United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MOHAMED ELHASSAN MOHAMED, as next friend for A.M., a Minor, Plaintiff,
IRVING INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, DANIEL CUMMINGS, in his individual capacity, and CITY OF IRVING, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lindsay United States District Judge.
the court are: Defendant City of Irving's Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. 8), filed October 6, 2016; Defendant Irving
Independent School District's Motion to Dismiss and
Motion to Strike (Doc. 10), filed October 11, 2016; Defendant
Daniel Cummings's Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike
(Doc. 11), filed October 11, 2016; and Defendant Irving
Independent School District and Daniel Cummings's Joint
Motion to Stay Discovery Pending Resolution of Motions to
Dismiss (Doc. 22), filed December 1, 2016. Having considered
the motions, responses,  replies, pleadings, record, and
applicable law, the court grants Defendant City of
Irving's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 8); grants Defendant
Irving Independent School District's Motion to Dismiss
and denies as moot its Motion to Strike (Doc. 10); grants
Defendant Daniel Cummings's Motion to Dismiss and denies
as moot his Motion to Strike (Doc. 11); and denies as moot
Defendant Irving Independent School District and Daniel
Cummings's Joint Motion to Stay Discovery Pending
Resolution of Motions to Dismiss (Doc. 22). Plaintiff will be
permitted to file an amended pleading to the extent herein
an action for monetary and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against Defendants Irving Independent School
District (“IISD”); Principal Daniel Cummings
(“Principal Cummings”), sued in his individual
capacity only; and the City of Irving (the
“City”). Also, this is an action against the IISD
for alleged violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of
1964. Plaintiff, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, a Sudanese
immigrant who is now a United States citizen, brings this
lawsuit as next friend for his minor son, A.M., who is an
African-American Muslim and a former student at McArthur High
School (“McArthur”), a public high school in the
lawsuit arises from A.M.'s September 14, 2015 arrest and
three-day suspension from McArthur after he brought to school
a homemade contraption containing wires and batteries that
made a beeping sound. Plaintiff alleges that both the IISD
and Principal Cummings violated A.M.'s Fourteenth
Amendment constitutional right to equal protection of the
laws when Principal Cummings imposed a three-day suspension
from school to discipline A.M. after he brought the device to
school. In addition to his section 1983 claims against the
IISD and Principal Cummings, Plaintiff contends that the IISD
violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000d (“Title VI”), by discriminating
against him on the basis of his race and religion. Plaintiff
has also sued the City, alleging violations of A.M.'s
rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the
Constitution in connection with his interrogation and arrest
by police officers employed by the City.
court now sets forth the facts drawn from Plaintiff's
Original Complaint (“Complaint”), the live
pleading. See Compl. (Doc. 1). The court accepts all
well-pleaded facts in the Complaint as true and views them in
the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Sonnier v. State
Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 509 F.3d 673, 675 (5th Cir.
Allegations Relating to September 14, 2015 Arrest and
Suspension of A.M.
September 14, 2015, A.M., then a 14-year-old freshman,
brought a homemade device to school in an “8
½" by 5" Vaultz pencil box” that
included “a 7 segment display, a pcb board, a 9 volt
battery, some wires (from a media player that wasn't
working), a 120-240 volt transformer, [and] a button
board.” Compl. ¶ 53. A.M. showed the device to one
of his teachers who advised him to keep it in his backpack.
Id. ¶ 54. Later that same day, notwithstanding
the teacher's instruction, A.M. showed the device to
another student during a class. Id. The device made
a beeping sound and caught the attention of his English
teacher, Erin West (“Ms. West”). Id.
A.M. showed Ms. West the device after class, and she asked:
“[I]s that a bomb?” Id. A.M. told her it
was an alarm clock. Id. Ms. West confiscated the
device from A.M., and it was held in the administrative
offices of the school for several hours. Id.
that same day, Principal Cummings and City of Irving police
officer Robin Howman (“Officer Howman”) removed
A.M. from the classroom and escorted him to a room where four
or more City police officers and a school counselor were
waiting. Id. ¶ 56. A.M. was questioned for
“almost an hour and a half by the Irving police,
despite his repeated pleas for his parents.”
Id. ¶¶ 57-58. A.M. repeatedly informed
those present that the device was an alarm clock that he had
made to show his English teacher, not a bomb. A.M. never
stated the device was anything other than a clock, never
threatened anyone with harm, never claimed to have made a
bomb, and never attempted to scare or cause alarm to anyone.
Id. ¶ 57. When he asked for his parents, he was
told that he could not speak with them because he was in the
middle of an interrogation. Id. ¶ 58. During
the interrogation, Principal Cummings told A.M. to write a
statement and “threatened to expel him if he did
not.” Id. ¶ 59. A.M. was
“terrified” and did not want to write anything.
Id. Ultimately, because he was threatened and did
not have anything to hide, he wrote in a statement that he
made an alarm clock that the authorities thought was a bomb.
A.M.'s insistence that the device was an alarm clock, and
not a bomb, the police officers present in the room
forcefully pulled him out of his chair, handcuffed him, and
arrested him. Id. ¶ 60. The police officers
took A.M. to the police station and “booked him as a
criminal, with mug shots and fingerprinting-all still without
his parents.” Id.
A.M.'s father arrived at the police station and, as he
waited to see his son, Officer Howman came to speak with him
and informed him that A.M. had been arrested for taking a
“hoax bomb” to school and that he was still being
processed and fingerprinted. Id. ¶ 63.
A.M.'s father tried to explain to Officer Howman that
A.M. was interested in robotics and created things, but she
was unwilling to listen to his explanations. Id.
Officer Mitchell then arrived on the scene and repeated to
A.M.'s father that A.M. had been arrested for brining a
“hoax bomb” to school, and was similarly
unwilling to listen to A.M.'s father's explanations.
Id. ¶ 64. A.M.'s mother and sister arrived,
and the family was able to see A.M. after processing.
Id. ¶ 65. After seeing their son, they were
instructed to leave the premises or risk having charges
brought against them. Id. ¶ 67.
that evening, A.M.'s father received an e-mail from Vice
Principal Patrick Smith, stating that A.M. would be suspended
from McArthur for three days for violating the Student Code
of Conduct by possessing prohibited items. Id.
¶ 68. A.M. alleges that he was not in possession of any
items prohibited by the Student Code of Conduct. Id.
All charges against A.M. were ultimately dropped, and the
City of Irving police chief admitted that the arrest of A.M.
was a “mistake.” Id.
alleges that the “United States Department of Justice
has opened an investigation into the conduct of the [IISD],
not just with respect to the treatment of [A.M.], but
regarding its pattern of discrimination.” Id.
¶ 69. Plaintiff alleges that the investigation is
Allegations Relating to Racism in the IISD
to the Complaint, the IISD has an “ugly history of race
struggles, ” and the State of Texas and the IISD have a
“history of discrimination against Muslims in Texas
curriculum and schools.” Id. ¶ 9. Data
from the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) show
racial disparities in student discipline in the IISD between
2007 and 2015. Id. ¶¶ 15-22.
2008, the IISD's then-Superintendent entered into a
“Memorandum of Understanding” with the Irving
Education Coalition in which the IISD agreed that it would
have the data showing racial disparities in student
discipline and allegations of discrimination based on race
analyzed. Id. ¶ 23. The IISD hired Dr. Mack
Hines (“Dr. Hines”) “to provide
professional development expertise to teachers on how to
develop desired positive behavioral responses from African
American students in the classroom.” Id.
¶ 24. Dr. Hines conducted a study and created a report
titled “The Skin They're In.” Id. In
the report, Dr. Hines “found that the most frequently
cited area of racial disparity was school discipline
practices” and that African-American students were
“reprimanded differently and received suspensions more
frequently.” Id. ¶ 26. Dr. Hines
concluded that the findings from his study pointed to
“dysconscious racism, ” which is “knowingly
or unknowingly discriminating against people because of
race.” Id. ¶ 28. In September 2011, the
Board of Trustees met with Dr. Hines concerning his study and
report and “reacted to the negative manner in which the
report was received (particularly where it concluded there
was an IISD ‘race war' between Hispanics and
African-Americans) by determining that Dr. Hines went beyond
the scope of what he was hired to do, did not use proper
methodologies and they declined to implement his
recommendations to address the problems.” Id.
2011, Dr. Steven Jones (“Dr. Jones”), a white
male, campaigned for election on the IISD Board of Trustees
against Nancy Jones, an African-American female incumbent,
and during the campaign he made racially charged statements,
including calling the IISD a “black town” and
stating that “a vote for me is a vote against a black
controlled school district.” Id. ¶ 29.
After Dr. Jones was elected, he filed two unsubstantiated
complaints against the IISD's then-Superintendent, Dr.
Dana Bedden (“Dr. Bedden”), an African-American
male, and declared his intent to get Dr. Bedden fired.
Id. In 2013, the IISD investigated Dr. Jones, and he
was ultimately censured by the Board of Trustees for
violating numerous school policies, including forbidding
persons in the IISD from speaking Spanish. Id.
¶¶ 32-34. Following his censure, there were new
school board elections and Dr. Jones was successful in
filling the school board with “like-minded
people.” Id. ¶ 34.
Allegations Relating to City's Implementation of the
Criminal Alien Program
2006, the City instituted the Criminal Alien Program
(“CAP”), a program run by the Department of
Homeland Security that “was meant to give local law
enforcement officials access to Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (“ICE”) information and personnel to
facilitate the identification of serious, dangerous criminals
and deport them.” Id. ¶ 36. A report by
the University of California, Berkeley School of Law
indicated that CAP “leads to rampant profiling and
wrongful arrests.” Id. The report found that
during the City of Irving Police Department's
participation in CAP, there was a 150% increase in petty
crimes arrests. Id. Plaintiff alleges that
“Congress made clear that ICE should have no greater
enforcement priority than to remove deportable aliens with
serious criminal histories from the United States.”
Id. Plaintiff further alleges that “the
results of Irving's aggressive arrest policies didn't
target serious criminals.” Id. Plaintiff
contends that after the City of Irving Police Department
implemented CAP, only 2% of ICE detainees were subject to
felony charges, while 98% were charged with misdemeanor
offenses. Id. Plaintiff alleges that “[a]s a
result, Irving police officers engaged in a pattern of
unconstitutional arrests.” Id.
The Federal Lawsuit
August 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed this federal action as next
friend of his minor son, A.M. Plaintiff seeks an award of
monetary damages against Principal Cummings, alleging that he
subjected A.M. to discriminatory discipline based on race and
religion when he removed A.M. from class, sought a written
statement from A.M., and placed him on a temporary three-day
suspension from school, thereby violating A.M.'s
Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws.
Plaintiff also seeks monetary damages against Defendant IISD
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Principal Cummings
was acting pursuant to an unconstitutional custom or practice
of discriminatory discipline against African-American
students sanctioned by the IISD's Board of Trustees. In
addition, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against the IISD
under Title VI, contending that A.M.'s suspension
constituted unlawful discrimination based on race and
religion by an entity receiving federal funds. As to the
City, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages based on the City of
Irving police officers' alleged violations of A.M.'s
constitutionally protected rights under the Fourth and Fifth
Amendments in connection with his interrogation and arrest.
In addition to alleging that an historical pattern of
discrimination by the City of Irving Police Department led to
the A.M.'s unlawful interrogation and arrest, Plaintiff
contends that the City is liable for Fourth Amendment
violations based on its failure train and supervise its
officers with respect to determining probable cause for
arrest, that the inadequate training caused the alleged
constitutional violations, and that the City's
policymakers were deliberately indifferent to the need for
additional training. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants are
jointly and severally liable and, in addition to actual and
compensatory damages, seeks declaratory and injunctive
relief, exemplary damages, attorney's fees, and costs.
Defendants have filed motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The motions have been fully
briefed and are ripe for adjudication.
Applicable Legal Standard
defeat a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must plead
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Reliable
Consultants, Inc. v. Earle, 517 F.3d 738, 742 (5th Cir.
2008); Guidry v. American Pub. Life Ins. Co., 512
F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007). A claim meets the plausibility
test “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The
plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability
requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(internal citations omitted). While a complaint need not
contain detailed factual allegations, it must set forth
“more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation
omitted). The “[f]actual allegations of [a complaint]
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the
allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in
fact).” Id. (quotation marks, citations, and
footnote omitted). When the allegations of the pleading do
not allow the court to infer more than the mere possibility
of wrongdoing, they fall short of showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept all
well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and view them in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Sonnier,
509 F.3d at 675; Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area
Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004);
Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996).
In ruling on such a motion, the court cannot look beyond the
pleadings. Id.; Spivey v. Robertson, 197
F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999). The pleadings include the
complaint and any documents attached to it. Collins v.
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498-99 (5th
Cir. 2000). Likewise, “‘[d]ocuments that a
defendant attaches to a motion to dismiss are considered part
of the pleadings if they are referred to in the
plaintiff's complaint and are central to [the
plaintiff's] claims.'” Id. (quoting
Venture Assocs. Corp. v. Zenith Data Sys. Corp., 987
F.2d 429, 431 (7th Cir. 1993)). In this regard, a document
that is part of the record but not referred to in a
plaintiff's complaint and not attached to a
motion to dismiss may not be considered by the court in
ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion. Gines v. D.R. Horton,
Inc., 699 F.3d 812, 820 & n.9 (5th Cir. 2012)
(citation omitted). Further, it is well-established and
‘“clearly proper in deciding a 12(b)(6) motion
[that a court may] take judicial notice of matters of public
record.”' Funk v. Stryker Corp.,
631 F.3d 777, 783 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Norris v.
Hearst Trust, 500 F.3d 454, 461 n.9 (5th Cir. 2007)
(citing Cinel v. Connick, 15 F.3d 1338, 1343 n.6
(5th Cir. 1994)).
ultimate question in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is whether the
complaint states a valid claim when it is viewed in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff. Great Plains Trust Co.
v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 313 F.3d 305, 312 (5th
Cir. 2002). While well-pleaded facts of a complaint are to be
accepted as true, legal conclusions are not “entitled
to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679 (citation omitted). Further, a court is not to strain
to find inferences favorable to the plaintiff and is not to
accept conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions, or
legal conclusions. R2 Invs. LDC v. Phillips, 401
F.3d 638, 642 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). The court
does not evaluate the plaintiff's likelihood of success;
instead, it only determines whether the plaintiff has pleaded
a legally cognizable claim. United States ex rel. Riley
v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp., 355 F.3d 370, 376
(5th Cir. 2004). Stated another way, when a court deals with
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, its task is to test the sufficiency
of the allegations contained in the pleadings to determine
whether they are adequate enough to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. Mann v. Adams Realty Co., 556
F.2d 288, 293 (5th Cir. 1977); Doe v. Hillsboro Indep.
Sch. Dist., 81 F.3d 1395, 1401 (5th Cir. 1996),
rev'd on other grounds, 113 F.3d 1412 (5th Cir.
1997) (en banc). Accordingly, denial of a 12(b)(6) motion has
no bearing on whether a plaintiff ultimately establishes the
necessary proof to prevail on a claim that withstands a
12(b)(6) challenge. Adams, 556 F.2d at 293.
Section 1983 Claims
42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a civil remedy in federal
court for violations, under color of state law, of the
rights, privileges and immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws of the United States. Findeisen v. N.E. Indep.
Sch. Dist., 749 F.2d 234, 236-37 (5th Cir.
1984). It is well-established that school
administrators, such as principals, are state actors for
purposes of section 1983. See, e.g., Leffall v. Dallas
Indep. Sch. Dist., 28 F.3d 521 (5th Cir. 1994) (DISD
school principal treated as state actor by court). To state a
claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must (1) allege a
violation of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of
the United States, and (2) demonstrate that the alleged
deprivation was committed by a person or entity acting under
color of state law. See Atteberry v. Nocona Gen.
Hosp., 430 F.3d 245, 252-53 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations
omitted); Doe v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 153 F.3d
211, 215 (5th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted).
Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's section 1983
claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
The IISD argues that Plaintiff fails to allege conduct
actionable against it pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The
City contends that “Plaintiff fail[s] to allege
sufficient facts to state facially plausible claims for
municipal liability under Section 1983, both because
Plaintiff failed to allege facts sufficient to establish
any underlying constitutional violation and because
Plaintiff fail[s] to establish a policy, custom, or
practice of the City which caused any constitutional
violations.” See Def. City of Irving's
Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. 8). The City also argues that dismissal
is warranted because Plaintiff fails to allege facts
sufficient to meet the elements of their causes of action
against the City. Principal Cummings asserts he is entitled
to qualified immunity, as Plaintiff has failed to plead facts
showing that he violated any of A.M.'s clearly
established constitutional rights. The court will address the
IISD's and the City's arguments in support of
dismissal together, as they are both governmental entities
for purposes of the court's section 1983 analysis.
1983 Claims Against the IISD and the City
governmental entity, such as the IISD or the City, can be
sued and subjected to monetary damages and injunctive relief
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 only if its official policy or
custom causes a person to be deprived of a federally
protected right. Board of the Cty. Comm'rs of Bryan
Cty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997); Monell v.
New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658,
694 (1978). “Parties can sue a municipality that has
violated their constitutional rights ‘under color of
any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage.'” Advanced Tech. Bldg. Solutions, L.L.C.
v. City of Jackson, 817 F.3d 163, 165 (5th Cir. 2016)
(quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and citing Monell,
436 U.S. at 690). As governmental entities, the IISD and the
City cannot be liable for civil rights violations
under a theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; see also Barrow v.
Greenville Indep. Sch. Dist., 480 F.3d 377, 380 (5th
Cir. 2007) (“A school district has no vicarious
liability under § 1983.”); Baskin v.
Parker, 602 F.2d 1205, 1208 (5th Cir. 1979) (recognizing
that “state vicarious liability doctrines are
inapplicable in [section] 1983 suits.”).
policy is defined as:
1. A policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision
that is officially adopted and promulgated by the [school
district or city] lawmaking officers or by an official to
whom the lawmakers have delegated policy-making authority; or
2. A persistent, widespread practice of [school district or
city] officials or employees which, although not authorized
by officially adopted and promulgated policy, is so common
and well-settled as to constitute a custom that fairly
represents [school district or city] policy. Actual or
constructive knowledge of such custom must be attributable to
the governing body of the [school district or city] or to an
official to whom that body had delegated policy-making
Eugene v. Alief Indep. Sch. Dist., 65 F.3d 1299,
1304 (5th Cir. 1995); Webster v. City of Houston,
735 F.2d 838, 841 (5th Cir. 1984) (en banc) (per
curiam); Bennett v. City of Slidell, 735 F.2d 861,
862 (5th Cir. 1984) (en banc) (per curiam). To hold
a municipality liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
“requires proof of three elements: a policymaker; an
official policy; and a violation of constitutional rights
whose moving force is the policy or custom.” Doe ex
rel. Magee v. Covington Cty. Sch. Dist., 675 F.3d 849,
866 (5th Cir. 2012) (en banc).
of the required proof needed to prevail ultimately on a given
claim, to survive a motion to dismiss, claims within the live
pleading must contain sufficient factual allegations to
satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), as
interpreted in Iqbal, supra, and
Twombly, supra. When ruling on a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, a court must examine the factual allegations
of the live pleading to determine whether asserted claims
survive the motion. See Groden v. City of Dallas,
826 F.3d 280, 282-83 (5th Cir. 2016). In Groden, the
Fifth Circuit clarified that to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted, “a plaintiff is not required to
single out the specific policymaker in his complaint.”
Id. at 282. To sufficiently state a claim upon which
relief can be granted to survive a motion to dismiss,
[a plaintiff need] only to plead facts-facts which establish
that [a] challenged policy was promulgated or ratified by the
city's policymaker. [The] complaint [does] not need to
supply an answer to the legal question of the
specific identity of the city's policymaker under the
relevant statutory scheme.
Id. at 285 (original emphasis). Groden
involved a claim against the City of Dallas for a
“crackdown policy” of arresting vendors without
probable cause “in retaliation for
annoying-but-protected speech” in Dealey Plaza.
Id. at 286. Because the plaintiff alleged that the
city's official spokesman publically announced the new
policy of cracking down on vendors in Dealey Plaza and gave
media interviews describing the new policy, the Fifth Circuit
found that the plaintiff had sufficiently pleaded
promulgation or ratification by a policymaker even though he
had not specifically identified one. See Id. at 286.
though the operative pleading need not “supply an
answer to the legal question of the specific identity of the
city's policymaker under the relevant statutory scheme,
” which Plaintiff can determine in discovery, he needs
to plead some “facts [that] establish that the
challenged policy was ...