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Z.B. v. Irving Independent School District

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

June 28, 2019

Z.B. b/n/f IQBAL BHOMBAL and MARIE BHOMBAL, Plaintiffs,
v.
IRVING INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

          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 Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint. Doc. 49. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS IISD's Motion (Doc. 49) and DISMISSES with prejudice all of Plaintiffs' claims against IISD.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         A. Factual Background

         This case involves a discrimination suit brought by parents on behalf of their Muslim-Indian-American son and the school district in which he used to attend. Plaintiffs Iqbal and Marie Bhombal now bring their Third Amended Complaint on behalf of their minor child, Z.B. (collectively the “Bhombals”), against IISD under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI for race-based discrimination and retaliation. Doc. 48, Third Am. Compl. (TAC), ¶ 1; see also Doc. 60, Pls.' Resp., 1.

         Z.B. and his family are Muslim. Doc. 48, TAC, ¶ 12. Z.B.'s father was born in India; his mother is Caucasian and was born in the United States. Id. In essence, the Bhombals' claims are based on alleged bullying, harassment, and retaliation that Z.B. and his father experienced at school because they are Muslim and Indian. Id. ¶ 13. More specifically, the Bhombals allege that from 2012-2016 (Kindergarten to Second Grade) school officials questioned the Bhombals on Z.B.'s religious dietary restrictions, repeatedly called Z.B.'s father to the school for small infractions, prohibited Z.B. from using the restroom on one occasion, made discriminatory remarks relating to the 9/11 terrorism attacks, intimated that Z.B.'s father sexually and/or physically assaulted Z.B., and reported Z.B.'s father to Child Protective Services. See Id. ¶¶ 31-50. The Bhombals allege that “Z.B. had a comparatively smooth [third-grade] year.” Id. ¶ 51.

         Then in March 2017, during Z.B.'s fourth-grade year, several students reported to school officials that Z.B. had a bomb in his lunch box and called him “Tally, ” shorthand for the Taliban.[2]Id. ¶¶ 53-54. School officials scheduled a meeting to discuss the incident with Z.B. and his father resulting in Z.B. receiving a one-day suspension. Id. ¶¶ 54-56. At the meeting, Z.B.'s father allegedly told school officials that Z.B. was being harassed due to his religion, race, and ethnic background. Id. ¶ 55. After this initial meeting, Z.B.'s father told schools officials that they should refrain from questioning Z.B. unless one of his parents were present. Id. ¶ 56. However, the Bhombals allege that school officials continued to question Z.B. about the incident without his parents present. Id. ¶ 57. Z.B.'s father then had another meeting with school officials where he became “very upset” and “vehemently complain[ed]” about his son being questioned without him or his wife present. Id. ¶ 58. Later that afternoon, school security arrived at the Bhombals' home and issued the father a trespass warning that prevented him from going to the school. Id. ¶¶ 58-60. In May 2017, Z.B. was involved in two physical altercations with other students. Id. ¶¶ 63-66. And finally, during Z.B.'s fifth-grade year, his parents removed Z.B. from IISD schools. Id. ¶ 69.

         B. Procedural Background

         After Bhombal originally filed suit against IISD and former-defendant and principal Lindsay Sanders in September 2017, both Defendants filed separate Motions to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Docs. 10, 11. The Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting both motions in full, dismissing some claims with prejudice, but granting the Bhombals a month to file an amended complaint repleading their (1) Section 1983 claim for violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and (2) a Title VI claim on Z.B.'s behalf against IISD for race-based discrimination. Doc. 22, Mem. Op. & Order, 18. The Court then granted the Bhombals several extensions of time, totaling roughly six months, in which to retain new counsel and file their now-operative Third Amended Complaint. This Complaint contains the two claims; however, Plaintiffs no longer bring suit against Sanders. See Doc. 48, TAC.

         IISD then filed its current Motion to Dismiss arguing that the Bhombals' Third Amended Complaint (1) fails to cure the pleading deficiencies the Court noted in its previous Order, (2) is replete with conclusory allegations based on beliefs and intimations as opposed to well-pleaded facts of intentional discrimination or retaliation, and (3) otherwise fails to state a Section 1983 claim because the Bhombals fail to allege that a policy or custom of IISD's Board of Trustees caused the alleged depravation of Z.B.'s constitutional rights. Doc. 49, IISD's Mot. to Dismiss, 1. The Bhombals filed their Response (Doc. 60) and IISD its Reply (Doc. 63). Thus, IISD's Motion is ripe for review and the Court now turns to determining the sufficiency of the Bhombals' claims.

         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). “The court's review [under 12(b)(6)] is limited to the complaint, any documents attached to the complaint, and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are central to the claim and referenced by the complaint.” Ironshore Europe DAC v. Schiff Hardin, L.L.P., 912 F.3d 759, 763 (5th Cir. 2019) (quoting Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted)).

         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 (cleaned up).

         III. ANALYSIS

         IISD moves to dismiss all of the Bhombals' claims under Rule 12(b)(6). Liberally construing the Bhombals' Third Amended Complaint, the Bhombals appear to bring two categories of claims: one under Title VI arguing that IISD engaged in race/national-origin-based discrimination and retaliation in addition to turning a blind eye to student-on-student harassment; and another under Section 1983 arguing that IISD violated the Fourteenth Amendment. In analyzing the sufficiency of each of the Bhombals' remaining claims, the Court will discuss the pleading deficiencies and applicable law the Court noted in its previous Memorandum Opinion and ...


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