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R.C.S. v. Shrewsbury Borough Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

September 5, 2013

R.C.S. AND M.S., ON BEHALF OF THEIR MINOR CHILD R.S., Plaintiffs,
v.
SHREWSBURY BOROUGH SCH. DIST. BD. OF EDUC., et al., Defendants.

OPINION

MICHAEL A. SHIPP, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Defendants Shrewsbury Borough School District Board of Education (the "School Board"), Nancy Baker, Pearl Charatz, and Kathleen Mulcahy's (collectively, "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6). (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No.4.) Plaintiffs R.C.S. and M.S. on behalf of their minor child R.S. (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), filed Opposition. (Pis.' Opp'n, ECF No. 8.) Defendants filed a Reply. (Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 9.) The Court has carefully reviewed all of the Parties' submissions and has decided the motion without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.1. For the reasons set forth below, and good cause shown, the Court shall stay proceedings in this matter.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Prior to the commencement of this suit, Plaintiffs filed four due process petitions related to this matter. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) The first petition was filed on April 7, 2009, and resulted in a settlement (the "2009 Settlement"). (Compl. ¶¶ 26-30.) The second petition was filed on January 6, 2010, resulting in a judicial order in Plaintiffs' favor. (Compl. ¶¶ 36-50.) The third petition was filed on January 6, 2011, resulting in another settlement (the "2011 Settlement"). (Compl. ¶¶ 55-58.) The fourth petition was filed on November 17, 2011 and is presently pending. (Compl. ¶¶ 63-64.) The fourth petition seeks: "(a) an appropriate IEP [Individualized Education Plan], (b) an appropriate program at Craig[, ] (c) reimbursement for services, (d) reimbursement for expenses, including attorney's fees, (e) a complete copy of R.S.'s file, (f) reimbursement for failing to provide R.S. a FAPE [Free Appropriate Public Education], and (g) compensatory education." (Compl. ¶ 64.)

B. Plaintiffs' Complaint

Count I of Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges a violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701, et seq. (Compl. ¶¶ 69-89.) Count II alleges a claim pursuant to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. (Compl. ¶¶ 90-110.) Count III alleges breach of contract. (Compl. ¶¶ 111-116.) In Count IV, Plaintiffs allege violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. (Compl. ¶¶ 117-135.) Plaintiffs also allege constitutional violations of equal protection (Count V) and substantive due process (Count VI). (Compl. ¶¶ 136-146; 147-156). Finally, Count VII alleges violations of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. (Compl. ¶¶ 157-161.)

Plaintiffs' Complaint notes that jurisdiction is proper since their claims arise under the United States Constitution and Federal statutes, including, but not limited to, "the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400." (Compl. ¶ 7.) As such, this Court has jurisdiction over the instant matter.

Defendants move pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), which requires that the Court accepts the facts alleged in the Complaint as true. As this action is resolved on procedural grounds, a detailed recitation of the facts is not required. The Court, however, notes that R.S. is an eleven-year-old child diagnosed with several disabilities that impact his ability to learn. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 9-25.) R.S.'s parents sought the assistance of the School Board to provide the appropriate treatment and education for R.S. (Id.) Dissatisfied with the educational care provided to R.S., his parents filed three different appeals with the administrative courts, and each time, the School Board failed to comply with the outcome. (Compl. ¶¶ 26-62.) R.S.'s parents subsequently filed a due process petition with the administrative court, and with that case still pending, filed this action. (Compl. ¶¶ 63-68.) Defendants move to dismiss "[t]he claims asserted in Counts I, IV, V, and VI... because plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies." (Defs.' Br. 7, ECF No. 4-4.) Further, Defendants argue that once the federal claims are dismissed for failure to exhaust, the Court should decline to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claims. (Defs.' Br. 12.)

II. LEGAL DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). "First, the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'" Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Second, the court must accept as true all of a plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Fowler v. UPMCShadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). The Court, however, must disregard any conclusory allegations proffered in the complaint. Id. Finally, the Court must then determine whether the "facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief.'" Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

The Court notes, however, that "[i]n the context of an IDEA claim, the exhaustion of administrative remedies is a jurisdictional matter and is resolved pursuant to a motion brought under Rule 12(b)(I)." HA. v. Teaneck Bd. of Educ., No. 09-3301 (PGS), 2010 WL 891830 (PGS), at *4 (D.N.J. Mar. 10, 2010). Claims brought pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") must be exhausted prior to the filing of a civil suit pursuant to 20 U.S.C.A. § 1415(1), which provides:

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to restrict or limit the rights, procedures, and remedies available under the Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 [42 U.S.C.A. § 12101 et seq.], title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 [29 U.S.C.A. § 791 et seq.], or other Federal laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities, except that before the filing of a civil action under such laws seeking relief that is also available under this subchapter, the procedures under ...

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