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"A," A Minor, et al v. Gloucester Township

July 21, 2011

"A," A MINOR, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas

OPINION

IRENAS , Senior District Judge:

African American Plaintiffs, who were children during the relevant time period, bring this suit alleging that they were the victims of pervasive and persistent racism of teachers and administrators while attending public schools in Gloucester Township, New Jersey. Presently before the Court are the Motions to Dismiss of: (1) Defendants Gloucester Township Public Schools, the Board of Education of Gloucester Township, Board of Education President William G. Collins, and Superintendent Thomas D. Seddon (collectively "the Gloucester School District Defendants"); and (2) Defendants Black Horse Pike Regional School District, the Board of Education of Black Horse Pike Regional School District, Superintendent Ralph E. Ross, and Mae Robinson, Principal of the Timber Creek Regional High School *fn1 (collectively "the Black Horse Pike School District Defendants"). *fn2 For the reasons stated herein, the Motions will be granted in part and denied in part. *fn3

I.

Plaintiffs allege that over the course of several years (2004 through February, 2010), while attending public schools within the Gloucester Township School District and the Black Horse Pike Regional School District, several teachers called them racially derogatory names such as "nigger" and "tar baby." (Amend. Compl. ¶ 1) *fn4 The Amended Complaint also alleges that teachers repeatedly tolerated other students' use of such language when directed at Plaintiffs. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 37, 44, 50, 56-57, 68, 73, 88, 101)

Further, the Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiffs "Minor B" and "Student C" *fn5 were not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities such as school clubs and sports because of their race (Amend. Compl. ¶ 69, 90); and that Minor C received a report card with failing grades in three subjects even though those grades did not match the actual grades he received on tests, papers, and quizzes. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 92) Lastly, the Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiffs and their mother reported the alleged incidents of racism to teachers and school officials, who did nothing, and on at least two occasions, responded by calling the Plaintiffs' mother a "nigger." (Amend. Compl. ¶ 47, 50, 51, 54, 55, 67, 71, 78, 79, 94)

Plaintiffs contend that as a result of the "intimidating, hostile, and hateful" environment (Amend. Compl. ¶ 106) allegedly created by Defendants, they have suffered mental and physical injuries in the form of "fear, loss of self esteem, chronic headaches, severe anxiety, loss of trust in adults . . . hives, stress, . . . depression, and the loss of innocence." (Amend. Compl. ¶ 4)

The Amended Complaint alleges seven counts: (1) a Section 1983 claim of "race discrimination/retaliation" in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; (2) a Section 1981 claim of "race discrimination/retaliation"; (3) a Title VII claim of "race discrimination/retaliation"; (4) conspiracy to violate Plaintiffs' civil rights in violation of Section 1985; (5) "race discrimination/retaliation" in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination; (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (7) negligent infliction of emotional distress. All claims are asserted against all Defendants, with the exception of Count 6 (intentional infliction of emotional distress), which is only asserted against the "Individual Defendants." *fn6

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Moving Defendants presently move to dismiss Counts 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 of the Amended Complaint.

II.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege facts that raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).

While a court must accept as true all allegations in the plaintiff's complaint, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008), a court is not required to accept sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations, unwarranted inferences, or unsupported conclusions. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The complaint must state sufficient facts to show that the legal allegations are not simply possible, but plausible. Phillips , 515 F.3d at 234. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

III.

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