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F.R. v. Gonsoulin

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

January 14, 2020

F.R. AS parent and NEXT FRIEND OF B.C., a minor., Plaintiff,
v.
Dr. Walter B. GONSOULIN, Jr., in his official capacity and as representative of Jefferson County Board of Education, et al., Defendants.

Page 1280

          Andrew Seth Ladores, Ladores Law Firm, LLC, Hoover, AL, Shane T. Sears, Sears & Sears PC, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff.

          Andrew Ethan Rudloff, Carl E. Johnson, Jr., Bishop Colvin Johnson & Kent LLP, Birmingham, AL, for Defendants.

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         LILES C. BURKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On August 29, 2019, the Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that her son B.C., a 17-year-old high school student, had been denied enrollment at McAdory High School in Jefferson County, Alabama, in violation of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 11431-11435. Later that day, this Court conducted a telephone conference in which defense counsel stated that the Jefferson County Board of Education ("the Board") had agreed to enroll B.C. at McAdory High School pending the outcome of this case. The Court thereafter entered an expedited scheduling order providing for an abbreviated discovery period.[1]

         On October 17, 2019, the Board filed a stipulation and motion to dismiss.[2] (Doc. 16). While declining to admit that it had violated the Act or any other provision of law, the Board, "in the interest of minimizing disruption to minor Plaintiff B.C.'s educational program, terminating counterproductive litigation, and conserving educational and judicial resources," stipulated to the following course of action:

1. Minor Plaintiff B.C. (whose enrollment is the subject of the pending civil action) shall be permitted to complete the 2019-20 school year at McAdory High School and to graduate therefrom subject to his continuing compliance with rules, regulations, and requirements that apply to all McAdory High School students.
2. B.C. shall continue to be provided transportation from his current residence to and from McAdory High School in accordance with transportation arrangements already in effect.
3. If deemed appropriate, the Board consents to the Court retaining jurisdiction

Page 1281

over this matter through the end of the 2019-20 school year in order to address any unforeseen circumstances or developments that could affect implementation of the foregoing commitment or, in the alternative, to a dismissal of the action without prejudice.

(Doc. 16, p. 1-2). In a footnote that was omitted from the above quotation, the Board stated that it "further agrees to provide reasonable advance notice to Plaintiff should [any unforeseen circumstances or developments] arise." Id. at p. 2. Thus, it appears to the Court that the Plaintiff has obtained the relief she sought, i.e., her son's admission and continued enrollment at McAdory. Based on that stipulation, the Board asserted that the controversy was moot and moved to dismiss the case.

         In her response, the Plaintiff argued that the stipulation did not render the case moot because, she said, the stipulation did not provide all of the requested relief and "was at best an offer to settle." (Doc. 19, p. 2). The Plaintiff further asserted that the Board's decision to allow B.C. to enroll at McAdory and proceed towards graduation was, at this point, "in bad faith" and represented "nothing more than another attempt by the Defendant to `pull the wool over the Court's eyes' and designed to avoid the issuance of a final judgment for the Plaintiff on the merits, a determination that the Plaintiff is the prevailing party, and paying Plaintiff's attorneys' fees." Id. Thus, despite the Board's decision to give the Plaintiff the exact relief she sought in her complaint, Plaintiff's counsel seeks to maintain this ...


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