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S.M Ex Rel. B.M v. Marlboro Township Board of Education

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 31, 2013

S.M. and E.M. on behalf of B.M., Plaintiffs,


MICHAEL A. SHIPP, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant Garden Academy's ("Defendant") Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 27-7.) Plaintiffs S.M. and E.M., on behalf of B.M., ("Plaintiffs") filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. (Pls.' Cross-Motion for S.J., ECF No. 35.) While these motions were pending, the Parties engaged in substantial settlement negotiations. Ultimately, Plaintiffs and Defendant Marlboro Township Board of Education reached an agreement. (ECF No. 59.) However, Plaintiffs and Defendant Garden Academy were unable to resolve the instant dispute. Pursuant to a status conference with the Court, the Parties were permitted to file supplemental briefing. (ECF No. 83.) Thereafter, Defendant Garden Academy moved for Summary Judgment. (Def.'s S.J. Mot. & Opp'n, ECF No. 88.) Plaintiffs filed supplemental briefing in support of their Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, and in opposition to Defendant Garden Academy's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Pls.' Supp. Br. & Opp'n, ECF No. 89.) Garden Academy filed a Reply Brief. (Def.'s Reply, ECF No. 93.) Plaintiffs also filed a Reply. (Pls.' Reply, ECF No. 94.) The Court has carefully considered the Parties' submissions and decided the matter without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 78. For good cause shown, Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED. Defendant's Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings and for Summary Judgment are DENIED in part. The instant action is REMANDED.

I. Background

A. General Factual Allegations

Plaintiffs are the parents of B.M., a twelve year old boy with autism. (Compl., ECF No. 7.) B.M. has a developmental disability which causes speech and language delays, poor socialization skills, poor life skills, poor eating skills, and an inability to understand or appreciate danger. (Compl. ¶ 1.) B.M. also has behavioral issues. ( Id. ) B.M. attended Garden Academy for the school years of 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. (Compl. ¶ 17.) By way of Agreement dated March 26, 2009, the parents agreed to continuing placement at Garden Academy for 2009-2010. (Def.'s Mot. 2.) Plaintiffs allege that pursuant to B.M.'s Individualized Education Program ("IEP"), B.M. is entitled to "weekly home-programming, physically in the Plaintiffs' home." (Compl. ¶ 22.) On November 30, 2009, Garden Academy sent B.M.'s parents and the Marlboro Township Board of Education a letter notifying them of its intent to terminate B.M.'s placement. (Compl. ¶¶ 45-46.) Plaintiffs allege that since that time, Defendants have not offered home-based support services. (Compl. ¶ 53.) In response to the letter, the parents filed a request for mediation. (Compl. ¶ 48.) When mediation was not successful, the matter was transferred to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law. (Def.'s Mot. 5.)

Count I of Plaintiffs' Complaint states that the OAL's June 3, 2010 Order allegedly denies B.M. protection under the "Stay-Put" provision. (Compl. ¶ 84.) Plaintiffs further seek an order from this Court compelling weekly home programming pending litigation, and compelling reimbursement for costs Plaintiffs incurred to provide home programming and/or compensation for programming not provided. (Compl. ¶¶ 85-86.)

Plaintiffs, in Count II of their Complaint, seek to reverse the OAL's August 11, 2010 Order dismissing a single Count of Plaintiffs' Petition for Due Process, denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and denying Plaintiffs from seeking an Order that Garden Academy be compelled to provide outreach or home-based support services. (Compl. ¶¶ 92-93, 97-98.) Specifically, Plaintiffs allege reversal is appropriate because the November 30, 2009 termination letter allegedly violates the IDEA and N.J. Admin. Code 6A:14-7.7(a). (Compl. ¶¶ 97-98.)

In Count III of the Complaint, Plaintiffs challenge the denial of their Motion to Compel Discovery before the OAL. (Compl. ¶ 105.) Plaintiffs sought documents related to Princeton Child Development Institute's assessments/evaluations of Defendant Garden Academy. (Compl. ¶ 106.)

Finally, in Count IV of the Complaint, Plaintiffs seek legal fees. (Compl. ¶¶ 108-111.)

Defendant, by way of an Answer, alleges a counterclaim challenging the administrative law judge's denial of its motion to terminate the placement.[1]

II. Analysis

A. Defendant's Rule 12(c) and Summary Judgment Motions and Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment

i. Rule 12(c) Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) states that "[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." A court will grant judgment on the pleadings if, on the basis of the pleadings, no material issue of fact remains and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c); Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 220 (3d Cir. 2005). The standard governing a Rule 12(c) motion is the same standard governing motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Allah ...

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