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Christopher Camac, Toni Lynn Camac, Both Individually and On Behalf of v. the Long Beach City School

July 22, 2011

CHRISTOPHER CAMAC, TONI LYNN CAMAC, BOTH INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THEIR SON, CHARLES TYLER CAMAC, AN INFANT UNDER 17 YEARS OF AGE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE LONG BEACH CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, DR. ROBERT GREENBERG INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AUDREY GOROPEUSCHEK, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AND AMA DARKEH INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, Senior District Judge:

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiffs Christopher ("Christopher") and Toni Lynn ("Toni Lynn") Camac seek recovery, both individually and on behalf of their infant son, Charles Tyler Camac ("Charles"), based upon defendants' alleged violations of Charles's constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983. Plaintiffs also assert violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq. (the "Rehabilitation Act"), Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12182, et seq. ("ADA"), various articles of the New York State Constitution, and New York State Human Rights Law, Executive Law § 290, et seq. ("NYHRL"). Finally, plaintiffs assert a New York common law cause of action for false imprisonment.

Presently before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the Complaint and are presumed true for purposes of this motion.

Christopher and Toni Lynn Camac, residents of Nassau County, New York, are the parents of Charles. Defendant Long Beach City School District (the "District") is a public school district organized under the laws of New York State. Defendant Dr. Robert Greenberg ("Greenberg") was the Superintendent of the District, defendant Audrey Goropeuschek ("Goropeuschek")*fn1 was the principal of Long Beach Middle School, and defendant Ama Darkeh ("Darkeh") was a guidance counselor at Long Beach Middle School.

I. Charles's Alleged Disability

Prior to June 2007, the Camac family lived in Delaware. Charles frequently became physically ill in the morning and missed school as a result. On the days that Charles did attend school, he suffered from headaches, nausea and vomiting. On or about March 1, 2007, Charleswas diagnosed with depression, and his doctor determined that the depression was causing his early-morning illness. After this diagnosis, Charles began receiving therapy and taking anti-anxiety medication. In addition, the school that Charles attended in Delaware "instituted an accommodation plan pursuant to § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973" (a "504 plan") and, as a result, Charles's school attendance and academic performance improved. (See Compl. ¶¶ 13, 14.)

II. Charles's Enrollment in Long Beach Middle School

On June 11, 2007, the Camac family moved to Long Beach, New York and in July 2007, Toni Lynn registered Charles for sixth grade in the District. During registration, Toni Lynn informed the District that "Charles suffered from a disability which required special educational needs." (Id. ¶ 16.) She also included this information on the District's registration forms.

On July 24, 2007, Toni Lynn had a telephone conversation with Darkeh and informed Darkeh of Charles's condition and "need for special educational services." (Id. ¶ 17.) Toni Lynn also informed Darkeh that "Charles received a 504 plan in his old school and that he was taking Prozac for his disability." (Id.) Darkeh assured Toni Lynn that she would work with the Camac family to arrive at a plan "and to accommodate his disability." (Id. ¶ 18.)

On September 4, 2007, the day before school started, the Camacs went to Long Beach Middle School (the "Middle School") to meet with Darkeh. The Camacs requested that Charles be permitted to walk around the school in an attempt to make him more comfortable and lessen his anxiety, but Darkeh refused. When the Camacs again raised their concerns about Charles's condition, Darkeh assured them that his condition would be accommodated and his teachers would be made aware of the situation.

III. The September 25, 2007 Incident

In late September 2007, Charles became ill during class. His teacher did not permit him to eat lunch until the end of the class period, even though other students were allowed to eat lunch early when they complained of feeling ill. After being told that he could not eat, Charles suffered from a panic attack. On September 25, 2007, Christopher and Toni Lynn attended a meeting at the Middle School with Charles's teachers and Glen Gartung, the Middle School's social worker, to discuss the incident. During the meeting, the Camacs informed Charles's teachers about his condition, his problems with school and anxiety, his medication, and the fact that Charles received a 504 plan at his previous school. Charles's teachers stated that this was the first time they had heard any of this information, despite Toni Lynn's informing the District and Darkeh previously.

IV. The Camacs Request a 504 Plan for Charles

During the September 25, 2007 meeting, the Camacs requested that the District institute a 504 plan for Charles. They were informed that such a request must be made to Vincent Russo, the Middle School's Director of Special Education. The Camacs directed their request to Russo, who informed them that a doctor's note was required before a 504 plan could be considered. On October 5, 2007, Charles's treating psychologist, Dr. Jonathan Wolf, submitted a letter to Russo recommending that Charles receive a 504 plan. Upon receipt of that letter, Russo refused to investigate whether Charles would benefit from a 504 plan, asserting that Dr. Wolf's letter was not specific enough. On October 29, 2007, Dr. Wolf sent Russo a second letter, which indicated that Charles had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and recommended that Charles be provided with a 504 plan.

V. Charles's School Attendance Deteriorates

Despite receiving Dr. Wolf's second letter, Russo and the District took no action to implement a 504 plan or otherwise accommodate Charles's condition. As a result, Charles's attendance in school began to deteriorate rapidly. In December 2007, the District reported Charles's excessive absence from school to Child Protective Services. Around the same time, Gartung spoke with Charles in school and told him that "his parents were bad parents, that he was a bad child and that he belonged in juvenile detention." (Id. ¶ 29.)

In January 2008, Toni Lynn contacted Dr. Schlegel, a psychologist at the Middle School, but Dr. Schlegel refused to treat Charles (a sixth grader) because she only worked with seventh and eighth grade students. Dr. Schlegel referred Toni Lynn to Dr. Valentine, another Middle School psychologist who worked with sixth grade students. Dr. Valentine, however, also refused to treat Charles, "claiming that he did not work with attendance problems." (Id. ¶ 31.) Even though Toni Lynn explained that Charles's attendance issues were related to his psychological condition, Dr. Valentine still refused to treat Charles.

On June 20, 2008, Toni Lynn met with Joann Thom, the principal of the Middle School, "to address the fact that Charles had not been provided with an accommodation the entire school year." (Id. ¶ 32.) Thom told Toni Lynn that this was the first time she was told of Charles's condition. Thom also told Toni Lynn that Charles could do his school work in her office for the remainder of the school year if that made him comfortable. Thom also stated that Charles would receive "appropriate accommodations" the following school year. (Id. ¶ 33.) Thom said that she was retiring, but that the new principal "would afford Charles reasonable accommodations for his disability." (Id.)

VI. The September 9, 2008 Incident

Charles began the seventh grade at the Middle School on September 3, 2008, but because Charles had still not received any accommodations or 504 plan, his attendance "remained erratic." (Id. ¶ 34.) On or about September 8, 2008,*fn2 Dr. Valenti, the Middle School Vice Principal, telephoned Toni Lynn and told her that she, Gartung and Darkeh had met with Charles about the need to improve his attendance, but had "ignor[ed] his disability, as the School District had done since Charles began attending school there." (Id. ¶ 35.) The next day, September 9, 2008, Charles told Toni Lynn he was too ill to go to school and Toni Lynn telephoned Dr. Valenti to tell her that Charles would be absent. Later that day, Dr. Valenti called Toni Lynn and requested that the Camacs attend a meeting at the Middle School later that day. Toni Lynn agreed.

The Camac family went the Middle School and met with Dr. Valenti, Goropeuschek, Gartung, and Darkeh. At the beginning of the meeting, Goropeuschek "threatened Charles, telling him that if his attendance did not improve, he would go to jail." (Id. ¶ 39.) Goropeuschek then asked Charles to leave the room. When Charles was gone, Christopher and Toni Lynn again requested that a 504 plan be instituted for Charles. In response, "the Middle School administrators recommended that Charles be evaluated for his disability at Nassau University Medical Center" ("NUMC"). (Id. ¶ 42.) Darkeh further "suggested that NUMC might be more willing to evaluate Charles if they told NUMC that Charles was suicidal." (Id.) Christopher and Toni Lynn "immediately rejected this idea, as Charles had never given any indication of any inclination of injuring himself." (Id.)

The Camacs did, however, agree to have Charles evaluated at NUMC that day, "as the Middle School administrators advised them that it was the best way to determine what accommodations Charles would require." (Id. ¶ 43.) At that point, Goropeuschek and Darkeh left the room, stating that "they were going to get Charles so that his parents could inform him what was happening." (Id. ¶ 44.) "A few minutes later, Goropeuschek came back into the room and informed the Camacs that Charles had threatened to commit suicide and that she had called 911." (Id. ¶ 45.) "In fact, Charles had never threatened to commit suicide or injure himself in any way." (Id.)

As a result of the 911 call, Charles "was immediately taken by ambulance, with police escort, to the mental health department of NUMC, where he was detained against his will and his parents' wishes for 14 days." (Id. ¶ 46.) On September 11, 2008, pursuant to New York's mental health law, a hearing was held at the hospital regarding Charles's detainment (the "Hearing"). During the Hearing, "both Goropeuschek and Darkeh falsely testified under oath that Charles threatened to commit suicide." (Id. ¶ 48.) "As a result of this false testimony, the Judge ruled that Charles was to remain committed at NUMC, where he was held until September 23, 2008." (Id.)

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Dismiss

Defendants contend that plaintiffs' Section 1983 claims under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, their claims pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act, ADA, NYHRL, and New York State Constitution and their state law claim for false imprisonment all should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants also assert that Greenberg, Goropeuschek and Darkeh are entitled to qualified immunity from plaintiffs' claims. Finally, defendants assert that because plaintiffs have not alleged the existence of a policy, custom, or practice, the Monell claim against the District must be dismissed.

A. Legal Standard

Rule 8(a) provides that a pleading shall contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The Supreme Court has recently clarified the pleading standard applicable in evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).

First, in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Court disavowed the well-known statement in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957) that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46) (internal quotation marks omitted). Instead, to survive a motion to dismiss under Twombly, a plaintiff must allege "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

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 entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations 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. at 555 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

More recently, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, -- U.S. --, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), the Supreme Court provided further guidance, setting forth a two-pronged approach for courts deciding a motion to dismiss. First, a court should "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." 129 S. Ct. at 1940, 1950. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. Thus, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the ...


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