United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
ROBERT R. PRUNTY, JR., Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, THE DESOTO COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, THE JACK NICKLAUS MIAMI CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, INC., KARYN E. GARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, THE FLORIDA AGENCY FOR HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATION, ELIZABETH DUDEK, PAMELA STEWART, ALEX SOTO, and JOHN KING, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
E. STEELE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendants Desoto County
School Board and the Florida Department of Education and
Agency for Health Care Administration's Motions to
Dismiss (collectively “defendants”) (Docs. ## 42,
53) filed on August 19 and 31, 2016. Plaintiff filed
responses (Docs. ## 52, 56, 57) on August 24 and September 6,
2016. For the reasons set forth below, the motions are
Robert R. Prunty, Jr. (plaintiff or Prunty), is currently
proceeding on a sixteen-count First Amended Complaint (Doc.
#43) alleging violations of his civil and constitutional
rights because defendants denied him the benefits of federal
programs and the right to make and enforce Individualized
Education Program contracts (IEPs) for his five children who
have been diagnosed with Autism. (Doc. #43, ¶ 1.) Prunty
alleges claims for violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as
well as common law claims for invasion of privacy and
intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff seeks
to enjoin defendants from violating the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act's (IDEA) procedural rules and
allow parents to participate in the IEP process.
initial matter, the Court notes that this is not the first
case Prunty has filed alleging similar violations of his
civil and constitutional rights based upon similar conduct
against many of the same defendants. See Prunty v.
Sibelius et al., No. 2:14-cv-313 and Prunty v.
Johnson & Johnson et al., No. 2:15-cv-105. In both
of those cases, the Court dismissed plaintiff's complaint
without prejudice for failure to exhaust the IDEA's
administrative remedies. See Prunty v. Sibelius et
al., 2014 WL 7066430, at 3 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 12, 2014);
Prunty v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc. et al., 2015
WL 2019411 (M.D. Fla. May 1, 2015). In Johnson v.
Johnson, the Court stated: “Thus, the Court
emphasizes that the dismissal here is not premised upon a
‘technicality' that Prunty may avoid via refiling
or further amendment. Any future cases concerning the School
Board's actions in connection with Prunty's
children's IEPs will be subject to summary dismissal
unless Prunty alleges that he has fully exhausted the
IDEA's administrative remedies.” Id. at
move to dismiss on this basis. (Docs. ## 42, 53.) Plaintiff
concedes that he has not exhausted his administrative
remedies, but alleges in his First Amended Complaint and in
his response papers that he has made a good faith attempt to
do so but that the remedy plaintiff seeks is not available in
administrative proceedings and therefore exhaustion would be
futile. (Doc. #43 at 10-13.)
student is covered by the IDEA, school officials are required
to create an IEP for that student to facilitate their
academic progress. Winkelman v. Parma City Sch.
Dist., 550 U.S. 516, 519 (2007). Students with Autism,
such as Prunty's children, are covered by the IDEA.
Id. As a parent, Prunty has the statutory right to
contribute to the IEP process. Id. According to
Prunty, Defendants deprived him of that right. See,
e.g. Doc. #43, ¶¶ 4, 24, 30.) Parents of
covered children are “entitled to prosecute IDEA claims
on their own behalf.” Winkelman, 550 U.S. at
535. However, before filing a civil action for a violation of
the IDEA, a plaintiff must first exhaust all available
administrative remedies, including a meeting with school
officials and a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
J.P. v. Cherokee Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 218 F.
App'x 911, 913 (11th Cir. 2007) (“The philosophy of
the IDEA is that plaintiffs are required to utilize the
elaborate administrative scheme established by the IDEA
before resorting to the courts to challenge the actions of
the local school authorities.”). The IDEA's
exhaustion requirements apply even if a plaintiff seeks
relief via a different statute. Babicz v. Sch. Bd. of
Broward Cnty., 135 F.3d 1420, 1422 n.10 (11th Cir. 1998)
(“[A]ny student who wants relief that is available
under the IDEA must use the IDEA's administrative system
even if he invokes a different statute.”). “[T]he
exhaustion of administrative process is not required where
resort to those remedies would be futile or inadequate. For
example, courts have not required exhaustion of
administrative remedies when the administrative procedure is
incapable of granting the relief requested.” Assoc.
for Retarded Citizens of Ala. v. Teague, 830 F.2d 158,
160 (11th Cir. 1987) (citations omitted).
basis for futility, plaintiff alleges that the Administrative
Law Judge scheduled a “teleconference” that was
cancelled, deciding that “the defendants petition was
sufficient.” (Doc. #43, ¶ 20.) Plaintiff also
believes that the Administrative Law Judge is biased and has
set his case in “legal limbo” to cause delay of
the proceedings. (Id.)
there is no indication that the administrative process is
incapable of granting plaintiff the requested relief such
that plaintiff may bypass the administrative process. One of
the fundamental goals of the IDEA is the involvement of
parents with disabilities in their children's education.
See Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 310 (1988). Whether
education agencies are providing a disabled child with
adequate educational facilities and programs to which they
are entitled is a “determination [that] will require
extensive factfinding and expert testimony about the present
facilities and programs and the needs of the handicapped
children, and judicial economy would be well served by having
a state hearing officer develop the record on these questions
prior to court review.” Teague, 830 F.3d at
161. “[P]ermitting plaintiffs to bypass the Act's
detailed administrative procedures would run counter to
Congress' view that the needs of handicapped children are
best accommodated by having the parents and local education
agency work together to formulate an individualized plan for
each handicapped child's education.” Id.
(quoting Smith v. Robinson, 468 U.S. 992, 1012
the allegations in the First Amended Complaint are true,
Prunty may have a viable IDEA claim. However, Prunty cannot
assert that claim (whether characterized as a violation of
the IDEA, Title VI, Section 1981, Section 1983, or any other
statutory or constitutional provision), unless and until he
participates in and completes the IDEA's
administrative dispute resolution procedures.
Babicz, 135 F.3d at 1422 n.10. Here, although
plaintiff alleges that he sought a due process hearing and
administrative review, there is no indication that plaintiff
has completed the administrative review process. (Doc. #43,
10-13.) Accordingly, the First Amended Complaint is dismissed
without prejudice to refiling following exhaustion of the
IDEA's administrative procedures.
it is hereby
Defendants' Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint
(Docs. ##42, 53) are GRANTED and the First Amended