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Doe v. Round Rock Independent School District

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

August 19, 2019

JANE DOE, RRISD MINOR CHILD, Plaintiff
v.
ROUND ROCK INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT Defendant

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          SUSAN HIGHTOWER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         TO: THE HONORABLE LEE YEAKEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before this Court are Defendant's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss filed on April 5, 2019 (Dkt. No. 11); Plaintiff's Response filed on May 9, 2019 (Dkt. No. 16); and Defendant's Reply filed on May 16, 2019 (Dkt. No. 17). On July 18, 2019, the District Court referred the above motion to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, and Rule 1 of Appendix C of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas (“Local Rules”).

         I. BACKGROUND

         At the time of the events giving rise to this lawsuit, Plaintiff Jane Doe (“Plaintiff”) was four years old and was enrolled as a prekindergarten student at Old Town Elementary School (“School”) in Williamson County, Texas, which is operated by the Round Rock Independent School District (“RRISD”). Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that on September 11, 2017, Plaintiff was returning from recess when she was “forgotten by her teacher and locked out of the school building, completely alone” (“Incident”). Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 18. Plaintiff contends that she was locked outside of the building “for an undetermined amount of time” and was “terrified and in tears.” Id. at ¶¶ 19-20. Plaintiff was eventually let back in the building by the School's librarian. Id. at ¶¶ 20, 33. Plaintiff's alleges that the School failed to “immediately notify the parents” of the Incident. Id. at ¶ 22.

         Plaintiff's lawsuit further complains that although the School's security camera footage shows that Plaintiff was left outside and unattended, “[t]here is no footage of Plaintiff Jane getting up or leaving the Video scene” and likens the missing footage to “a scene out of a conspiracy movie.” Id. at ¶ 38. Plaintiff complains that “RRISD did not place the safety of their young students above all other priorities, ” and alleges:

When reviewing the entirety of the foregoing actions of Defendant RRISD, it is clear that the only driving force behind Defendant RRISD's acts and omissions, leading up to, and after, Plaintiff Jane being Forgotten and Locked out was; to work in concert and conspire to keep the incident quiet, to cover the incident up, and to hope that Plaintiff Jane's parents would merely go away.

Id. at ¶¶ 39-40.

         Plaintiff's father, on behalf of Plaintiff, filed a grievance with RRISD, pursuant to the District's “Policy for Student and Parent Complaints, ” complaining about the Incident. Dkt. No. 11 at p. 2. RRIDS denied the grievance and Plaintiff appealed the decision to RRISD's Board of Trustees. Id. The Board dismissed the appeal as untimely. Id. Plaintiff appealed to the Commissioner of Education, but her appeal was also dismissed. Plaintiff did not appeal the Commissioner's ruling denying her appeal. Id.[1]

         Based on the alleged facts above, Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated plaintiffs, filed this lawsuit against RRISD under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 of the Civil Rights Act. Plaintiff alleges that she “has been deprived of educational opportunities and benefits by Defendant RRISD in violation of IX.” Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 63. Plaintiff further alleges that RRISD's actions in this case violated her rights under the United States Constitution in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at ¶ 72. Plaintiff also seeks to certify a class of “similarly situated students” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure who have also suffered similar actions with regard to lack of school safety. Although Plaintiff does not allege that she was physically harmed, she alleges that she suffered emotional distress and psychological damage as a result of the Incident. Plaintiff seeks $5 million in damages, attorneys' fees and costs.

         On April 5, 2019, RRISD filed the instant Motion to Dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a cause of action under Title IX or 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move to dismiss an action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court “accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the [nonmovant].” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Supreme Court has explained that a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the [nonmovant] pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the [movant] is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires 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 (internal quotations and citations omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. The court's review 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. Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2010).

         III. ...


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