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R.M.B. v. Bedford County School Board

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division

July 7, 2015

R.M.B., ET AL., Plaintiff,
v.
BEDFORD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, ET AL., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NORMAN K. MOON, District Judge.

Plaintiff R.M.B. ("Plaintiff" or "R.M.B.") filed this civil rights action against Defendants Brian Wilson ("Wilson"), Frederick Duis, Jr. ("Duis"), and M.M. Calohan ("Calohan") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging, among other things, that Wilson and Duis suspended R.M.B. from Bedford Middle School in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This matter is now before me on a motion to dismiss filed by Duis and Wilson, as well as a motion to dismiss filed by Calohan. For the reasons stated herein, I will deny both motions.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Statement of Alleged Facts

This case concerns the 364-day suspension of eleven-year-old R.M.B. from Bedford Middle School ("BMS"). On September 22, 2014, BMS Assistant Principal Brian Wilson discovered "crumpled leaves" in R.M.B.'s backpack. Wilson directed BMS Resource Officer M.M. Calohan to "field test" the substance to determine if the leaves were marijuana. Calohan did so on three separate occasions, and each time, the leaves tested negatively for marijuana.

Calohan relayed this information to Wilson. Though Wilson knew the leaves found in R.M.B.'s backpack tested negatively for marijuana, he nonetheless brought disciplinary charges against R.M.B. in an effort to expel him from BMS. He also directed Calohan to initiate criminal proceedings in the Bedford County Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court ("J&DR Court"). There, Calohan appeared before an intake officer and stated under oath that she found marijuana in R.M.B.'s possession, resulting in the issuance of a petition charging R.M.B. with possession of marijuana in violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-250.1.

Approximately one week later, Duis, the Chief Operations Officer for Bedford County Public Schools, conducted a hearing on R.M.B.'s charge of marijuana possession.[1] The complaint is unclear as to the evidence presented in support of the case against R.M.B, but at the very least, the complaint alleges that Wilson testified at the hearing. During Wilson's testimony, R.M.B.'s parents "specifically and repeatedly asked Wilson the results of the field tests conducted by [Defendant M.M.] Calohan." Am. Compl. ¶ 29. Wilson, however, refused to respond. Duis then suspended R.M.B. for possession of marijuana.

Nearly two months later, on November 22, 2014, R.M.B. and his parents appeared before the J&DR Court to contest R.M.B.'s criminal charge of marijuana possession. When they arrived, the prosecutor "advised them that the field tests of the crumpled leaves were negative for marijuana, and no other evidence existed that R.M.B. had possessed marijuana." Id. ¶ 39. The prosecutor then moved for dismissal, and the J&DR Court dismissed the charge.

R.M.B.'s parents informed Duis of the prosecutor's remarks regarding the lack of evidence and requested that R.M.B. be allowed to return to BMS. Duis, however, rejected their request. R.M.B.'s parents had no further recourse within the school's administrative process, as the deadline to appeal the school's decision had already passed. As a result, they continued R.M.B's education in a home school program, incurring substantial costs along the way. Because of the events surrounding his 364-day suspension, R.M.B. claims that he now suffers from anxiety and depression and is suspicious and fearful of authority figures.

B. Procedural History

R.M.B. initiated this action through his parents, Robert and Linda Bays, on February 3, 2015. In his complaint, R.M.B. asserted a violation of procedural due process against Wilson and Duis (Count I); a federal claim of malicious prosecution against Calohan (Count II); a state law claim of malicious prosecution against Calohan (Count III); a request for injunctive relief against Bedford County Public Schools ("BCPS") and Bedford County School Board ("BCSB") (Count IV); and a claim for damages on behalf of Robert and Linda Bays (Count V).

On February 27, 2015, Defendants Duis and Wilson and Defendant Calohan separately moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and on April 21, 2015, I held a hearing on Defendants' motions. At the hearing, counsel for Plaintiff represented that Defendants have allowed R.M.B. to return to BCPS as a student. As this was the sole relief sought in Count IV of his complaint, Plaintiff has withdrawn his claim against BCSB and BCPS, and they are no longer parties to this action. An issue also arose as to the sufficiency of Plaintiff's federal malicious prosecution claim. To address this concern, I granted Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to allege additional facts in support of his claim.

On May 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint. In his filings, counsel for Plaintiff represents that he cannot, in good faith, allege sufficient facts to state a federal claim of malicious prosecution. Plaintiff has therefore withdrawn Count II of his complaint. In its place, he asserts a violation of substantive due process against Defendants Wilson and Duis (Count VI). He also brings an additional state law claim of malicious prosecution against Wilson (Count III).

On June 5, 2015, Defendants renewed their separately filed motions to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. Duis and Wilson move to dismiss Counts I and III of Plaintiff's complaint, while Calohan moves to dismiss Count III. All Defendants seek dismissal of Count V. Because Defendants failed to raise argument with respect to Plaintiff's substantive due process ...


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