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Worcester v. Stark State College

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

July 10, 2019

EMILY WORCESTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STARK STATE COLLEGE, DEFENDANT.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HONORABLE SARA LIOI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the motion to dismiss filed by defendant Stark State College (“SSC”) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 7 [“Mot.”].) Plaintiff Emily Worcester (“Worcester”) filed a brief in opposition (Doc. No. 8 [“Opp'n”]), and SSC filed a reply (Doc. No. 9 [“Reply”]). For the reasons set forth herein, the motion to dismiss is granted with respect to the federal claim in count one. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim in count two.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 23, 2018, Worcester filed her complaint against SSC, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking redress for alleged violations of her substantive and procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. No. 1, Complaint [“Compl.”] ¶ 3.)

         Worcester alleges that she enrolled at SSC in 2014. (Id. ¶ 10.) In 2016, having completed all the prerequisites, she was accepted into SSC's dental hygiene program. (Id. ¶ 12.) On April 5, 2018, despite both having no disciplinary record and remaining in good standing, Worcester “received a letter informing her that she had been dismissed from the dental hygiene program and that the letter would serve as a ‘final' dismissal.” (Id. ¶¶ 14-15; ¶ 27.)

         Worcester alleges that her dismissal “was based upon two alleged incidents in which she was accused of taking dental impressions of patients off of [SSC's] property.” (Id. ¶ 16.) She admits that she “took dental impressions of two of her patients outside of [SSC, ]” but claims that she was “unaware that she was not allowed” to do so. (Id. ¶ 19.) She alleges that she was “never told” and had “no notice” that such behavior “could result in expulsion.” (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Worcester alleges that she was “dismissed from the dental hygiene program without being given the opportunity to be heard or to file any appeal or readmission application.” (Id. ¶ 29.)

         Worcester further alleges that another student who had engaged in the same behavior was not dismissed, was given an opportunity to re-take the dental impressions, and graduated on time with multiple awards. (Id. ¶¶ 31-33.)

         Finally, Worcester alleges that she filed a formal student complaint, for which she never received a written decision, as well as a readmission application. (Id. ¶¶ 35-43.) She alleges that SSC “failed to follow its own procedures, depriving [her] of her due process rights[, ]” and breaching a contract that SSC had with her. (Id. ¶¶ 47; 50-54.)

         Worcester asserts a single federal claim for violation of procedural and substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and a single state law claim for breach of contract.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although this pleading standard does not require great detail, the factual allegations in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (citing authorities). In other words, “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Id. at 555, n.3 (criticizing the Twombly dissent's assertion that the pleading standard of Rule 8 “does not require, or even invite, the pleading of facts”) (internal citation omitted).

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Rule 8 does not “unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Id. at 678-79. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 679. “The court need not, however, accept unwarranted factual inferences.” Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987)).[1]

         B. Analysis

         1. Section 1983 Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Claim(s)

         “To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must set forth facts that, when construed favorably, establish (1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States (2) caused by a person acting under the color of state law.” Heyne v. Metro. Nashville Pub. Sch., 655 F.3d 556, ...


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