F.C. et al v. Tennessee Department of Education et al
ORDER: Plaintiffs' objections are OVERRULED, and the Report and Recommendation 51 is ADOPTED. Franklin Special School District's Motion to Dismiss 14 is GRANTED. Tennessee Department of Education's Motion to Dismiss 27 is GRANTED . The Complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Document Under Seal 47 is GRANTED. Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Manually File Additional Evidence 49 is DENIED AS MOOT. The Clerk shall enter judgment in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58. Signed by District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr on 3/29/17. (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(dt)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
F.C., et al.,
TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF
EDUCATION and FRANKLIN
SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT,
Pending before the Court is a Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge
recommending the Court grant both Defendants’ motions to dismiss. (Doc. No. 51.) Plaintiffs filed
timely objections to the recommendation to grant the Franklin Special School District’s Motion to
Dismiss, but filed no objections to the recommendation to grant the Tennessee Department of
Education’s Motion to Dismiss. (Doc.
No. 53.) The Court has reviewed the Report and
Recommendation, Plaintiffs’ objections, and conducted a de novo review of the record. For the
following reasons, Plaintiffs’ objections are OVERRULED, and the Report and Recommendation
Plaintiffs object that they can appeal the final order of the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), despite the judge’s holding that the “dismissal is specifically based on procedural defects
in the Complaint, and that the merits of the Petitioners’ claims have not been addressed.” (Doc.
No. 1-1 at 5.) The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that neither T.B. v. Clarksville
Montgomery County School System, No. 3:14-cv-1477, nor S.H. v. Rutherford County Schools,
No. 3:15-cv-809, support Plaintiffs’ position. In T.B., the ALJ dismissed the due process complaint
as moot and terminated the administrative proceedings because it believed that the plaintiffs had
received all requested relief. T.B., No. 3:14-cv-1477, ECF No. 24 (Sept. 10, 2014). There were no
further administrative proceedings that the plaintiffs could have advanced. S.H. is of limited
relevance because the Court has not issued an Order on the merits. However, the Court notes that
the ALJ terminated those proceedings after the plaintiffs’ proof during the due process hearing
under the administrative equivalent of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a). S.H., No. 3:15-cv809, ECF No. 1-1 (July 22, 2015). Again, there would be no further administrative proceedings
after the dismissal of that action. Here, the ALJ invited Plaintiffs to amend their complaint to cure
the procedural defects, but Plaintiffs refused to do so, instead filing the Complaint in this Court.
As Plaintiffs did not exhaust their administrative process, the Court must dismiss the Complaint
for failure to exhaust.
Plaintiffs argue that the ALJ should not have dismissed their due process complaint because
the procedural defects are “in contradiction to IDEA.” (Doc. No. 53 at 5.) Plaintiffs did not raise
these arguments in their initial briefs. However, the non-binding cases they cite do not support that
their due process complaint met the pleading standard as described by the ALJ, but instead focus
on completely separate issues. For example, Plaintiffs essentially concede that their due process
complaint included claims outside the two year statute of limitations, but argue that they can bring
their time-barred claims in an administrative due process complaint under G.L. v. Ligonier Valley
School District Authority, 802 F.3d 601 (3d Cir. 2015). (Doc. No. 53 at 5.) G.L. only discusses
when the statute of limitations period starts running, not whether a claimant can bring a timebarred claim in his or her due process complaint. G.L., 802 F.3d at 626. Further, Plaintiffs’ third
argument that they met the “minimal” pleading standard under Schaffer ex re. Schaffer v. Weast,
546 U.S. 49, 54 (2005), contains no analysis for the Court to consider, but rather a bare assertion
that Plaintiffs met the pleading standard. In sum, Plaintiffs’ arguments that their due process claim
met the pleading standard under the IDEA are unsupported by case law and the Court overrules
Accordingly, Franklin Special School District’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 14) is
GRANTED. Tennessee Department of Education’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 27) is
GRANTED. The Complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Plaintiffs’ Motion for
Leave to File Document Under Seal (Doc. No. 47) is GRANTED. Plaintiffs’ Motion for Leave to
Manually File Additional Evidence (Doc. No. 49) is DENIED AS MOOT.
The Clerk shall enter judgment in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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