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SHUMAN v. PENN MANOR SCHOOL DISTRICT

May 17, 2004.

JOSHUA SHUMAN, a minor, by and through his Mother and Natural Guardian, TERESA SHERTZER; and TERESA SHERTZER, Individually, Plaintiffs,
v.
PENN MANOR SCHOOL DISTRICT; PENN MANOR SCHOOL BOARD; DONALD STEWART, Individually; JANICE M. MINDISH, Individually; BRIAN D. BADDICK, Individually; PHILIP B. GALE, Individually; and CAROLE FAY, Individually, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES KNOLL GARDNER, District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendants, Penn Manor School District, Penn Manor School Board, Gary B. Campbell, Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick, Philip Gale, and Carole Fay's Motion for Summary Judgment, which motion was filed on December 15, 2003. For the reasons expressed below, we conclude that defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all remaining counts of plaintiffs' Complaint. Therefore, we grant defendants' motion and enter judgment accordingly.

  PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

  This civil action arises from plaintiff Joshua Shuman's four-day suspension from Penn Manor High School after being accused of sexually harassing a fellow student, Olivia Becker. On June 5, 2002 plaintiffs filed a Complaint against defendants raising the following claims:
• Count I — Invalidity of Policy Manual and Defendants' Actions Thereto (in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1983);
• Count II — Violation of Civil Rights (42 U.S.C. § 1983);
• Count III — Violation of Plaintiffs' Substantive Due Process Rights (in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments);
• Count IV — Violation of Plaintiffs' Procedural Due Process Rights (in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments);
• Count V — Violation of Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment Rights;
• Count VI — Violation of Plaintiffs' Right to Equal Protection of the Law (in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment);
• Count VII — Violation of Plaintiffs' First Amendment Rights;
• Count VIII — Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress;
• Count IX — Negligence;
• Count X — Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress; and
• Count XI — Punitive Damages.
  Upon consideration of the Motion of Defendants, Penn Manor School District, Penn Manor School Board, C. Willis Herr, Richard L. Frerichs, Jeffrey E. Lyon, Patrick T. Kline, Donald H. Anderson, H. Thomas Herr, Kelly K. Withum, Donna Wert, Jeffrey Kreider, Dolores Warfel, Steve Syrocki, Gary B. Campbell, Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick, Philip B. Gale, and Carole Fay to Dismiss Portions of Plaintiffs' Complaint ("Motion to Dismiss"), which motion was filed on August 5, 2002, and the Motion of Plaintiffs for Reconsideration and Clarification of the Order of the Honorable James Knoll Gardner Dated June 24, 2003, which motion was filed on July 23, 2003, the undersigned dismissed certain claims and defendants from plaintiffs' Complaint.*fn1 [EDITORS NOTE: THIS PAGE IS BLANK.] Remaining for the court's consideration as of this date are the following claims:
 
• Count II — Violation of Civil Rights (42 U.S.C. § 1983), as raised by plaintiff Joshua Shuman against defendants Penn Manor School District, Penn Manor School Board, Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick and Philip B. Gale, in their individual capacities;
• Count IV — Violation of Plaintiffs' Procedural Due Process Rights (in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments), as raised by plaintiff Joshua Shuman against defendants Penn Manor School District, Penn Manor School Board, Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick and Philip B. Gale, in their individual capacities;
• Count V — Violation of Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment Rights, as raised by plaintiff Joshua Shuman against defendants Penn Manor School District, Penn Manor School Board, Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick and Philip B. Gale, in their individual capacities;
• Count VI — Violation of Plaintiffs' Right to Equal Protection of the Law (in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment), as raised by plaintiff Joshua Shuman against defendants Penn Manor School District, Penn Manor School Board, Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick and Philip B. Gale, in their individual capacities;
• Count VII — Violation of Plaintiffs' First Amendment Rights, as raised by plaintiff Joshua Shuman against defendants Penn Manor School District, Penn Manor School Board, Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick and Philip B. Gale, in their individual capacities;
• Count VIII — Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, as raised by plaintiffs Joshua Shuman and Teresa Shertzer against defendants Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick (as raised by plaintiff Shuman only) and Philip B. Gale, in their individual capacities; • Count IX — Negligence, as raised by plaintiffs Joshua Shuman and Teresa Shertzer against defendants Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick, Philip B. Gale and Carole Fay, in their individual capacities;
• Count X — Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, as raised by plaintiffs Joshua Shuman and Teresa Shertzer against defendants Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick, Philip B. Gale and Carole Fay, in their individual capacities; and
• Count XI — Punitive Damages, as raised by plaintiffs Joshua Shuman and Teresa Shertzer against defendants Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick, Philip B. Gale and Carole Fay, in their individual capacities.
  On December 15, 2003 Defendants, Penn Manor School District, Penn Manor School Board, Gary B. Campbell, Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick, Philip Gale, and Carole Fay's Motion for Summary Judgment was filed. On January 9, 2004 Plaintiffs' Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment was filed. With leave of court, Defendants, Penn Manor School District, Penn Manor School Board, Gary B. Campbell, Donald Stewart, Janice M. Mindish, Brian D. Baddick, Philip Gale, and Carole Fay's Reply Brief in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment was filed on January 22, 2004.

  In their motion, defendants argue that there are no issues of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all remaining claims. Plaintiffs concede that judgment should be entered in favor of Brian Baddick on all First Amendment claims, in favor of Donald Stewart on all Fourth Amendment claims and in favor of all defendants on plaintiffs' claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiffs argue that issues of material fact preclude the entry of judgment in defendants' favor in any other respect.

  For the reasons which follow, we find that there are no issues of material fact precluding the entry of summary judgment in this matter and that defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all remaining counts of the Complaint. Thus, we now grant defendants' motion for summary judgment and enter judgment accordingly.

  STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

  Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that judgment shall be rendered where it is shown 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); accord Central Pennsylvania Teamsters Pension Fund v. McCormick Dray Line, Inc., 85 F.3d 1098, 1102 (3d Cir. 1996). The moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

  Once the moving party has established the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). If the evidence offered by the non-moving party in opposition to a motion for summary judgment is "not significantly probative" the court may enter summary judgment in favor of the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

  FINDINGS OF FACT

  Based upon the pleadings, record papers, depositions and exhibits of the parties, the undersigned makes the following findings of fact:

  1. On December 7, 2001 an incident involving contact of a sexual nature occurred between plaintiff Joshua Shuman and his classmate Olivia Becker during agricultural science class conducted at Penn Manor High School.*fn2

  2. On December 10, 2001 Ms. Becker reported to Assistant Principal Philip B. Gale that without her consent plaintiff Joshua Shuman touched her thigh and her crotch and put her hand on his groin during agricultural science class on December 7, 2001.*fn3

  3. At approximately 10:15 a.m. on December 10, 2001 plaintiff Shuman was called down to Mr. Gale's office.*fn4

  4. Mr. Gale asked plaintiff if he knew why he had been called down to the office and informed him that it concerned a situation with Olivia Becker. Plaintiff Shuman indicated that he understood why he was called to the office.*fn5 5. Mr. Gale informed Mr. Shuman that Ms. Becker claimed that he forced his hand upon her in a sexual manner and that she was very upset.*fn6

  6. At that initial meeting, Mr. Shuman told Mr. Gale his complete version of the December 7, 2001 incident which he described as consensual conduct between he and Ms. Becker. Mr. Shuman then named several students who were present in the class who may have witnessed something.*fn7

  7. Mr. Gale informed Mr. Shuman that his version of events conflicted with Ms. Becker's version because she reported the incident as non-consensual. This first interview lasted approximately ten to fifteen minutes.*fn8

  8. Immediately after interviewing Mr. Shuman, Mr. Gale determined that he would punish Mr. Shuman in some way for the inappropriate touching. He then asked Mr. Shuman to sit across the hall from his office in a small conference room.*fn9

  9. While waiting in the conference room, Mr. Shuman worked on his agricultural science assignments.*fn10 10. Mr. Gale then re-interviewed Ms. Becker after informing her that Mr. Shuman claimed that the incident was consensual.*fn11

  11. In response, Ms. Becker adamantly denied that the incident was consensual. She identified three friends in whom she had confided concerning the incident immediately after the incident.*fn12

  12. After speaking with Ms. Becker, Mr. Gale returned to Mr. Shuman and informed him that Ms. Becker still claimed that the contact was not consensual. He further informed Mr. Shuman that he had spoken to other students to whom Ms. Becker had relayed the details of the incident. This second interview lasted approximately ten minutes.*fn13

  13. At approximately 11:30 a.m., Mr. Gale escorted Mr. Shuman to the cafeteria to eat lunch. No other students were present in the cafeteria at this time.*fn14

  14. At approximately 1:00 p.m., Mr. Gale and Mr. Shuman returned from lunch to the small conference room.*fn15 15. After returning from lunch, Assistant Principal Brian D. Baddick along with Mr. Gale questioned Mr. Shuman in the small conference room for approximately ten minutes.*fn16

  16. At approximately 1:15 p.m., Mr. Gale informed Mr. Shuman that he would be suspended for four days from December 11, 2001 through December 14, 2001. He then called ...


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