United States District Court, D. Vermont
JENNY A. AMANNA, Individually and on behalf of NR and GR, each a minor child, Petitioners,
DUMMERSTON SCHOOL, WINDHAM SOUTHEAST SUPERVISORY UNION, JO CAROL RATTI, ERIC ALBRIGHT and JOANNA ALBRIGHT, Defendants.
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS (DOCS.
21, 22, 23)
Geoffrey W. Crawford, Chief Judge United States District
5, 2017, Plaintiff Jenny A. Amanna filed an application for
leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 1.) On July 17, the
application was granted and the Complaint filed. (Docs. 3, 4
(Compl.).) Plaintiff alleges claims both on her own
behalf and on behalf of NR and GR, her minor children, based
on the bullying of GR while he was a student at Dummerston
School and on a truancy proceeding brought against her. On
October 6, Defendants Dummerston School, Windham Southeast
Supervisory Union ("WSESU"), and Dummerston School
Principal Jo Carol Ratti (collectively, the "School
Defendants") moved to dismiss the Complaint. (Doc. 21.)
On October 10, Defendants Eric Albright and Joanna Albright
also moved to dismiss the Complaint. (Docs. 22, 23.) On
December 7, after the time to respond to the motions to
dismiss had passed, and the case was transferred to the
undersigned, the court entered an Order allowing Amanna a
further twenty days to respond. As that deadline has now passed
without a response from Amanna, the court proceeds to
consider Defendants' motions.
Amanna is self-represented and alleges six causes of action
against Defendants: (1) negligent supervision, (2) malicious
prosecution, (3) abuse of process, (4) negligent infliction
of emotional distress/failure to protect, (5) violation of
Fourteenth Amendment right to a free and appropriate
education, and (6) assault/intentional infliction of
emotional distress. (Doc. 4 (Compl.).) She seeks $1.5 million
dollars in damages. Id. at 20.
Amanna alleges as follows. NR and GR were students at
Dummerston School from September 2011 through October 2015.
From 2012 through 2015, GR experienced verbal and physical
abuse by a classmate, the daughter of Defendants Eric and
Joanna Albright. By fall 2015, the verbal and physical abuse
occurred and was reported to Principal Ratti daily. NR was
witness to the abuse and acted as a protector of his brother
alleges defendants were responsible for the care and
supervision of NR and GR. The only action Defendants
Dummerston School and Principal Ratti took was to have GR
"sign a 'safety contract' that told G.R. he was
safe at school." Compl. ¶ 24. Defendants assured
Amanna that GR and NR would be safe but did nothing to
prevent the bullying.
October 2015, Amanna was accused by Defendant Eric Albright
and the Dummerston school nurse of attempting to
"physically take" the Albright's daughter out
of class. Compl. ¶ 37. After several requests, on
October 28, Amanna met with Defendant Ratti and the
Superintendent of WSESU. Amanna alleges Defendants told her
the school would not take further action to address the
bullying. Amanna responded that she was formally withdrawing
NR and GR from Dummerston School and she would homeschool
them until January 2016 when they would be enrolled in a new
school. Amanna devised the homeschool course of action in
partnership with the Vermont Department of Education's
Homeschooling Director and Ratti.
GR began to see a therapist to prepare to return to a new
school in January 2016. NR began school fulltime in the new
school. GR was still too traumatized to return fulltime and
Amanna continued to homeschool him. Amanna alleges
"Plaintiffs now all suffer from PTSD from the trauma of
years of bullying while under Defendants'
supervision." Compl. ¶ 53.
regard to the Albright Defendants, Amanna alleges Eric
Albright abused the power he held professionally as a police
officer, engaging in intimidation and threats against Amanna
including threatening to arrest her if she chaperoned a class
trip of GR's and Albright's daughter in 2012. In
2014, Joanna Albright also engaged in intimidation and
threatening behavior toward Amanna including blocking access
to Amanna's driveway with her car for over ten minutes,
approaching Amanna's car on foot in a threatening manner,
and verbally abusing Amanna, GR and NR.
January 2016, Amanna was charged with truancy by the Windham
County States Attorney's Office. She alleges Defendant
Ratti falsified NR and GR's attendance records for the
2012-15 school years, making false claims of unexcused
absences. Amanna asserts Ratti made the false statements in
an effort to protect herself from allegations she violated
Vermont's anti-bullying statute, the children's
"Fair and Appropriate Education" rights, and the
Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, and to damage
the Plaintiffs' credibility.
initial hearing in state court, the court ordered NR and GR
to reside with their father pending the outcome of the
truancy charges. The charges were dismissed in December 2016.
Amanna alleges, as a result of Ratti's false allegations,
she lost custody of her children for more than a year and, at
the time the complaint was filed, was still trying to regain
School Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6) arguing the court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claims and,
alternatively, the claims fail to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. (Doc. 21.) The Albright Defendants
argue parents may not file pro se claims on behalf of their
children and the Albrights also move to dismiss the claims
asserted against them under Rule 12(b)(6). (Docs. 22, 23.) As
noted above, Plaintiff Amanna has not responded to the
cannot enter an appearance for any other plaintiff. While
litigants in federal court have a statutory right to act as
their own counsel, 28U.S.C. § 1654 ("parties may
plead and conduct their own cases personally or by
counsel"), a minor must have a representative, such as a
general guardian, next friend, or guardian ad litem, and, if
not an attorney, the representative must have the assistance
of counsel. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c). It is
"well-established" that "a parent not admitted
to the bar cannot bring an action pro se in federal
court on behalf of his or her child." Tindall v.
Poultney High Sch. Dist,414 F.3d 281, 284 (2d Cir.
2005) (citing Cheung v. Youth Orchestra Found, of
Buffalo, Inc.,906 F.2d 59, 61 (2d Cir. 1990) (holding
that non-attorney parent may not bring an action on behalf of
his or her child)). ...