United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL United States District Judge.
action, Plaintiffs Melissa Wood and John Kevin Wood,
individually and on behalf of their then minor child,
“C.W., ” allege various violations of their First
Amendment rights, Fourteenth Amendment due process rights,
civil rights under Title IX and Title VI, and rights granted
by Article 36 of the Declaration of Rights of the
Constitution of Maryland, and bring suit against Defendants
Board of Education of Charles County (“The
Board”), Evelyn Arnold (“Principal
Arnold”), and Shannon Morris (“Vice Principal
Morris”) (collectively, “Defendants”).
Presently pending before the Court is the Plaintiffs'
Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, ECF No. 17, and
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative,
Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 28. A hearing on the
Motions was held on September 23, 2016. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny
Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and grant
in part, and deny in part, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
case arises out of events allegedly occurring in Charles
County, Maryland, beginning in October 2014. ECF No. 1 ¶
49-109. During the 2014-2015 school year, C.W. was
a 16-year-old student in the eleventh grade at La Plata High
School in La Plata, Maryland, id. ¶ 49, and was
enrolled in eleventh grade World History class, id.
¶ 52. On October 22, 2014, C.W. was instructed
to finish “a graded assignment to complete certain
faith statements fundamental to the Islamic belief
system.” ECF No. 1 ¶ 53. Mr. Wood learned of the
homework assignment when his daughter came home from school
that day. Id. ¶ 55. Mr. Wood was
“surprised” to learn of the assignment, because
there was no information about the “teaching and
promotion of Islam” in the class syllabus. Id.
From a discussion with C.W. and a review of the class
materials, Mr. Wood believed that the school was promoting
the Islamic religion over other faiths. Id. ¶
54. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants “required the
students . . . to profess statements on the teachings and
beliefs of Islam in written worksheets as graded homework
assignments” and instructed the class that
“[m]ost Muslim's faith is stronger than the average
Christian.” Id. ¶¶ 58-59. Attached
to the Complaint as Exhibit 1 is what appears to be an
outline or power-point used in the class describing
“Islam Today, ” “Islamic Empires, ”
“The Rise of Islam, ” and “Beliefs of
Islam.” ECF No. 1-1. The World History course allegedly
“spent only one day discussing Christianity” and
“failed to cover any portion of the Bible or other
non-Islamic religious texts, such as the Ten
Commandments.” ECF No. 1 ¶ 65-66.
Woods objected to their daughter “being given religious
instruction and being indoctrinated in Islam.”
Id. ¶ 73. To that end, on October 22, 2014, Mr.
Wood called La Plata High School to “voice his
disapproval and to request that his child be given an
alternative assignment.” Id. ¶ 75. Mr.
Wood spoke with Defendant Shannon Morris, Vice Principal of
La Plata High School, on October 23, 2014. Id.
¶ 76. Vice Principal Morris did not offer to give C.W.
an alternative assignment and “asserted that C.W. would
receive zeros on incomplete assignments.” Id.
¶¶ 78, 80. Mr. Wood informed Vice Principal Morris
that C.W. “would not be completing the assignments that
promoted Islam, ” and if Defendants “wished to
retaliate against C.W. for her adherence to her Christian
faith, he would pursue his complaints through lawyers and the
media.” Id. ¶ 82-83.
following day, on October 24, 2014, Mr. Wood received a phone
call from La Plata High School Resource Officer Mark Kaylor,
of the Charles County Sheriff's Office. Id.
¶ 84. Officer Kaylor advised Mr. Wood that Vice
Principal Morris had filed a complaint against Mr. Wood, and
that Principal Arnold had signed a “No Trespass Order,
” forbidding him from entering the grounds of La Plata
High School. Id. ¶¶ 84, 86. As a result of
the No Trespass Order, Mr. Wood missed “countless
Parent Teacher School Organization (“PTSO”)
meetings, planning events for C.W., . . . and events where
C.W. has been honored for her academic achievements.”
ECF No. 1 ¶ 90.
filed the instant Complaint in this Court on January 27,
2016, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, and
attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on
various First and Fourteenth Amendments claims, Title IX of
the Education Amendments of 1972, Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, and Article 36 of the Declaration of
Rights of the Maryland Constitution. ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs
then filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction on February
19, 2016. ECF No. 17. The No Trespass Order was lifted on
March 3, 2016, 16 months after it was entered. See
ECF No. 27 at 1. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in
the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment on March 24,
2016. ECF No. 28.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
purpose of a preliminary injunction is to “protect the
status quo and to prevent irreparable harm during the
pendency of a lawsuit, ultimately to preserve the court's
ability to render a meaningful judgment on the merits.”
In re Microsoft Corp. Antitrust Litig., 333 F.3d
517, 525 (4th Cir. 2003). The grant of a preliminary
injunction is an “extraordinary remedy that may only be
awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled
to such relief.” Dewhurst v. Cty. Aluminum
Co., 649 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 555
U.S. 7, 22 (2008)). The party moving for a preliminary
injunction must demonstrate four requirements before the
court will grant the injunction: (1) the movant is likely to
succeed on the merits; (2) the movant is likely to suffer
irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3)
the balance of equities tip in the movant's favor; and
(4) the injunction is in the public interest. Centro
Tepeyac v. Montgomery County, 722 F.3d 184, 188 (4th
Cir. 2013) (citing Winter, 555 U.S. at 20).
Motion to Dismiss
defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6),
“a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, ‘to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 664.
In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must consider
all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint as true, and must
construe all factual allegations in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7
F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion
should be granted “only if it is clear that no relief
could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved
consistent with the allegations.” Swierkiewicz v.
Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002).
Motion for Summary Judgment
may also move for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
“The court shall grant summary judgment if there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). The movant has the “initial responsibility of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of the pleadings . . . together
with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 466 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)
(internal citation omitted). In considering the motion,
“the judge's function is not . . . to weigh the
evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to
determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).
To withstand a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving
party must do more than present a mere scintilla of evidence.
Phillips v. CSX Transport, Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287
(4th Cir. 1999). Rather, “the adverse party must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.
Although the Court should draw all justifiable inferences in
the nonmoving party's favor, the nonmoving party cannot
create a genuine issue of material fact “through mere
speculation or the building of one inference upon
another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214
(4th Cir. 1985).
have styled their motion as a motion to dismiss under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, a
motion for summary judgment under Rule 56. “A motion
styled in this manner implicates the court's discretion
under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure.” McCray v. Md. DOT., No.
ELH-11-3732, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8513, at *15 (D. Md. Jan.
16, 2013); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d)
(“If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters
outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by
the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary
judgment under Rule 56.”). Pursuant to Rule 12(d), the
Court has discretion to determine whether to accept evidence
outside the pleadings, and thus convert a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to a Rule 56 motion. Id. at *16. Typically,
all parties must then be given the opportunity to present all
material pertinent to the motion, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d), but
when the moving party captions its motion “in the
alternative” and presents evidence outside the
pleadings for the Court's consideration, the parties are
deemed to have notice that the Court may treat the motion as
one for summary judgment under the parameters of Rule 12(d).
McCray, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8513, at *17.
the Court will consider matters outside of the pleadings in
analyzing the retaliation claims and will therefore convert
the motion into one seeking summary judgment as to those
III of the Constitution grants courts the authority to
adjudicate “Cases” and
“Controversies.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2.
“In our system of government, courts have no business
deciding legal disputes or expounding on law in the absence
of such a case or controversy.” Already, LLC v.
Nike, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 721, 726 (2013). A case is moot,
and therefore unreviewable, when the issues presented are no
longer “live” or the parties lack a
“legally cognizable interest in the outcome.”
Id.; see also United States v. Hardy, 545
F.3d 280, 283 (4th Cir. 2008). “No matter how
vehemently the parties continue to dispute the lawfulness of
the conduct that precipitated the lawsuit, ” a case is
moot if the parties' dispute is “no longer embedded
in any actual controversy about the plaintiffs'
particular legal rights.” Already, LLC, 133
S.Ct. at 727.
when student plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of
their school's policies, their claims for declaratory and
injunctive relief become moot when the student graduate.
Mellen v. Bunting, 327 F.3d 355, 364 (4th Cir.
2003); see also Bd. of Sch. Comm'rs of the City of
Indianapolis v. Jacobs, 420 U.S. 128, 129 (finding the
action moot where all named plaintiffs had graduated and case
was not certified as a class action). Graduated students
often claim the familiar exception to the mootness doctrine
that the harm is “capable of repetition, yet evading
review.” Mellen, 327 F.3d at 364. But
“[t]his exception is only applicable where: (1) the
challenged action is too short in duration to be fully
litigated before the case will become moot; and (2)
there is a reasonable expectation that the complaining party
will be subjected to the same action again.”
Id. (citing Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1,
17 (1998)) (emphasis added). Thus, such claims are usually
unsuccessful since graduated students will generally not be
subjected to the challenged school policy in the future.
Mellen, 327 F.3d at 364.
C.W., the only named plaintiff who was or will be a student
at La Plata High School, has apparently graduated as of June
2016. ECF No. 29 at 4; ECF No. 30 at 6. C.W. will therefore
never again be subjected to any alleged harm from
Defendants' “religious instruction that violates
her fundamental constitutional rights” or
“religious instruction that endorses Islam or that
favors Islam over Christianity.” See ECF No. 1
at 24. To avoid a finding of mootness on this point,
Plaintiffs rely on cases such as Morse v. Frederick,
551 U.S. 393 (2007) and Zamecnik v. Indian Prairie Sch.
Dist. No. 204, 636 F.3d 874 (7th Cir. 2011). These cases
are readily distinguishable and do not control the instant
Morse, the Supreme Court granted certiorari on two
questions several years after the student-plaintiff, Joseph
Frederick, had graduated: (1) whether the student-plaintiff
had a First Amendment right to wield his “Bong Hits 4
Jesus” banner at a school event, and (2) whether that
right was so clearly established that the school principal
who punished Frederick could be held liable for damages.
See Morse, 551 U.S. at 400. Although Plaintiffs are
correct that the Supreme Court granted certiorari after
Frederick had graduated, the injunctive relief Frederick
sought was “to remove the reference to the ten day
suspension from his school records.” Frederick v.
Morse, 439 F.3d 1114, 1117 (9th Cir. 2006),
rev'd and remanded, 551 U.S. 393 (2007). Such
relief, which was clearly directed at an on-going injury to
the plaintiff, is markedly different from C.W.'s request
here to “[p]ermanently enjoin Defendants . . . and
successors in office from funding and implementing religious
instruction that endorses Islam . . ., ” ECF No. 1 at
24, which no longer relates to any actual controversy about
Plaintiffs' particular legal rights. Additionally, a
request for declaratory judgment does not alone save a case
from mootness when claims for injunctive relief are moot.
See Green v. Mansour, 474 U.S. 64, 73 (1985)
(holding that declaratory judgment was improper where lack of
continuing violation rendered injunctive relief moot ...