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Hines v. Boston Public Schools

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 8, 2017

FRANCES HINES, Plaintiff,
v.
BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Denise J. Casper United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Frances Hines (“Hines”), proceeding pro se, asserts claims against Defendant Boston Public Schools (“BPS”) arising under Mass. Gen. L. c. 151B, § 4, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (the “ADA”), and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., for discrimination, retaliation and failure to accommodate based upon her alleged disability, as well as claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and for breach of contract. D. 22. BPS has moved to dismiss the amended complaint. D. 24. For the reasons stated below, the Court ALLOWS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART BPS's motion.

         II. Standard of Review

         On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must determine if the facts alleged “plausibly narrate a claim for relief.” Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012) (internal citation omitted). Reading the complaint “as a whole, ” the Court must conduct a two-step, context-specific inquiry. García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013). First, the Court must perform a close reading of the claim to distinguish the factual allegations from the conclusory legal allegations contained therein. Id. Factual allegations must be accepted as true, while conclusory legal conclusions are not entitled credit. Id. Second, the Court must determine whether the factual allegations present a “reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged.” Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011). In sum, the complaint must provide sufficient factual allegations for the Court to find the claim “plausible on its face.” García-Catalán, 734 F.3d at 103. The Court notes that “the fact that [a plaintiff] filed the complaint pro se militates in favor of a liberal reading” of her allegations. Rodi v. S. New England Sch. of Law, 389 F.3d 5, 13 (1st Cir. 2004).

         III. Factual Background

         Taking the factual allegations in the complaint as true, as required at this stage, the Court summarizes the following facts. Hines is a handicapped person, with a physical impairment including a weak left leg and stiff knee and a mental impairment including diagnoses of a learning disability and attention deficit disorder. D. 22, ¶ 1. Hines is an employee of BPS and worked at the Ellis School as a paraprofessional starting in September 2004. Id., ¶¶ 2, 4. Hines suffered an injury that caused her physical disability in 2005. Id., ¶ 6. Hines's doctor diagnosed her with attention deficit disorder and a learning disability, memorializing that diagnosis on May 12, 2010, and recommending that she receive an accommodation at work. Id., ¶ 10. Hines informed BPS of her diagnoses and injuries, and requested a reasonable accommodation, but was still assigned to a special education class, that to reach, she had to take stairs. Id., ¶¶ 11-12.

         In November 2011, Hines faced alleged interference and abuse in her work from multiple teachers, who would assign her to supervise special education students at recess while also revoking outdoor recess for those students, and would “verbally berate” Hines in front of those students, and threaten to make Hines leave the school. Id., ¶¶ 8-9. BPS was aware that students in special education classes were more unruly, more likely to assault other students and teachers, and that Hines, as a disabled individual herself, would be more likely to be a target of this behavior. Id., ¶ 14. Hines suffered increased pain and anxiety from these experiences. Id., ¶ 9. In January 2012, Hines filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education about the harassment by the teachers. Id., ¶ 13. In February 2012, a student in her class physically assaulted Hines, causing her injuries that required a medical leave. Id., ¶¶ 15-16. Upon returning to work, Hines again raised the issue of the verbal abuse she had endured from teachers and further requested that she be transferred to another class. Id., ¶ 17. The school principal denied her request and a student in Hines's class assaulted her again. Id., ¶¶ 18-19. On November 24, 2015, BPS notified Hines that it was willing to modify her work assignment in response to her request for a reasonable accommodation, including offering access to strategies to help Hines reduce her stress and anxiety levels. Id., ¶¶ 19-21. BPS did not modify Hines's work assignment and she continued to work in the same class. Id., ¶ 22. At some later point, after Hines continued to complain about harassment, BPS transferred Hines to the Tynan School. Id., ¶ 23.

         IV. Procedural History

         Hines instituted this action on May 29, 2015. D. 1. On August 30, 2016, the Court allowed BPS' motion to dismiss the original two-page complaint (with two-page addendum) without prejudice, allowing Hines leave to file an amended complaint. D. 18. Hines has since filed an amended complaint. D. 22. BPS has now moved to dismiss the amended complaint. D. 24.

         V. Discussion

         A. As Alleged, the Claims in the Amended Complaint are Not Time-Barred

         In dismissing Hines's first complaint, the Court determined that her claims, accruing at the latest on February 15, 2012, D. 1 at 5, may be time-barred because her complaint was filed on May 29, 2015, beyond the three-year statute of limitations, D. 18.

         BPS contends that Hines's her claims remain time-barred. Under Chapter 151B, the ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act, Hines must have filed a charge with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”) or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) within three-hundred days of the alleged unlawful employment practice. Mass. Gen. L. c. 151B, § 5; 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); see 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a) (applying "the powers, remedies, and procedures" of section 2000e-5 to the ADA); 29 U.S.C. § 794a (applying same to the Rehabilitation Act). In addition, Hines's claims are subject ...


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