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Miller v. Town of Morrisville

United States District Court, D. Vermont

April 14, 2015

BARBARA MILLER, on behalf of MEKHI MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF MORRISVILLE, PEOPLE'S ACADEMY, MORRISVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT, LAMOILLE COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH, BEHAVIORAL WELLNESS, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, LAMOILLE UNION SOUTH SUPERVISORY, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM K. SESSIONS, III, District Judge.

Plaintiff Barbara Miller, proceeding pro se and purportedly on behalf of her grandson, Mekhi Miller, brings this action claiming that Defendants engaged in discrimination on the basis of Mekhi's race and learning disability. All served Defendants have moved to dismiss.[1] Arguments for dismissal include Barbara Miller's inability to represent her grandson pro se, Plaintiff's failure to establish federal subject matter jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim. Also before the Court are Ms. Miller's motions for default judgment, motion to amend the Complaint, and motion to "set aside" the motions to dismiss.

For the reasons set forth below, the motions to dismiss are granted, Barbara Miller's motions are denied, and Mekhi Miller is granted leave to amend his pleadings, either pro se or through counsel, within 30 days.

Factual Background[2]

Ms. Miller first claims that on October 4, 2012, she was informed by a school principal that Mehki was being suspended for putting his hands on a female classmate. The next day, the mother of another student threatened to shoot Mekhi if he did not leave her son alone. Mekhi reported this latter incident to Ms. Miller, who in turn informed police. A police officer came to the Millers' home and advised them to seek a protective order.

On October 8, 2012, Ms. Miller obtained the recommended protective order. On October 9, 2012, the woman who had threatened to shoot Mekhi obtained a protective order barring him from being near her son. On October 10, 2012 at the conclusion of Mekhi's suspension, Barbara and Mekhi traveled to the school for a re-entry meeting. The school developed a "safety plan" for the two boys to be able to attend school without violating their respective protective orders. That plan included using different entrances and stairways. Mekhi also met with "Terrance" from Defendant Behavioral Wellness[3] to discuss his suspension.

Later that same day, Mekhi was taken home by a faculty member after police informed him that he was in violation of the protective order. Ms. Miller contacted "Terrance, " who said he would speak with the police to determine what was going on. "Terrance" then informed Ms. Miller that the police said Mekhi could go to school.[4] On October 12, 2012, a state court judge made clear that Mekhi could indeed attend school. At that point, however, Mekhi had already missed several days of classes and required special education tutoring services in order to catch up on his work.

Ms. Miller next claims that in January 2010, Mekhi was assaulted by a teacher at People's Academy in Morrisville. The alleged perpetrator was Jason Derner, a teacher trained to work with special needs students. Mr. Derner was reprimanded for his conduct. Ms. Miller has since learned that when Mr. Derner was involved in a subsequent argument with a parent, he was reported to the Department of Education and ordered to attend anger management classes. Ms. Miller alleges that Mr. Derner received a comparatively lighter punishment for his treatment of Mekhi because Mekhi is black.

The incident between Mr. Derner and Mekhi was allegedly reported to the Morrisville police. However, after two years with no response from the police, Ms. Miller made inquiries and was told that the police were unable to locate the complaint form. Ms. Miller obtained a letter from "the Behavioral Intervention person" attesting that they brought Mekhi to the police after the incident, but the police have not responded to the letter. ECF No. 7 at 6.

The police have also had interactions with Mekhi involving his home placement. After an argument with Ms. Miller in 2010, Mekhi went to the police and refused to go home that night. A mental health worker helped find a bed for Mekhi in the Hardwick area. The following day, after Mekhi told police that he would run away from wherever they placed him, he was placed in the custody of the Vermont Department of Children and Families. Ms. Miller claims that in placing Mekhi with the State, the police did not handle the situation properly in light of Mekhi's disabilities, which reportedly include "ADHD, ODD and emotional detachment disorder." Id. at 7.

The Amended Complaint further alleges difficulties in the relationship between Mekhi and Defendant Lamoille County Mental Health Services ("LCMHS"). Mekhi allegedly had problems with many behavioral intervention specialists employed by LCMHS, at times refusing to meet with them. In 2011 or 2012, Mekhi was placed in a room by a behavioral interventionist and allegedly threw a chair, damaging a wall. Although Mekhi informed Ms. Miller that he would need to go to court to answer for his conduct, it is not clear whether a court date was ever set.

In the Amended Complaint's conclusion, Mr. Miller states that some of Mekhi's conduct was not his fault, but was instead due to his disabilities. She states that "getting to know him better would have helped" and that he should have been "rewarded when he earned it." Id. at 8. For relief, Plaintiff seeks money damages because Mekhi has reportedly been suicidal and "has never been exposed to racism until he came here." Id.

Discussion

Each served Defendant has moved to dismiss. While there is significant overlap in Defendants' arguments for dismissal, there are also factual difference that require individual analysis. The Court will ...


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