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Doe v. Boyertown Area Sch. Dist.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 28, 2014

JANE DOE, Plaintiff
v.
BOYERTOWN AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; MARK E. MacLELLAN; HARRY W. MORGAN; DANIEL F. GOFFREDO; DION E. BETTS; BRETT A. COOPER; and ROBERT S. HAYMAN, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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ANTHONY J. BARATTA, ESQUIRE, On behalf of Plaintiff.

EVERETT COOK, ESQUIRE, On behalf of Defendant Mark E. MacLellan.

JOHN E. FREUND, III, ESQUIRE, On behalf of Defendants Boyertown Area School District, Harry W. Morgan, Daniel F. Goffredo, Dion E. Betts, Brett A. Cooper, and Robert S. Hayman.

OPINION

Page 640

JAMES KNOLL GARDNER, United States District Judge.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section

Page

SUMMARY OF DECISION

JURISDICTION

VENUE

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

STANDARD OF REVIEW

FACTS

Defendant MacLellan

School District Defendants

CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

Contentions of School District Defendants

Contentions of Plaintiff

DISCUSSION

MacLellan Motion to Dismiss

School District Motion to Dismiss

Count I - Section 1983

Deprivation of Constitutional Rights - Fourth Amendment

Deprivation of Constitutional Rights - Fourteenth Amendment

School District Liability

Individual Defendants' Liability

Count III - Title IX

Individual Defendants

Boyertown Area School District

Count VII - Pennsylvania Constitution

Damage

CONCLUSION

This matter is before the court on the Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) of Defendants Boyertown Area School District, Harry W. Morgan, Daniel F. Goffredo, Dion E. Betts, Brett A. Cooper, and Robert S. Hayman filed July 15, 2013 (" School District Defendants' Motion to Dismiss" )[1]. This matter is also

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before the court on the Motion to Dismiss Counts II, IV, V, and VI of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) of Defendant Mark E. MacLellan filed July 30, 2013 (" MacLellan's Motion to Dismiss" ).[2]

SUMMARY OF DECISION

For the reasons expressed below, defendant Mark E. MacLellan's Motion to Dismiss is dismissed as untimely.

In addition, the School District Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part. It is granted to the extent that it seeks dismissal of: (A) plaintiff's Section 1983 claim [3] for a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights because plaintiff has not stated a claim for a Fourth Amendment violation; (B) plaintiff's Section 1983 claim for a violation of plaintiff's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment under a failure-to-train theory because plaintiff has not stated a claim for failure to train; (C) Count III against the individual defendants for violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § § 1681-1688 (" Title IX" ) by agreement of the parties; and (D) plaintiff's claim for a violation of her rights to protection from unreasonable search and seizure under Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because plaintiff has not alleged that an unreasonable search and seizure occurred.

The School District Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is denied in all other respects because plaintiff has adequately pled a Section 1983 claim for a violation of her right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment under a policy or custom of deliberate indifference theory; a claim for a violation of Title IX; and a claim for a violation of her right to due process under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

JURISDICTION

This court has original jurisdiction over the subject matter of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim and Title IX claim based upon federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's pendent Pennsylvania state-law claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

VENUE

Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because the events giving rise to these claims occurred in Boyertown, Berks County, Pennsylvania, which is located in this judicial district. See 28 U.S.C. § § 118, 1391(b).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Jane Doe initiated this action on December 10, 2012 by filing an initial Complaint against defendant Mark E. MacLellan.[4]

On April 26, 2013 plaintiff filed an Amended Civil Action Complaint against defendants Boyertown Area School District, Mark E. MacLellan, Harry W. Morgan, Daniel F. Goffredo, Dion E. Betts, Brett A. Cooper, and Robert S. Hayman.[5]

On May 15, 2013 defendant MacLellan filed Defendant Mark E. MacLellan's Answer

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to Plaintiff's Amended Civil Action - Complaint.[6]

On July 15, 2013 defendants Boyertown Area School District, Harry W. Morgan, Daniel F. Goffredo, Dion E. Betts, Brett A. Cooper, and Robert S. Hayman (" School District Defendants" ) filed School District Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.[7] On July 29, 2013 plaintiff filed Plaintiff's Response to School District Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.[8]

On July 30, 2013 defendant MacLellan filed MacLellan's Motion to Dismiss seeking to dismiss Counts II, IV, V, and VI of plaintiff's Amended Complaint.[9] On August 9, 2013 plaintiff filed Plaintiff's Response to MacLellan's Motion to Dismiss.[10]

By Order dated August 23, 2013 and filed August 27, 2013 I granted defendants leave to file a reply brief in support of their motion to dismiss.[11] The School District Defendants filed the School District Reply on August 27, 2013.[12] By Order dated and filed August 30, 2013 I granted plaintiff leave to file a surreply brief opposing defendant's motion to dismiss.[13] Plaintiff's Surreply was filed August 30, 2013.[14]

STANDARD OF REVIEW

" A Rule 12(b) motion to dismiss a complaint must be filed before any responsive pleading." Turbe v. Government of Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) states in part, " A motion asserting any of these defenses must be made before pleading if a responsive pleading is allowed."

A claim may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for " failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A Rule 12(b)(6) motion requires the court to examine the sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80, 84 (1957) (abrogated in other respects by Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Generally, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court relies on the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record, including other judicial proceedings. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2008).

Except as provided in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9, a complaint is sufficient if it complies with Rule 8(a)(2), which requires " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Rule 8(a)(2) does not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d at 949.[15]

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In determining whether a complaint is sufficient, the court must accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)).

Although " conclusory" or " bare-bones allegations" will not survive a motion to dismiss, Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210, a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231. Nonetheless, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must provide " enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Id. at 234 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d at 940) (internal quotations omitted).

The court is required to conduct a two-part analysis when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. First, the factual matters averred in the complaint, and any attached exhibits, should be separated from legal conclusions asserted. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. Any facts pled must be taken as true, and any legal conclusions asserted may be disregarded. Id. at 210-211.

Second, the court must determine whether those factual matters averred are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a " plausible claim for relief." Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950, 178 L.Ed.2d at 884).

Ultimately, this two-part analysis is " context-specific" and requires the court to draw on " its judicial experience and common sense" to determine if the facts pled in the complaint have " nudged [plaintiff's] claims" over the line from " [merely] conceivable [or possible] to plausible." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679-680, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-1951, 178 L.Ed.2d at 884-885.

A well-pled complaint may not be dismissed simply because " it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d at 940-941 (internal quotations omitted).

FACTS

Defendant MacLellan

Based upon the averments in plaintiff's Amended Civil Action Complaint, which I must accept as true under the applicable standard of review discussed above, the pertinent facts are as follows.

Plaintiff first met defendant MacLellan during her freshman year of high school when she joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (" JROTC" ) class which Mr. MacLellan instructed.[16] Mr. MacLellan gave his cell phone number to all of his students and established a reputation as being the cool teacher: allowing them to send text messages in class, allowing cheating, allowing the students to goof off, and granting female students passes to allow them to avoid other classes and spend time with him.[17] This manner of teaching was intended to groom impressionable female students to trust him and confide in him as one of their peers.[18]

School district officials responsible for supervising MacLellan were aware of his

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actions or could have been aware through proper monitoring of his behavior.[19]

During plaintiff's freshman year, one of the female freshman in Mr. MacLellan's class asked him about a text message which she received containing the word " clit" . Defendant MacLellan then gave plaintiff and the other female a verbal anatomy lesson about the vagina.[20] When another female student asked Mr. MacLellan if he had any naughty pictures on his cellphone he smiled in response.[21] When another female student showed plaintiff a heart in the middle of that student's bra, defendant MacLellan demanded that he be shown the heart which required her to pull down her shirt to the point that it exposed the student's breast.[22]

Plaintiff did not continue as a JROTC student after her freshman year, but continued to visit with Mr. MacLellan each school day for about 15 minutes before classes started.[23] Plaintiff told him that she had been seeing a boy in high school and Mr. MacLellan gave her relationship advice and asked for details regarding any sexual interaction between plaintiff and the boy.[24]

In February 2011, Mr. MacLellan began sending text messages back and forth to plaintiff from early morning until late at night.[25] Such text messages were exchanged throughout the course of the school day and at times contained pictures of defendant MacLellan's erect penis and of him shirtless.[26] Mr. MacLellan encouraged plaintiff to send pictures of herself in her underwear, which she did.[27]

After one of plaintiff's female friends told her that Mr. MacLellan was getting " head" (oral sex) from other students in JROTC, plaintiff texted him and asked if he wanted " head" . Mr. MacLellan responded " when?" .[28] On another occasion, plaintiff texted Mr. MacLellan and told him that she was thirsty to which he replied that he had something for her to drink.[29] On another occasion defendant MacLellan asked plaintiff to meet him after school by herself and was disappointed to see her with someone else so he walked away shaking his head.[30]

On April 11, 2011, while teaching on school grounds Mr. MacLellan arranged to meet with plaintiff after school. He asked plaintiff to send him a text message indicating that she was 18 years old, although he knew that she was not. He told plaintiff to pretend to ...


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