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A.V. v. Pennsgrove/Carneys Point Regional School District

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 27, 2014

A.V. a minor, by and through his parents, William Valichka and Tracy Valichka, Plaintiff,
v.
PENNSGROVE/CARNEYS POINT REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT and GLEN ASCH, individually and in his capacity as an administrator of the Pennsgrove/Carneys Point Regional School District, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ, Sr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). The Court has considered the submissions of the parties and has decided the motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.

Background

This matter was removed to this Court by Defendants Pennsgrove/Carneys Point Regional School District and Glen Asch, individually and in his capacity as an administrator of the Pennsgrove/Carneys Point Regional School District. The original case was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Salem County by Plaintiff A.V., a minor, by and through his parents, William Valichka and Tracy Valichka.

A.V. is a student at Pennsgrove High School, where he is on the baseball team. (Compl., ¶ 5.) On or about March 29, 2012, during baseball practice at the school's baseball field, A.V.'s father gave A.V. Advil for back pain. (Compl., ¶ 6.) Plaintiff has alleged that another student reported to a teacher that A.V. was taking steroids, and the teacher reported that information to Defendant Glen Asch. (Compl., ¶¶ 7-8.) Asch called A.V. to his office and questioned him; A.V. admitted to taking Advil, but denied the use of steroids. (Compl., ¶ 9.)

A.V.'s parents were summoned to the school, and Asch informed them that A.V. would not be permitted to return to school until he took a drug test.[1] (Compl., ¶ 10.) Plaintiff's parents had him seen by a physician who performed an evaluation and urine screen, and confirmed that A.V. had not taken steroids. (Compl., ¶11.) A.V. was then permitted to return to school. (Compl., ¶ 13.)

A few days later, Plaintiff's father called or met with Asch and raised the issues that A.V. should not have been required to take "an actual drug test" and he should not even have been sent for an evaluation because no teacher or administrator had any reasonable cause to believe A.V. had taken a drug. (Compl., ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges that Asch responded by informing the parents that "if they did not pursue these issues any further, ... the school would not discipline A.V. for taking the Advil." (Compl., ¶ 15.) Instead, the parents retained an attorney who communicated with the school regarding these issues. (Compl., ¶¶ 15-16.) "Within a couple of days of that communication, A.V. was suspended for one day for taking an Advil, allegedly in violation of school policy." (Compl., ¶ 17.)

Among other damages, Plaintiff contends he was excluded from the National Honor Society based on his suspension. (Compl., ¶ 19.) The Complaint asserts claims for (1) illegal search and seizure (and violation of the rights to procedural and substantive due process) in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act; (2) retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act for having an attorney attempt to assert Plaintiff's civil rights; (3) violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:40A-12, N.J.A.C. 6A:16-4, N.J.A.C. 6:29-6.1, "and Defendant's own internal policies and procedures"; (4) negligence; (5) Defendant Pennsgrove/Carneys Point Regional School District's negligent training and supervision of Asch.

Standard on Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that a party may move for judgment on the pleadings. The movant under Rule 12(c) must show clearly that no material issue of fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rosenau v. Uniford Corp. , 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Jablonski v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc. , 863 F.2d 289, 29091 (3d Cir. 1988)). A motion under Rule 12(c) is reviewed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Turbe v. Government of the Virgin Islands , 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). 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 , 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Plaintiff's Constitutional claims are governed by Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a civil remedy against any person who, under color of state law, deprives another of rights protected by the United States Constitution. See Collins v. City of Harker Heights , 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). Any analysis of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 should begin with the language of the statute:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As the above language makes clear, Section 1983 is a remedial statute designed to redress deprivations of rights secured by the Constitution and its subordinate federal laws. See Baker v. McCollan , 443 U.S. 137, 145 n.3 (1979). By its own words, therefore, Section 1983 "does not... create substantive ...


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