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Bhombal v. Irving Independent School District

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

May 9, 2018

IQBAL BHOMBAL, individually and as next friend of minor Z.B., Plaintiff,
v.
IRVING INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT and LINDSAY SANDERS, in her individual capacity, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JANE J. BOYLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Irving Independent School District's (IISD)motion to dismiss, Doc. 10, and Defendant Lindsay Sanders' (Principal Sanders) motion to dismiss, Doc. 11. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motions.

         I.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Iqbal Bhombal (Bhombal) filed suit individually and on behalf of his minor child, Z.B., for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VI, and for state-law intentional infliction of emotional distress. Doc. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 18, 21, 26, 28. Bhombal's claims stem primarily from an incident at John Haley Elementary School, which Z.B. attended during the 2016-2017 school year. Id. ¶ 7. On March 9, 2017, several students reported that Z.B. had a bomb in his lunch box and called him “Tally, ” shorthand for the Taliban. Id. Nothing came of the incident until March 23, 2017, when Principal Sanders called a meeting with Bhombal and Z.B. to discuss the incident. Id. Principal Sanders issued Z.B. a one-day in-school suspension. Id. On March 27, Z.B. was called again to Principal Sanders' office to discuss the incident. Id. ¶ 8. Bhombal was not told about this second meeting even though he had requested that the school refrain from questioning Z.B. unless one of his parents was present. Id. When Bhombal discovered Z.B. had been questioned again, he removed Z.B. from school. Id. Later that afternoon, the Irving Police arrived at Bhombal's home and issued him a criminal trespass warning that prevents him from setting foot on IISD property. Id. Bhombal appealed Z.B.'s suspension and issuance of the criminal trespass warning but his appeal was denied. Id. In May 2017, Z.B. was involved in an altercation with other fourth-grade boys and was later assigned to a different elementary school for the 2017-2018 school year. Id. ¶ 14.

         After Bhombal filed suit, IISD and Principal Sanders filed separate motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Doc. 10; Doc. 11. Bhombal filed one response addressing both Defendants' motions, Doc. 18, and IISD and Principal Sanders filed a joint reply, Doc. 21. Thus, Defendants' motions are ripe for review.

         II.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a plaintiff's complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “[t]he court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007). But the court will “not look beyond the face of the pleadings to determine whether relief should be granted based on the alleged facts.” Spivey v. Robertson, 197 F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “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.” Id. When well-pleaded facts fail to achieve this plausibility standard, “the complaint has alleged - but it has not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).

         III.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Section 1983 Claims

         Bhombal claims IISD and Principal Sanders violated his and Z.B.'s Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Doc. 1, ¶¶ Compl., 18-19, 21-22. IISD argues that Bhombal inadequately pleaded governmental liability under § 1983, Doc. 10, IISD Mot. to Dismiss, 5, and Principal Sanders claims she is entitled to qualified immunity from Bhombal's §1983 claims, Doc. 11, Sanders Mot. to Dismiss, 5-7.

         “To state a claim under § 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 acting under color of state law.” Leffall v. Dall. Indep. Sch. Dist., 28 F.3d 521, 525 (5th Cir. 1994). Government-entity, or municipal, liability “for section 1983 violations results if a deprivation of constitutional rights was inflicted pursuant to official custom or policy.” Piotrowski v. City of Hou., 237 F.3d 567, 579 (5th Cir. 2001). The primary step in this analysis is whether the government entity violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Becerra v. Asher, 105 F.3d 1042, 1048 (5th Cir. 1997)(“[W]ithout an underlying constitutional violation, there can be no § 1983 liability imposed on the school district.”). A public servant is entitled to qualified immunity unless: (1) “‘a constitutional right would have been violated on the facts alleged'” and (2) “‘the right was clearly established' at the time of the violation.” Kitchen v. Dall. Cty., 759 F.3d 468, 476 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001)). Courts have discretion in deciding which of the two prongs should be addressed first. Id.

         Because a plaintiff must adequately plead a constitutional violation to establish government-entity liability and to overcome a qualified immunity defense, the Court will address first whether Bhombal has adequately pleaded that IISD and Principal Sanders violated his and Z.B.'s Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Because Bhombal's claims against Defendants stem from the same facts, the Court will jointly consider Bhombal's claims against each Defendant.[2]

         1.Fourth Amendment ...


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