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Bradford v. Morehouse Parish School Board

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

January 28, 2019

CHARLES BRADFORD
v.
MOREHOUSE PARISH SCHOOL BOARD, ET AL.

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY MAG. JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAREN L. HAYES JUDGE

         Before the undersigned magistrate judge, on reference from the District Court, are the following motions: 1) motion to dismiss complaint for lack of standing and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted [doc. # 6] filed by defendants, Morehouse Parish School Board (“MPSB”), Chasity Kennedy, Rose Thompson, Karen Diel, Louis Edward Melton, Richard “Rick” Hixon, Leland “Chip” Rawls, II, and David Gray (collectively, “MPSB defendants”); 2) motion to dismiss amended complaint for lack of standing and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted [doc. # 12] also filed by the MPSB defendants, plus Stephen J. Katz; and 3) motion to dismiss the original and amended complaints for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted [doc. # 10], filed by defendants, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (“BESE”), Gary Jones, the Louisiana Department of Education (“LDE”), and John White (collectively, “State defendants”). The motions are opposed. For reasons assigned below, it is recommended that the motions be GRANTED, and that plaintiff's complaint, as amended, be dismissed, without prejudice.

         Background

          On November 26, 2018, Charles Bradford, a citizen and taxpayer of the city of Bastrop, Louisiana, filed the instant pro se “Complaint and Emergency Temporary Restraining Orders and Preliminary Injunction LR 65.1” against the MPSB, its individual board members, the MPSB superintendent, BESE, LDE, and other state officials. (Compl.). Plaintiff invoked the court's federal question jurisdiction[1] because his claims relate to the applicability of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

         Bradford alleged that, because of an alleged financial exigency, the MPSB intended to close two of its elementary schools, Pine Grove and Henry Adams. Bradford asserted federal claims pursuant to 20 U.S.C. §§ 1701 and 1703 on the grounds that the children were not being provided equal educational opportunities without regard to race, color, sex, or national origin, and that transfer of children to other schools would result in increased segregation, cause greater travel times, and will not ensure a higher number of certified teachers. He also alleged that closure of the schools would result in a reduction in force of teachers and other MPSB employees.

         Accordingly, Bradford requested a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) prohibiting the closure of the schools, and an order requiring defendants to form a committee of community members to create a proposed plan that would be in the best interest of all the children in the Morehouse Parish School System.

         On November 26, 2018, the District Court denied Bradford's motion for TRO, principally because he lacked standing to bring suit:

[i]n his allegations, Bradford states only that he lives in Louisiana and receives mail at an address in Bastrop. Such allegations are insufficient to challenge the School Board's proposed actions. He does not allege that he has a child in the school system or any other basis for standing. Unless he can meet this showing, the Court must dismiss his action.

(Nov. 26, 2018, Mem. Order [doc. # 4]).

         On December 6, 2018, the MPSB defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss the suit for lack of standing and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. On December 13, 2018, Bradford filed an amended complaint to allege that he is a grandfather of five children who attend Morehouse Parish Schools. (Pl. Amend. Compl.). He further asserted that he was a community clergyman, and that the closure of the two schools would have a significant effect on twenty or more of his “church members in the community.” Id. He also alleged that on December 4, 2018, the MPSB voted to close the two schools. Id. Bradford joined the MPSB's attorney, Stephen Katz, as an additional defendant in the matter. Id.

         On December 17, 2018, the State defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In so doing, they adopted the arguments set forth in the MPSB defendants' original motion to dismiss, and further argued that dismissal was warranted because the State defendants had no legal authority to redress the alleged harm posed by MPSB's decision to close the two schools.

         On December 18, 2018, the MPSB defendants, plus Stephen Katz, filed the instant motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint on the same grounds as their original motion, i.e., for lack of standing and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         On January 7, 2019, Bradford filed his opposition to the motions to dismiss wherein he alleged that the closure of the two schools would place his grandchildren in an unsafe environment because overcrowding could lead to a Hepatitis A epidemic and a violation of the Louisiana State Fire Marshal Code. [doc. # 15]. He further alleged that defendant, Chip Rawls, a/k/a Leland George Rawls, II, violated state law by failing to vacate his seat on the MPSB when he switched his residence outside of his elected district in February 2018. Therefore, he asserted that all votes Rawls participated in from February through December 2018 were null and void. Finally, he ...


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