Stanford et al v. Northmont City Schools et al
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS BOARD OF EDUCATION AND CHAD KALTENBACH'S MOTIONS TO DISMISS PLAINTIFFS SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT AND/OR STRIKE THE EXHIBITS ATTACHED THERETO (DOC. NOS. 25 , 27 ). Signed by Judge Michael J. Newman on 7/14/21. (pb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
WESTERN DIVISION AT DAYTON
SHARON STANFORD, et al.,
Case No. 3:19-cv-399
NORTHMONT CITY SCHOOL
DISTRICT, et al.,
District Judge Michael J. Newman
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS BOARD OF EDUCATION AND CHAD
KALTENBACH’S MOTIONS TO DISMISS PLAINTIFFS’ SECOND AMENDED
COMPLAINT AND/OR STRIKE THE EXHIBITS ATTACHED THERETO
(DOC. NOS. 25, 27)
Plaintiffs Sharon and Dwain Stanford are the parents of J.S., a former student at Northmont
City Schools. Doc. No. 23 at PageID 608. Plaintiff Katina Cottrell is the mother of J.E., a fellow
student at Northmont. Id. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Northmont City School District Board
of Education and Vice Principal Chad Kaltenbach have applied certain school policies to discipline
students, including J.S. and J.E., in a racially discriminatory manner. 1 Id. at 606-08, 613-27. By
doing so, according to Plaintiffs, Defendants violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to
the United States Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Id. Plaintiffs also
assert violations of state law and seek certification of a class. Id. at 627-34.
Defendants presently seek dismissal of Plaintiffs’ second amended complaint under Fed.
R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Doc. Nos. 25, 27. Defendants also move to strike the exhibits attached to,
This reference to “Defendants” does not include Defendant City of Clayton, who has not sought dismissal
and certain allegations in, that pleading. Id. Plaintiffs oppose Defendants’ motions. Doc. Nos.
26, 28. Each of these documents have been carefully and thoroughly reviewed and the two motions
are now ripe for decision.
The standards applicable to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss are well established as set
forth in Ritz Safety, LLC v. Strategyn Mgmt. Grp., LLC, No. 3:20-CV-413, 2021 WL 1721050, at
*2 (S.D. Ohio Apr. 30, 2021) (citing, in part, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)) and are fully incorporated herein. It suffices to note
that in order “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Accepting Plaintiffs’ factual allegations in their second amended complaint as true -- a
requirement at this early stage of the case, id. – their second amended complaint is sufficiently
specific to raise non-conclusory and plausible constitutional claims. For example, Plaintiffs
contend with sufficient particularity that Defendants violated J.S.’s and J.E.’s rights under the
Equal Protection Clause, by suspending them from school in a racially discriminatory manner.
“School officials violate the Equal Protection Clause when they punish a student more severely
for his [or her] conduct than other students because of the student’s race.” Heyne v. Metro.
Nashville Pub. Sch., 655 F.3d 556, 570-71 (6th Cir. 2011) (brackets added). “The Equal Protection
Clause requires public institutions to ‘treat similarly situated individuals in a similar manner.’”
Buchanan v. City of Bolivar, 99 F.3d 1352, 1360 (6th Cir. 1996) (quoting Gutzwiller v. Fenik, 860
F.2d 1317, 1328 (6th Cir. 1988)).
Defendants advance many arguments concerning why Plaintiffs’ claims should be
dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6). See, e.g., Doc. No. 25 at PageID 978-1000. Among multiple other
arguments, they suggest, in a cursory manner, that qualified immunity protects Defendant
Kaltenbach from any federal claims brought against him in his individual capacity. Id. at PageID
999-1000. Accepting as true all factual allegations in Plaintiffs’ second amended complaint and
construing that pleading in Plaintiffs’ favor, see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) -- and
also “drawing on ... judicial experience and common sense,” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 -- Plaintiffs’
pleading satisfies Rule 8(a)’s requirement of fair notice to Defendants of the factual basis for their
plausible equal protection claims. See Erickson, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (explaining that a
plaintiff’s short, plain statement need only “‘give the defendant fair notice of what … the claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests’” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555)). Additionally, given
the fact-intensive nature of the parties’ divergent views of the claims pled in Plaintiffs’ second
amended complaint, and in light of the plausible equal protection claims raised in that pleading,
the best approach to resolving the instant case in a just, efficient, and cost-effective manner, see
Fed. R. Civ. P. 1, is for the parties to conduct discovery; for the Court to review Plaintiffs’ claims
on summary judgment and in light of the evidence then produced; and, if appropriate under Rule
56, for the case to proceed to trial on one or more of Plaintiffs’ claims. Cf. Humphreys v. Bank of
Am., 557 F.App’x 416, 422 (6th Cir. 2014); Grose v. Caruso, 284 F.App’x 279, 284 (6th Cir. 2008)
(Gibbons, J., concurring); Nuchols v. Berrong, 141 F.App’x 451, 453 (6th Cir. 2005); LRL Prop.
v. Portage Metro Housing Auth., 55 F.3d 1097, 1113 (6th Cir. 1995) (Jones, J., dissenting). This
is true even where, as here, Defendants raise the possibility of a qualified immunity defense. Cf.
Wesley v. Campbell, 779 F.3d 421, 433-34 (6th Cir. 2015) (“Although ... entitlement to qualified
immunity is a threshold question to be resolved at the earliest possible point, that point is usually
summary judgment and not dismissal under Rule 12.” (cleaned up)).
Turning to Defendants’ motion to strike, they contend that Plaintiffs’ exhibits A, B, D
through K, and M through P (attached to the second amended complaint) must be stricken because
they do not qualify as “written instruments” under Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c). Doc. No. 25, PageID at
1002-03. Defendants contend that exhibits C, L, Q through U must be stricken as lacking any
support in case law that allows Plaintiffs to attach them to the complaint. Id. at 1003-04.
Defendants also characterize Plaintiffs’ exhibits as creating complaints within complaints that
Defendants would -- under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b) -- need to answer if they are not stricken. Id. at
1004. Defendants further argue that Plaintiffs’ impertinent and scandalous assertions must be
stricken. Id. at 1004-06.
Rule 12(f) permits an order “strik[ing] from a pleading an insufficient defense or any
redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” “The function of the motion [to strike]
is to ‘avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by
dispensing with’ them early in the case.” Operating Eng’r Local 324 Health Care Plan v. G&W
Constr. Co., 783 F.3d 1045, 1050 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Kennedy v. City of Cleveland, 797 F.2d
297, 305 (6th Cir. 1986)). Yet, such motions “are viewed with disfavor and are not frequently
granted.” Id. at 1050. “Typically, for a motion to strike to be granted, there must be evidence that
the moving party has been prejudiced.” LaGuardia v. Designer Brands Inc., No. 2:20cv2311,
2020 WL 6280910, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 27, 2020).
Defendants have not shown they have suffered, or will suffer, prejudice if Plaintiffs’
exhibits are not stricken from their second amended complaint. The Court has not considered any
factual assertion in Plaintiffs’ exhibits when ruling on Defendants’ pending motion to dismiss.
Rule 8(b), moreover, does not require Defendants to respond to any factual matter raised in the
exhibits attached to Plaintiffs’ complaint. Instead, Rule 8(b) focuses on a defendant’s responses
“to a pleading ….” Exhibits attached to a pleading are not specifically included in the list of
documents that are “pleadings.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 7(a)(1)-(7). There is only a single exception:
“A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is part of the pleading for all
purposes.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c). Defendants acknowledge that the exhibits attached to Plaintiffs’
second amended complaint are not written instruments. Doc. No. 25, at PageID 1002-03. Nothing
in the language of Rule 10(c) specifically permits or requires striking exhibits attached to pleadings
that are not written instruments.
Defendants’ motion to dismiss the second amended complaint, and/or strike the exhibits
attached thereto, is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
July 14, 2021
s/Michael J. Newman
Hon. Michael J. Newman
United States District Judge
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