United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
DOE CHILD, a minor, by his parents and next friends, JOHN AND JANE DOE, Plaintiffs,
STARK COUNTY COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT #100, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL M. MIHM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (D.
19, 21, 23) and Plaintiff's Motion to Strike (D. 26). For
the reasons stated herein, Defendants' Motions are
GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, and Plaintiff's
Motion is DENIED.
Court exercises jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331 and 1343, as Plaintiff alleges violations
of federal statutes and depravations of his civil rights.
Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because a
substantial part of the events giving rise to the claims
occurred in this judicial district. The Court has
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law
claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).
Doe Child is a resident of Toulon, Illinois, and
attended school within the Stark County Community Unit School
District during the 2018-2019 academic year. Plaintiff was
transported to and from school via school bus and has a
developmental delay for which extra care and assistance is
needed. Plaintiff alleges he was abused by his bus aide on
multiple occasions between October 2018 and May 2019, as she
placed a five-gallon bucket over the upper half of his body,
physically restrained him in an inappropriate and harmful
manner, bullied, and verbally harassed him. Plaintiff also
alleges his bus driver witnessed the abuse, failed to protect
him, and later admitted responsibility for the harm he
suffered. Additionally, Plaintiff contends he was suspended
from riding the bus when he used force to resist the
aide's attacks. As a result of the aide's actions,
Plaintiff states he sustained physical injuries and emotional
distress. Upon learning of the abuse, Plaintiff's parents
brought the suit at hand seeking monetary damages for the
injuries their son sustained.
24, 2019, Plaintiff filed his complaint outlining five
claims, via twelve counts, against Stark County Community
Unit School District #100 (“the District”), his
former school bus driver, Alan Curry (“Curry”),
and his former bus aide, Cathy Webster
(“Webster”). (D. 1.) On September 25, 2019,
Defendants filed separate motions to dismiss. (D. 19, 21,
23.) On October 9, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to strike
Curry's motion to dismiss (D. 26); and on October 23,
2019, Plaintiff filed responses to Defendants' motions to
dismiss. (D. 29, 30, 31.) The same day, Curry filed a
response to Plaintiff's motion to strike. (D. 32.) This
motion to dismiss challenges the sufficiency of the
complaint, not its merits. Gibson v. City of Chi.,
910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In reviewing a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court accepts as true all
well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draws all reasonable
inferences from those facts in plaintiff's favor.
AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th
Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint
must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a
claim's basis but must also be facially plausible.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
“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.” Id.
asserts various federal and state law claims against the
District and two of its employees arising from alleged
ongoing abuse and harassment while being transported to
school via school bus. (D. 1 at 5-17.) Specifically,
Plaintiff claims the District is liable for violations of the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §
1400 et seq., (“IDEA”) (Count VII);
Defendants are liable for violations of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12201 to 12213
(“ADA”) (Counts X-XII); and, the District and
Webster are liable for violations of the Fourth Amendment
(Counts VIII-IX). Id. at 11-17. Plaintiff also
asserts state law claims for willful and wanton conduct
(Counts I-III) and “common carrier” claims
(Counts IV-VI) against Defendants. Id. at 5-12.
Defendants move to dismiss the claims under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (D. 19, 21, 23.) Since the
Court's analyis of Plaintiff's federal claims may
influence its decision of whether to retain jurisdiction over
his state law claims, the Court begins its analysis with the
Violations of the IDEA
support of his allegation the District violated the IDEA,
Plaintiff states: (i) he qualifies as a child with a
disability; (ii) he had an Individualized Education Program
(“IEP”); (iii) the IEP mandated he have
“special transportation” to and from school and
an aide on the bus; (iv) the District, by and through its
agents, violated the “spirit” of his IEP; and (v)
the actions of the agents resulted in physical injuries and
emotional distress. (D. 1 at 11-12.) In response, the
District argues Plaintiff failed to exhaust the
administrative procedures under the Act prior to bringing his
claim in federal court. (D. 20 at 2-4.) It also argues, even
if Plaintiff did exhaust the procedures, he is not entitled
to relief under the Act because the District did not deny him
a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”).
Id. at 4. Lastly, the District argues the IDEA does
not provide for monetary damages as a form of relief,
therefore, Plaintiff's claim must be dismissed.
Id. at 4-5. The issue for the Court to decide is
whether the gravamen of Plaintiff's complaint, which
details physical and verbal abuse at the hands of a bus aide,
seeks relief for the denial of a FAPE under the Act. Only if
it does is exhaustion of administrative procedures under the
Act required. The Court finds Plaintiff does not state a
claim for a violation of the IDEA because the gravamen of his
complaint does not seek relief for the denial of a FAPE.
Therefore, his IDEA claim against the District fails.
The Gravamen of Plaintiff's Complaint
Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 137 S.Ct. 743
(2017), the Supreme Court issued guidance, in the form of
hypothetical questions, for lower courts to determine whether
the crux of a plaintiff's complaint seeks relief for the
denial of a FAPE. Id. at 756. The first hypothetical
for the court to answer is whether the plaintiff could have
brought the same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at
a public facility. Id. The second hypothetical
instructs the court to inquire whether an adult at the school
(e.g., an employee or visitor) could have pressed the same
grievance. Id. If the answer is “yes” to
both questions, a complaint does not allege the denial of a
FAPE, and a plaintiff's federal claims can move forward
without the plaintiff exhausting the administrative
procedures under the Act. Id. If the answer is
“no” to both questions, the Court advises the
complaint most likely concerns the denial of a FAPE and the
plaintiff must first exhaust the administrative procedures
under the Act before bringing his claim(s) in federal court.
Id. The Court also recommended that lower courts
consider the history of the proceedings and whether a
plaintiff has previously invoked the IDEA's formal
procedures to handle the dispute in analyzing the crux of his
complaint. Id. at 757.
Fry hypotheticals are instructive to the case at
hand because if Plaintiff's complaint fails to allege the
denial of a FAPE, he has failed to state a claim for which
relief can be granted under the Act. See J.S. v. Houston
Cty. Bd. of Educ., 877 F.3d 979 (11th Cir. 2017) (using
elements outlined in Fry to determine whether the
plaintiff stated a claim under the IDEA). Such is the case
here. Plaintiff could have brought an identical claim if he
was abused by an aide in a public library. He could also
press the same grievance if he were an adult with a
developmental delay who was treated in a similar fashion
while visiting the school. Moreover, the Court provided an
example in Fry that supports the conclusion that
Plaintiff's complaint seeks something other than the
denial of a FAPE. It provides:
[S]uppose that a teacher, acting out of animus or
frustration, strikes a student with a disability, who then
sues the school under a statute other than the IDEA. Here
too, the suit could be said to relate, in both genesis and
effect, to the child's education. But the school
districts opine, we think correctly, that the substance of
the plaintiff's claim is unlikely to involve the adequacy
of special education-and thus is unlikely to require
exhaustion. A telling indicator of that conclusion is that a
child could file the same kind of suit against an official at
another public facility for inflicting such physical abuse-as
could an adult subject to similar treatment by a school
official. To be sure, the particular circumstances of such a
suit (school or theater? student or employee?) might be
pertinent in assessing the reasonableness of the challenged
conduct. But even if that is so, the plausibility of bringing
other variants of the suit indicates that the gravamen of the
plaintiff's complaint does not concern the
appropriateness of an educational program.
Id. at 756 n.9 (internal citations omitted).
Plaintiff seeks relief for something other than the denial of
a FAPE, his claim for relief under the Act itself fails.
See Shaw v. Dolton Riverdale Sch. Dist. 148, No. 19
C 1241, 2019 WL 5695825 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 4, 2019) (dismissing
plaintiffs' IDEA claim where plaintiffs provided only
conclusory statements about how their child was denied a
FAPE). Accordingly, the District's Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's IDEA claim is GRANTED, and the claim is
Exhaustion of Administrative Procedures
District's argument on exhaustion of the IDEA's
administrative procedures applies to the federal claims
Plaintiff brings against it. In Fry, the Court
resolved the issue of whether a plaintiff needed to exhaust
the administrative procedures under the Act before bringing
suit under a statute other than the IDEA. 137 S.Ct. at 748.
The Court held a plaintiff is not required to exhaust the
administrative procedures under the Act if the gravamen of
his complaint does not seek relief for the denial of a FAPE.
Id. at 752. Because the gravamen of Plaintiff's
complaint does not seek relief for the denial of a FAPE,
Plaintiff is not required to exhaust the administrative
procedures under the Act before bringing his federal claims.
He also need not demonstrate that his IDEA claim falls under
one of the exceptions to the exhaustion requirement, which
Plaintiff attempts to do in his response to the
District's motion to dismiss. (D. 31 at 2-3.)
Accordingly, Plaintiff was not required to exhaust the
administrative procedures under the IDEA before bringing his
claims under § 1983 or Title II of the ADA.
Violations of the ADA
support his contention that his rights under the ADA were
violated, Plaintiff states: (i) he qualifies as a child with
a disability; (ii) Defendants had a duty not to discriminate
against him; (iii) Defendants discriminated against him; and
(iv) as a result, he suffered injuries. (D. 1 at 14-17.) In
response, Curry and Webster argue they cannot be held liable
under Title II of the ADA, as the statute makes clear that
violations of the Act may only be brought against public
entities and not individuals. (D. 22 at 10; D. 24 at 11.)
Additionally, Curry argues Plaintiff has not alleged
sufficient facts to state a plausible cause of action. (D. 24
at 12-13.) The issue before the Court is whether Plaintiff
has pleaded sufficient factual content for a claim under
Title II of the ADA against Defendants. The Court finds
Plaintiff has sufficiently stated a valid ADA claim only
against the District. Therefore, his claims against Curry and
Webster are DISMISSED.
seeks to “provide a clear and comprehensive national
mandate for the elimination of discrimination against
individuals with disabilities[.]” § 12101(b)(1)
(2009). “Title II of the ADA requires that ‘no
qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of
such disability, be excluded from participation in or be
denied the benefits of the services . . . of a public entity,
or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.'
” Foley v. City of Lafayette, Ind., 359 F.3d
925, 928 (7th Cir. 2004) (internal citation omitted).
state a claim for a violation of Title II of the ADA, a
plaintiff must allege: “(1) that he is a qualified
individual with a disability; (2) that he was either excluded
from participation in or denied the benefits of some public
entity's services, programs, or activities or was
otherwise discriminated against; and (3) that such exclusion,
denial of benefit or discrimination was by reason of his
disability.” Novak v. Bd. of Trs. of S. Ill.
Univ., No. 12-cv-7, 2012 WL 5077649, at *1 (S.D. Ill.
Oct. 18, 2012) (quoting Toledo v. Sanchez, 454 F.3d
24, 31 (1st Cir. 2006)). “Under Title II of the ADA,
which forbids discrimination by ‘any public
entity', 42 U.S.C. § 12131, the proper defendant is
that ‘entity.' ” Walker v. Snyder,
213 F.3d 344, 346 (7th Cir. 2000), abrogated on other
grounds by Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531
U.S. 356 (2001). Title II does not provide for individual
capacity suits against state officials. Garcia v.
S.U.N.Y. Health Scis. Ctr., 280 F.3d 98, 107 (2d Cir.
2001) (citing Walker, 213 F.3d at 346)).
Additionally, “[o]fficial-capacity suits . . .
generally represent only another way of pleading an action
against an entity on which an officer is an agent.”
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985).
“As long as the government entity receives notice and
an opportunity to respond, ...