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FLAHERTY v. KEYSTONE OAKS SCHOOL DIST.

February 26, 2003

JACK FLAHERTY, JR., JACK FLAHERTY, SR. AND CAROL FLAHERTY, PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS ON THEIR OWN BEHALF AND THEIR SON, JACK, JR. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KEYSTONE OAKS SCHOOL DISTRICT, DR. CARL DEJULIO, SUPERINTENDENT OF KEYSTONE OAKS SCHOOL DISTRICT, SCOTT HAGY, PRINCIPAL OF KEYSTONE OAKS HIGH SCHOOL, ALEX COVI, ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL OF KEYSTONE OAKS HIGH SCHOOL, JOSEPH PERRY, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR OF KEYSTONE OAKS HIGH SCHOOL AND JEFF SIEG, ATHLETIC COACH OF KEYSTONE OAKS HIGH SCHOOL, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donetta W. Ambrose, Chief Judge.

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

SYNOPSIS

Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 59) regarding the constitutionality of certain policies of Keystone Oaks School District`s ("KOSD") Student Handbook of 2000-2001. Defendants have filed a Brief in Opposition (Docket No. 62), and Plaintiffs have filed a Reply Brief (Docket No. 65). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties, and based on my Opinion set forth below, said Motion is granted.

OPINION

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises out of the disciplinary action taken against Jack Flaherty, Jr. by Defendants for posting Internet messages on a web site message board. Engaged in a message board conversation regarding an upcoming volleyball game with Baldwin High School, Jack Flaherty, Jr. posted three messages from his parents' home and one from school.*fn1 For engaging in the conversation and posting the messages both at home and school, Defendants punished Jack Flaherty, Jr. pursuant to their policies set forth in the Student Handbook.

Plaintiffs in this case, Jack Flaherty, Jr., Jack Flaherty, Sr. and Carol Flaherty, parents and natural guardians of Jack Flaherty, Jr., filed a Complaint and subsequently an Amended Complaint (Docket No. 37) against Defendants.*fn2 Therein, Plaintiffs allege, inter alia, that the policies used to punish Jack Flaherty, Jr. for expressions that occurred off campus and at home are vague and overbroad in violation of Plaintiffs' constitutionally protected rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as Article I, § 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. See, Amended Complaint. The particular policies identified are contained with in the Discipline, the Student Responsibility, and the Technology provisions. Plaintiffs' Exhibit 1, pp. 4-5, 17-18. Said provisions contain the terms "abuse" or "abusive," "harassment," "in appropriate," and "offend" which Plaintiffs argue are vague and over broad.*fn3

Defendants have filed a Brief in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiffs' filed a Reply Brief. The issue is now ripe for review.

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. Standard Of Review

Summary judgment may only be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against the party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, this Court must examine the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence creates no genuine issue of material fact. Chipollini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d Cir. 1987). The dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.

Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. Summary judgment must therefore be granted "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element ...


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