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Board of Education of the Vandalia Community Unit School District No. 203 v. K.S.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 23, 2016

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE VANDALIA COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 203, Plaintiff
v.
K.S., LISA ARENAS, PHILIP MILSK, Independent Hearing Officer, and ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER.

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         This case comes before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Defendant K.S. and Defendant Lisa Arenas (“Defendants”) (Docs. 15, 16). Plaintiff Board of Education of the Vandalia Community Unit School District No. 203 (the “District”) brings suit pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § § 1400-1482 (“IDEA”), to appeal an administrative ruling rendered by Independent Hearing Officer Philip C. Milsk (“IHO Milsk”). Specifically, the District filed suit under § 1415(i)(2) of the IDEA, which grants the right to bring a federal civil action to certain parties claiming to have been aggrieved by the findings and decision made by an independent hearing officer. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Docs. 15, 16).

         Factual & Procedural Background

         K.S. is a student with an emotional disturbance disability who received special education and related services from the District under the IDEA (Doc. 1, p. 2, 6). In October 2014, the fall semester of K.S.'s senior year of high school at Vandalia Community High School (“VCHS”), K.S. came to school under the influence of marijuana after smoking in his basement with friends before school (Id. at 5).

         On October 10, 2014, K.S.'s parent, teachers and other school personnel participated in a manifestation determination review meeting, where all parties agreed that his drug use was not a manifestation of his disabilities and that his behavior was not because of a failure to implement his individualized education program (“IEP”) (Id. at 1, 5). In accordance with school policy, the School Board of Vandalia CUSD No. 203 voted to expel K.S. from VCHS, but arranged for him to receive services at a private day school, Cornerstone Academy (Id. at 6). K.S.'s mother, Lisa Arenas, requested a special education due process hearing to contest the expulsion (Id. at 2).

         The due process hearing was held over four days in April and May 2015 (Id. at 2). On May 14, 2015, IHO Milsk issued his Final Decision and Order finding in favor of the student on many of the charges and finding that the District failed to follow certain IDEA procedures and denied a free, appropriate public education (“FAPE”) to K.S. (Id. at 10). Both the School Board of Vandalia CUSD No. 203 and K.S.'s parent subsequently requested a clarification of IHO Milsk's Final Decision and Order (Id.). IHO Milsk then issued a Clarification of the Final Decision and Order (Id.).

         On September 22, 2015, the District filed its complaint appealing the decision pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)-(3) and asserting that the District has complied with its obligations under the IDEA (Id. at 11). The Court conducted a preliminary review of the complaint and determined that it has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)-(3).

         On February 12, 2016, Defendants moved to dismiss the District's complaint based on the statute of limitations (Doc. 15, 16). On March 17, 2016, the District filed a response brief (Doc. 23). On March 31, 2016, Defendants filed a reply brief (Doc. 24). The reply brief properly set forth exceptional circumstances that justify the filing of a reply brief in accordance with Local Rule 7.1(c). Accordingly, Defendants' reply brief will be considered by the Court.

         Legal Standard

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint. Appert v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Inc., 673 F.3d 609, 622 (7th Cir. 2012). “[A] complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ” but must contain “enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). Allegations in a complaint must “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         A defendant may raise the statute of limitations in a motion to dismiss “if the allegations of the complaint itself set forth everything necessary to satisfy the affirmative defense.” Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 579 (7th Cir. 2009). In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is limited to the allegations contained in the pleadings themselves. Documents attached to the pleadings as exhibits are considered part of the pleadings for all purposes. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c). Additionally, documents that are referred to in the complaint and are central to the claim may be considered on a motion to dismiss. See Albany Bank & Trust Co. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 310 F.3d 969, 971 (7th Cir. 2002).

         Analysis

         Defendants argue that this action is untimely because it was not filed within the 120-day statute of limitations pursuant to 105 ILCS 5/14-8.02a(i). The District responds that the complaint was filed within the 120-day statute of limitations because the 120-day timeframe did not begin to run until IHO Milsk issued a clarification on May 25, 2015.

         Under the IDEA, a party aggrieved by the findings and decision of a hearing officer may file a civil action within ninety days of the decision or within the time limitation established by the state. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(B). The parties agree that the claims at issue in this appeal must be brought within 120 days of the hearing officer's final decision, a ...


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