments referenced in the Complaint that form the basis of Plaintiff R.K.'s defamation and false light claims were made on March 17, 2006 and March 28, 2006, (Compl. ΒΆΒΆ 20, 23), which means that the one-year statute of limitations on these claims expired in March 2007. Plaintiffs filed this action on November 19, 2007, approximately seven months after the limitations period expired. It is thus apparent that the Complaint herein "facially shows ...

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