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Bradyn S. v. Waxahachie Independent School District

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

September 10, 2019

BRADYN S., B/N/F JUSTIN & MEGAN S., Plaintiff,
v.
WAXAHACHIE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT; CARRIE KAZDA, Individually and in her Official Capacity; DERRICK YOUNG, Individually and in is Official Capacity; and MIKE LEWIS, Individually and his Official Capacity, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sam A. Lindsay United States District Judge

         Before the court are Defendant Carrie Kazda's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Original Complaint (Doc. 17), filed November 19, 2018; and Defendant Officers' Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6) and Brief in Support (Doc. 19), filed November 21, 2018. After carefully considering the motions, briefs, responses, replies, pleadings, and applicable law, the court grants Defendant Carrie Kazda's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Original Complaint (Doc. 17); grants Defendant Officers' Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6) and Brief in Support (Doc. 19); and grants Plaintiff's request to replead his section 1983[1] claims against these Defendants.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On October 15, 2018, Plaintiff Bradyn S. (“Plaintiff” or “Bradyn S.”), a minor, through his parents Justin & Megan S., filed the Original Complaint (“Complaint”), asserting a section 1983 claim against Defendants Carrie Kazda (“Kazda”), Derrick Young (“Officer Young”), and Mike Lewis (“Officer Lewis), in their individual and official capacities.[2] The allegations giving rise to the claim relate to an event that took place on March 3, 2017, at Felty Elementary School in the Waxahachie Independent School District (“WISD”).

         Bradyn S. is a student at Felty Elementary who has autism and a speech impairment, and qualifies for special education services. Pl.'s Original Compl. ¶ 4.1. Bradyn S. has a history of engaging in serious behavioral incidents at school. During the 2014-2015 school year, his first year at Felty Elementary, Bradyn S. was involved in “a number of documented incidents of violent behavioral outbursts.” Id. Between August 22, 2016 and October 11, 2016, Bradyn S. “engaged in at least [nine] serious documented behavioral incidents[, ] including attempting to stab another student with a pencil, slapping another student with a ruler, hitting a staff member, hitting students, and spitting in another student[']s face.” Id. ¶ 4.2. On September 28, 2016, Bradyn S. caused an incident that required the staff to restrain him, and “a use of restraint form was placed in his file.” Id. During another one of these nine behavioral incidents, a classroom had to be evacuated. Id. In February 2017, “major disciplinary events occurred” on the following dates: February 8, 9, 15, 16, and 27. Id. ¶ 4.5. Each incident involved either self-harm, harm to students, harm to staff, or a combination of the three. Id.

         On March 3, 2017, the day on which the incident at issue occurred, Bradyn S. allegedly engaged in four behavioral incidents documented by WISD, during which he attacked another student. Id. ¶ 4.9. These incidents culminated “in a major incident in which[, ] after continuing to attack students and staff, [Bradyn S.'s] classroom was evacuated.” Id. A teacher, Tracy Gooch (“Gooch”) called the Waxahachie Police Department and informed it that this type of incident had occurred “many times.” Id. Bradyn S. was eight years old at the time. Id.

         Officer Young, a City of Waxahachie police officer, “arrived at the classroom, confronted Bradyn S., took [him] down to the ground, pinned him to [the] ground, and restrained his hands [] while [he] screamed in agony and frustration for several minutes.” Id. Kazda, principal at Felty Elementary School, “participated in the restraint of the child.” Id. Neither Kazda nor Gooch initially informed the officers that Bradyn S. was an autistic child with a speech impairment, “even while the police [later] attempted to ask the child questions[, ] that continued to exacerbate his already elevated emotional state.” Id. ¶ 4.9. Officer Lewis, a lieutenant with the City of Waxahachie police department, “arrived and placed the child in handcuffs.” Id. ¶ 4.9. The officers “then elicited that they were dealing with a special needs child.” Id. ¶ 4.9. Bradyn S. contends that he “was taken through the school in handcuffs and brought to the school's office w[h]ere he remained in handcuffs for an extended period, and continued to be questioned by the police.” Id. He contends that he “remained in handcuffs well after [his] mother had arrived and the emergency or any need had subsided.” Id. Following this incident, Bradyn S. contends that, on March 16, 2017, he was hospitalized at the Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital for eight days and treated for suicidal ideation and aggression. Id. ¶ 4.11.

         Based on the allegations relating to Defendants' participation in the March 3, 2017 incident, Plaintiff asserts a section 1983 claim against Kazda, Officer Young, and Officer Lewis in their official and individual capacities. In alleging this claim, Plaintiff sets forth the following allegations:

Plaintiff Bradyn S. has a constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free from unreasonable seizures and to be secure in his person and to maintain his bodily integrity against unreasonable assaults of his person.
Plaintiff Bradyn S. has a constitutionally protected liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment in personal security, bodily integrity and freedom from unjustified intrusions on their personal security, including bodily restraint and punishment without due process of law.
Defendants Derrick Young, Mike Lewis[, ] and Carrie Kazda acting under color of state law, regulation, custom or usage in their capacity as Waxahachie police officers and an employee of WISD respectively deprived Plaintiff of his constitutional rights when they caused, and participated in Plaintiff's seizure with unjustified and unreasonable force; Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to the risk of harm to Plaintiff Bradyn S.[]
Defendants Derrick Young[, ] Mike Lewis and Carrie Kazda's actions, as described above, were objectively unreasonable, willful and wanton, in light of the facts and circumstances.
As a result of Defendants' unconstitutional action and/or omission Plaintiff has been injured and harmed in the form of stress, anxiety, and emotional damage[, ] and/or has otherwise been harmed and is entitled to compensation.

Pl.'s Compl. ¶¶ 7.2-7.6.

         On November 19, 2018, Kazda filed her Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Original Complaint (Doc. 17). With respect to the section 1983 claim asserted against her in her official capacity, Kazda asserts that Bradyn S. has failed to sufficiently plead facts supporting a municipal liability claim against WISD “[b]ecause an official capacity suit is treated as a claim against the governmental entity, ” thus “[Bradyn S.]'s constitutional claims against [] Kazda in her official capacity require [Bradyn S.] to establish municipal liability.” Kazda Mot. to Dismiss 9-10. With respect to the section 1983 claim asserted against her in her individual capacity, she argues that she is entitled to qualified immunity because “it is not clearly established that she is unable to participate in the restraint of a student who engaged in behavior requiring the evacuation of his classroom.” Id. at 13. Kazda further argues that Bradyn S. “cannot maintain a substantive due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment stemming from [Kazda's] participation in [his] restraint” as his claim is cognizable under the Fourth Amendment, not the Fourteenth. Id. at 7. Accordingly, Kazda asserts that the Fourth Amendment is the sole constitutional basis upon which Bradyn S. may assert his section 1983 claim.

         On November 21, 2018, Officer Young and Officer Lewis (collectively, the “Officers”) jointly filed their Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6) on similar grounds as those set forth in Kazda's motion. With respect to the section 1983 claim asserted against them in their official capacities, they contend that Bradyn S. has failed to plead a municipal liability claim against the City of Waxahachie (the “City”), which is required to assert a claim against the Officers in their official capacity. With respect to the section 1983 claim asserted against them in their individual capacities, they assert a qualified immunity defense and argue that Bradyn S. has failed to adequately plead that their actions on March 3, 2017 were objectively unreasonable in light of clearly-established law. As Kazda similarly argues, Young and Lewis further assert that Bradyn S. has not sufficiently pleaded facts to establish a cognizable substantive due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment that is separate and distinct from his excessive use of force claim under the Fourth Amendment, and, on that basis, the court should dismiss Bradyn S.'s section 1983 claim to the extent it relies on the Fourteenth Amendment.

         II. Standards

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) - Failure to State a Claim

         To 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.

         In 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 v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., 509 F.3d 673, 675 (5th Cir. 2007); 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)).

         The 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.

         B. Municipal Liability Under ...


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