The opinion of the court was delivered by: Katz, Senior District Judge.
Plaintiffs Eric and Mary Woodson bring various causes of action
stemming from an alleged assault of Eric Woodson. Three of the
defendants, the School District of Philadelphia*fn1, Anna
McGuire, and Angela Lee, now move for summary judgment.
For purposes of this motion, the court accepts the plaintiffs'
factual allegations as true. According to the plaintiffs, on June
3, 1998, Eric had left John Bartram High
School for the day*fn2 when he and a friend, Kilyon Keyes, were
stopped by two Philadelphia police officers for truancy. Eric and
Kilyon were ordered into the police car, and, after they
complied, they were returned to the school. After entering the
school, the officers ordered Eric into an empty room. Eric did
not enter the room as promptly as the police officer wished and
may have challenged the officer verbally. In response, one of the
officers lifted him off the ground by his clothing and then threw
him across the tiled, cement floor. Eric's face and jaw were
severely injured as a result. After some time had passed, one of
the officers took Eric to the school nurse, Angela Lee. According
to the plaintiffs, Lee failed to assist Eric or seek other
medical attention for him. Eric was taken to the principal's
office, and his mother was contacted. He eventually underwent
extensive treatment for injuries.
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff must allege
that defendants who acted under the color state law deprived him
of a right secured by the United States Constitution or federal
law. Accordingly, section 1983 does not create any rights but
rather provides a remedy for violation of rights secured
elsewhere. See, e.g., Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist.,
132 F.3d 902, 906-07 (3d Cir. 1997). The court will consider the
claims made against each of the moving defendants in turn.
Count five, the only count naming the School District, alleges
that the District violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by having a "policy
and/or custom . . . to inadequately train principals, school
nurses, supervis[ors], teachers, and others in its employ,
including the principal and school nurse herein, and to protect
and safeguard the students in its care and control." Compl. ¶ 49.
Count five continues to say that the School District had a policy
of inadequately supervising and training school personnel,
including Lee and McGuire, and "thereby failing to adequately
discourage further constitutional violations on the part of its .
. . school personnel."*fn4 Compl. ¶ 50. Finally, this count
states that the District failed "to require appropriate
in-service training or re-training of its personnel who were
known to have failed in protecting the health, safety, and
welfare of the students in the Philadelphia School System."
Compl. ¶ 51. The School District now seeks summary judgment on
Section 1983 does not permit respondeat superior liability.
Board of Comm'rs of Bryan Cty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403, 117
S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed.2d 626 (1997). A public entity may not be
held liable under section 1983 unless "the alleged
unconstitutional action executes or implements policy or a
decision officially adopted or promulgated by those whose acts
may fairly be said to represent official policy." Reitz v.
County of Bucks, 125 F.3d 139, 144 (3d Cir. 1997), citing
Monell v. New York Dep't of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91, 98
S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). In the absence of an
affirmative policy or custom, a failure to train can serve as the
basis of section 1983 liability "where the failure to train
amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with
whom the municipal employees come into contact." Reitz, 125
F.3d at 145, quoting Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388, 109
S.Ct. 1197, 103 L.Ed.2d 412 (1989) (internal citations,
punctuation omitted). A cognizable failure to train claim must
reflect a "deliberate or conscious choice" by an entity.
Canton, 489 U.S. at 388, 109 S.Ct. 1197.
Plaintiffs allege no affirmative policy or custom. The only
policies of record in this case are that the School District had
a policy of treating injured students when possible, see Def.
Ex. I at 7-8 (deposition of Lee), and that the District also had
a policy of investigating "serious incidents" in which students
were involved. See, e.g., Plf. Ex. D at 28-29 (security officer
stating that policy requires filing of report); Plf. Ex. E at
19-22 (principal stating that policy is to file reports and
conduct investigation as deemed appropriate in such situations).
With respect to the failure to train, the Third Circuit has
noted that "[e]stablishing municipal liability on a failure to
train claim under § 1983 is difficult," Reitz, 125 F.3d at 145,
and plaintiffs have simply failed to meet their burden. "A
plaintiff pressing a § 1983 claim must identify a failure to
provide specific training that has a causal nexus with their
injuries and must demonstrate that the absence of that specific
training can reasonably be said to reflect a deliberate
indifference to whether the alleged constitutional deprivation
occurred." Reitz, 125 F.3d at 145. Moreover, plaintiffs must
also demonstrate that "through its deliberate conduct, the
municipality was the `moving force' behind the injury alleged."
Bryan, 520 U.S. at 404, 117 S.Ct. 1382.
In this case, the plaintiffs have presented no evidence
whatsoever to suggest that the School District engaged in a
deliberately indifferent policy of failing to train its employees
to assist injured students. Even assuming, for the moment, that
the actions of the individual defendants were in violation of
section 1983, there is no indication that the School District's
failure to train was related to those actions. There is no
evidence that "similar conduct ha[d] occurred in the past or that
the inactivity or activity occurred specifically because of
insufficient training[.]" Reitz, 125 F.3d at 145. Moreover,
plaintiffs may not show deliberate indifference by pointing to
the shortcomings of an individual principal or nurse; nor may
they meet their burden by showing, without more, "that better
training would have enabled a staff member to avoid the
injury-causing conduct." Hedges v. Musco, 33 F. Supp.2d 369, 382
(D.N.J. 1999). Plaintiffs also fail to clarify what training
might have alleviated the problems alleged.
Nor is there any evidence of record that would permit a finding
that the School District should be liable for its custom or
policy of failing to train the police officers in this case.
Initially, and most importantly, the only evidence of record
states that the police officers were not employed by the School
District and were not attached to any particular school. See
Def. Ex. M at 6-7, 12-15 (deposition of Officer Lopez stating
that his duties pertaining to truants are established by the
police department and that he has little or no contact with the
school); Def. Ex. N at 6-7, 46-47 (deposition of Officer Pigford
same); Plf. Ex. E at 17, 18, 33-34 (McGuire testimony noting that
officers are not school personnel); Def. Ex. K (police department
policy pertaining to truants). Even if the court were inclined to
find that the officers' close relationship with Bartram High
School could create an obligation on the part of the School
District to train those officers, plaintiffs have not met their
burden of showing deliberate indifference as described above.
There is no evidence that the School District was aware of any
prior incidents with these officers or other officers such that
it should have been on notice of potential problems that it could
have redressed through training programs. See, e.g., Plf. Ex. D
at 28-29, 32 (testimony of school security officer stating that
he was unaware of any other incidents between students and police
While the plaintiffs' response to the motion for summary
judgment suggests that there was some sort of conspiracy between
the school defendants and the police officers in question, there
is no evidence or argument presented that would enable the court
to find that there was a School District policy that encouraged
such behavior or a lack of training that could lead to such
behavior. Again, the only possible basis for School District
liability would be respondeat superior liability. However, even
if plaintiffs could show that McGuire and Lee engaged in some
sort of cover up of a violation of Eric's rights, there is
nothing that connects such actions to the School District. As
noted above, it appears to be School policy to ...