United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
CARRIE-ANNE SMITH, in her individual capacity and as next friend of G.S., a minor, Plaintiff,
ROCKWOOD R-VI SCHOOL DISTRICT and ERIC KNOST, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
E. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition and the
issues are fully briefed.
Carrie-Anne Smith is the mother of G.S. (a minor). She brings
this action on his behalf and in her individual capacity
against Rockwood R-VI School District and its superintendent for
the 2014-2015 academic year, Eric Knost. Plaintiff claims
that the defendants violated G.S.'s rights under the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C.
§§ 1400 et seq. (Counts II and IV) and
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C.
§ 794 (Counts I and III). Plaintiff also asserts a claim
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count V), alleging that
the defendants' conduct violated G.S.'s
to the complaint, G.S. “suffers from the effects of
Autism Spectrum Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, Emotional
Disturbance, Major Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,
and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.”
Id. at 2. Consequently, pursuant to the IDEA, G.S.
has an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Id. The
Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) implements
the IEP for G.S.
September 30, 2014, an assistant principal at Marquette High
School (in the Rockwood R-VI School District) suspended G.S.
for ten days. On October 15, 2014, an IEP team held a
manifestation determination hearing during which it concluded
that G.S.'s disability caused or “had a direct and
substantial relationship” to the behavior resulting in
his suspension. Id. at 3; see 20 U.S.C.
§ 1415(k)(1)(E). On October 17, 2014, plaintiff received
a letter from defendant Knost, informing her of the
District's decision to impose an additional 180-day
out-of-school suspension. Allegedly, Knost also stated that
plaintiff could “petition the District to commute
G.S.'s suspension after 90 days ‘with a letter of
recommendation from a professional counselor.'”
Id. Plaintiff states that she procured counseling
services in accordance with the letter, but the District
barred G.S. from returning to school after ninety days.
Id. at 4.
1, 2015, plaintiff filed an IDEA due process complaint
against the SSD through the Missouri Administrative Hearing
Commission (AHC). See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f)(1).
Plaintiff states that “issues of disability
discrimination and any damages or relief from past wrongs
were excluded from the proceedings in the AHC.” [Doc.
#1 at 5]. Defendants dispute this description and contend
that plaintiff's “due process complaint alleged
violations of the IDEA” and “further alleged that
she had uncured costs associated with home therapy and
treatment at Mercy's Edgewood Program.” [Doc. #6 at
2]. The parties stipulate that plaintiff voluntarily
dismissed the complaint against SSD during the proceedings
and prior to any decision by the AHC. [Doc. #10 at 2; Doc. #11 at
claims that defendants failed to provide alternative,
statutorily mandated options following the manifestation
determination hearing. Namely, plaintiff alleges defendants
should have offered the options of (1) returning G.S. to his
pre-suspension placement or (2) consenting to a change in
placement for G.S. under his behavior intervention plan.
See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(k)(1)(F). As a result, the
defendants substantively and procedurally violated the IDEA
and thereby denied G.S. a free appropriate public education.
See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(a). As a proximate result
of the long-term suspension, G.S. allegedly suffered
“emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, and mental
anguish, ” “loss of enjoyment of life, ”
deprivation of “educational benefits, ” and
“humiliation and loss of reputation.”
Id. at 4. Plaintiff also argues that the long-term
suspension resulted in lost wages, costs for transportation
and supervision, home treatment and therapy expenses, as well
as attorneys' fees. Id.
is a dispute among the Circuit Courts of Appeals whether the
failure to exhaust administrative remedies is a
jurisdictional requirement under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.
(‘IDEA') or whether exhaustion is merely a
condition precedent for filing an IDEA lawsuit.”
C.S. ex rel. Scott v. Missouri State Bd. of Educ.,
656 F.Supp.2d 1007, 1010 (E.D. Mo. Sept. 8, 2009). The Eighth
Circuit has not addressed this issue squarely. Id.
at 1011. However, in M.P. ex. rel. K. v. Indep. Sch.
Dist. No. 721, 439 F.3d 865, 867 (8th Cir. 2006), the
Eighth Circuit indicated that it considers IDEA exhaustion as
a matter of subject matter jurisdiction, that is, the
“very power to hear the case.” Id.
(citing M.P. ex. rel. K. v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No.
721, 439 F.3d 865, 867 (8th Cir. 2006); Osborn v.
United States, 918 F.2d 724, 730 (8th Cir. 1990)).
District courts in the Eighth Circuit have followed suit and
evaluated exhaustion arguments as subject matter jurisdiction
questions. Id. (citing K.F. ex. rel. Felix v.
Francis Howell R-III Sch. Dist., No. 4:07-CV-1691-ERW,
2008 WL 723751, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 17, 2008); A.C. ex.
rel. M.C. v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 152, No.
05-3099-DWF/RLE, 2006 WL 3227768, at *2 (D. Minn. Nov. 7,
2006)). Accordingly, the Court will address defendants'
exhaustion arguments under Rule 12(b)(1).
Rule 12(b)(1), the movant must successfully challenge the
complaint “on its face or on the factual truthfulness
of its averments.” Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d
590, 593 (8th Cir. 1993) (citing Osborn, 918 F.2d at
729 n.6). The district court must therefore distinguish
between facial and factual attacks. See B.P. Chem. Ltd.
v. Jiangsu Sopo Corp., 285 F.3d 677, 680 (8th Cir.
conducting an inquiry based on a facial challenge, a district
court will evaluate “whether the asserted jurisdiction
basis is patently meritless by looking to the face of the
complaint . . . and drawing all reasonable inferences in
favor of the plaintiff.” Biscanin v. Merrill Lynch
& Co., 407 F.3d 905, 907 (8th Cir. 2005) (internal
citations omitted). The non-moving party will benefit from
all the protections of 12(b)(6). Osborn v. United
States, 918 F.2d 724, 729 n.6 (8th Cir. 1990). Still, the
motion will succeed “if the plaintiff fails to allege
an element necessary for subject matter jurisdiction.”
Titus, 4 F.3d at 593.
factual attack on jurisdiction involves an evaluation that
extends outside the pleadings. Osborn, 918 F.2d at
730. To be sure, the defendant can submit evidence -
including affidavits and depositions - and should request an
evidentiary hearing. Titus, 4 F.3d at 593. A factual
challenge places the burden of proving jurisdiction upon the
non-moving party. Osborn, 918 F.2d at 730 (citing
Mortenson v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n,
549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)). In this case, the
defendants make a facial attack on subject matter
jurisdiction: they assert that even if the complaint's
allegations are presumed true, jurisdiction does not lie.
See, D.L. v. Waukee Cmty. Sch. Dist., 578 F.Supp.2d
1178, 1182 (8th Cir. 2008).
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test
the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). The factual allegations of a complaint are assumed
true and construed in favor of the plaintiff, “even if
it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is
improbable.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema
N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 n.1 (2002)); Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989) (“Rule 12(b)(6)
does not countenance . . . dismissals based on a judge's
disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations.”);
Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974) (stating
that a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears
“that a recovery is very remote and unlikely”).
The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately
prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to present
evidence in support of his claim. Scheuer, 416 U.S.
at 236. A viable complaint must include “enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see
Id. at 563 (stating that the “no set of
facts” language in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S.
41, 45-46 (1957), “has earned its retirement”);
see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-84
(2009) (holding that the pleading standard set forth in
Twombly applies to all civil actions).
“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555.
if the parties present, and the court considers, matters
outside of the pleadings, the motion must be treated as a
motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). However, the
court may consider materials that are necessarily embraced by
the complaint, as well as any exhibits attached to the
complaint, without converting the motion into one for summary
judgment. Mattes v. ABC Plastics, Inc., 323 F.3d
695, 697 n.4 (8th Cir. 2003). In addition, the court may
properly consider public records, including court records, on
a motion to dismiss. Levy v. Ohl, 477 F.3d 988, 991
(8th Cir. 2007).
refer to a voluntary dismissal and release executed by the
plaintiff in connection with the administrative proceedings.
These matters are necessarily embraced by the complaint,
which references the administrative proceedings. See
Ashanti v. City of Golden Valley, 666 F.3d 1148, 1151
(8th Cir. 2012). Accordingly, the defendants' motion for
dismissal based on the administrative settlement is properly
analyzed under Rule 12(b)(6). See Duckson v. Cont'l
Cas. Co., No. 14-1465-MJD/JJK, 2015 WL 75262, at *6 (D.
Minn. Jan. 6, 2015) (finding that a release and settlement
agreement between the parties “is necessarily embraced
by the complaint.”); R.P. ex. Rel. K.P. v.
Springdale Sch. Dist., No. 06-5014, 2007 WL 552117, at
*2 (W.D. Ark. Feb. 21, 2007).
IDEA enshrines two aims: (1) “‘ensur[ing] that
all children with disabilities have available to them a free
appropriate public education, '” and (2)
“‘ensur[ing] that the rights of children with
disabilities and parents of such children are
protected.'” Winkelman v. Parma City ...