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Seth B. v. Orleans Parish School Board

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 15, 2015

SETH B., BY THROUGH HIS PARENTS AND NEXT FRIENDS, DONALD AND CHERYL B., ET AL.,
v.
ORLEANS PARISH SCHOOL BOARD, Section:

ORDER

KAREN WELLS ROBY, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiffs', Seth B. and his parents Donald and Cheryl B., Motion to File an Amended Complaint (R. Doc. 10), seeking leave of court to file an amended complaint. The motion is opposed. See R. Doc. 13. The motion was heard for oral argument on Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

I. Background

This action is brought pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C § 1400 et seq., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C § 794, and the American's with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C § 12101 et seq. Plaintiff, Seth B., is an eighteen (18) year old who is diagnosed with autism and serious emotional disturbance. See R. Doc. 10-2, at 3. Plaintiffs allege that due to Seth's complicated child psychiatry and developmental history, he has been hospitalized on a short-term basis (5-10 days) in Louisiana on numerous occasions. Id. at 4.

Plaintiffs allege that Seth was assigned to attend the New Orleans Charter High School for Science and Math under his Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school year. Id. at 4. Plaintiffs allege that in early 2014 they received a psychiatric recommendation for Seth to be admitted into a long-term mental treatment facility. Id. at 5. Plaintiffs allege that they searched for a facility that specializes in adolescents with developmental disorder in this region of the country, but were not able to locate a facility. Id. As a result, Plaintiffs allege that Seth was placed in Rogers Memorial Hospital ("Rogers") in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on March 5, 2014. Id.

Plaintiffs allege that they requested that the school district provide Seth with hospital or homebound services[1] while he was at Rogers so that he could adhere to his treatment plan, keep up with is work, and make progress on his IEP. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiffs allege that the School Board sent them a letter on April 7, 2014 stating that Seth was being removed from his educational program and denying his parents' request for homebound/hospital services while Seth was hospitalized in Wisconsin. Id. at 6. Plaintiffs allege that as a result of the School Board removing Seth from his education program and denying him homebound/hospital services, Seth suffered significant emotional and psychiatric setbacks that include an extension of his hospitalization, Seth not being discharged until April 29, 2014, and Seth having to return to Rogers on December 3, 2014.

Prior to Seth returning to Rogers on December 3, 2014, they had a due process hearing in May 2014 conducted by the Division of Administrative Law, the entity designated by the State of Louisiana to conduct hearings pursuant to the IDEA. See R. Doc. 15-2, at 2. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") rendered his decision on May 15, 2014, dismissing the Plaintiffs' hearing request on the grounds that the tribunal lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the issue of whether Seth met the residency requirements at the time of his removal from his education program because the matter is an issue pursuant to the Louisiana Compulsory School Attendance Law, which is not within jurisdiction of the tribunal. Id.

Plaintiffs initiated this action on August 14, 2014 seeking an appeal of the ALJ's adverse decision and seeking (1) a declaratory judgment that the School Board's actions were in violation of the IDEA, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the ADA; (2) injunctive relief requiring the School Board to refrain from taking any steps of removing Seth from the rolls of his school; and (3) compensatory damages. See R. Doc. 1, at 8-9.

In the instant motion, the Plaintiffs request leave of court to file an amended complaint to add (1) a request that this Court remand the case to the Division of Administrative Law for a hearing on the merits of Plaintiffs' claims; (2) clarification of Plaintiffs' legal claims; (3) facts that have occurred since the filing of the compliant in August 2014; and (4) minor editorial corrections throughout. See R. Doc. 15-1, at 1. The amendment deadline was February 14, 2015 and the Plaintiffs timely filed the instant motion on February 13, 2015.

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 15(a), which governs the amendment of pleadings, provides that leave to amend pleadings "shall be freely given when justice so requires." This, and other federal rules, "reject the approach that pleading is a game of skill in which one misstep by counsel may be decisive to the outcome and accept the principle that the purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 48 (1957).

Thus, Rule 15(a) evinces a liberal and lenient amendment policy and a motion to amend should not be denied absent a substantial reason to do so. See Jacobsen v. Osborne, 133 F.3d 315, 318 (5th Cir. 1998). Furthermore, "this policy' is strongest when the motion challenged is the first motion to amend." Thompson v. New York Life Ins. Co., 644 F.2d 439, 444 (5th Cir. 1981). Permission may be granted even though the original pleading is defective in its statement of a claim for relief or defense. Id.

Leave to amend is by no means automatic, but is within the sound discretion of the trial court. Addington v. Farmer's Elevator Mut. Ins. Co., 650 F.2d 663, 666 (5th Cir. 1981). In exercising its discretion, the trial court must determine that there is a "substantial reason" for the delay. Mayeaux v. Louisiana Health Service and Indemnity Co., 376 F.3d 420, 425 (5th Cir. 2004). The Court may consider such factors as (1) undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive on the part of the movant; (2) repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed; (3) undue prejudice to ...


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