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Parrish v. Bentonville School District

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

April 28, 2016

RON and LAUREN PARRISH, as Parents of L; VICTOR and LAURA CRAIG, as Parents of A; MICHAEL and CHASTIDY LAWS, as Parents of G; and RACHELLE SIVERLY, as Parent of S PLAINTIFFS
BENTONVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT; MICHAEL POORE, District Superintendent; TANYA SHARP, District Executive Director Student Services; REBECCA POWERS, Bentonville School Board; TRAVIS RIGGS, Bentonville School Board; RUDY UPSHAW, Bentonville School Board; WENDI CHEATHAM, Bentonville School Board; WILLIE COWGUR, Bentonville School Board; GRANT LIGHTLE, Bentonville School Board; MAUREEN BRADSHAW, District SPED Coordinator; ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; and JOHNNY KEY, Commissioner DEFENDANTS



Currently before the Court are the following motions, which are ripe for consideration:

• A motion to file an amended complaint/for reconsideration filed by Plaintiffs (Doc. 45);
• A motion to dismiss by Defendants Bentonville School District (“BSD”), Maureen Bradshaw, Willie Cowgur, Grant Lightle, Michael Poore, Rebecca Powers, Travis Riggs, and Tanya Sharp (collectively “the District Defendants”) (Doc. 50);
• A motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Arkansas Department of Education (“ADE”) and Johnny Key (together “the State Defendants”) (Doc. 53);
• Plaintiffs’ motion to modify the final scheduling order (Doc. 56);
• The District Defendants’ motions to compel (Docs. 64 and 68);
• BSD’s motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. 70);
• The State Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (Doc. 72);
• BSD’s motion for leave to file exhibits under seal (Doc. 76);
• The District Defendants’ motion to sever (Doc. 77); and
• Plaintiffs’ motions to strike (Docs. 79 and 85).

The Court will take up each motion in turn.

I. Plaintiffs’ motion to amend complaint (Doc. 45)

On December 21, 2015, the Court entered an order (Doc. 40) directing Plaintiffs to file an amended complaint. In part, the order found that “[a]ny claims brought pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) on behalf of the Laws or Ms. Siverly” were “subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim.” Id. at pp. 2-3. The Laws’ and Ms. Siverly’s IDEA claims were dismissed, as the Court found that “their IDEA claims [had been] dismissed without prejudice at the administrative level. Their IDEA claims, therefore, have not be administratively exhausted as required and are subject to dismissal without prejudice.” Id. at p. 4. The order stated that Defendants’ motions to dismiss would be granted insofar as those IDEA claims, among others, would be dismissed. The dismissal was granted, however, subject to the Court’s granting Plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint. Plaintiffs were specifically directed that “any amended complaint seeking to raise claims dismissed by this order must cure the noted deficiencies or be subject to dismissal without further leave to amend.” Id. at p. 5. As to the Laws and Ms. Siverly in particular, Plaintiffs were directed to “make clear what claims are brought and/or relief sought given that those families have not exhausted their administrative remedies and have now moved out of state.” Id. at pp. 6-7.

In light of the Court’s order, Plaintiffs’ motion to amend is unnecessary. The order clearly allows for Plaintiffs to file an amended complaint and even to include in that amended complaint dismissed claims as long as the claims were properly supported and addressed the deficiencies noted in the Court’s order. Plaintiffs’ motion states that the Court’s order “seemed to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Laws’ and Siverly’s claims from this lawsuit.” (Doc. 45, ¶ 2). As indicated by the docket sheet, the Laws and Ms. Siverly were not terminated as parties to this case. Rather, the Court specifically directed Plaintiffs to clarify the claims brought on behalf of the Laws and Ms. Siverly. To the extent Plaintiffs disagreed with the Court’s finding that the Laws and Ms. Siverly had not exhausted their administrative remedies as to their IDEA claims, they were allowed to address that finding by rebutting it in their amended complaint. Plaintiffs have filed an amended complaint as directed, and that amended complaint is the operative pleading in this matter. Plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint is therefore DENIED as moot.

The District Defendants request that the Court award them attorneys’ fees incurred in connection with drafting a response in opposition to the motion to amend. (Doc. 55, p. 3). That request is denied.

II. The District Defendants’ motion to dismiss (Doc. 50)

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must “accept as true all facts pleaded by the non-moving party and grant all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the non-moving party.” Gallagher v. City of Clayton, 699 F.3d 1013, 1016 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting United States v. Any & All Radio Station Transmission Equip., 207 F.3d 458, 462 (8th Cir. 2000)). “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations omitted). However, pleadings that contain mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2009).

Twombly and Iqbal did not abrogate the notice pleading standard of [Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 8(a)(2). Rather, those decisions confirmed that Rule 8(a)(2) is satisfied ‘when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for a misconduct alleged.’” Hamilton v. Palm, 621 F.3d 816, 817 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Where the facts alleged, taken as true, “raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” in support of a plaintiff’s claim, the Court should deny a motion to dismiss. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

The District Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiffs’ state-law claims against the individual District Defendants in their individual capacities; dismissal of substantive due process claims and claims against the individual Defendants in their official capacities; and dismissal of all claims of the Laws and Ms. Siverly for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The ...

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