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Doe v. Charleroi School District

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

October 22, 2014

JANE DOE, a minor, by and through her parents and natural guardians, RICHARD DOE AND MARY DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLEROI SCHOOL DISTRICT; BETHLEHEM-CENTER SCHOOL DISTRICT; JENNIFER MARIE JOYCE; and PATRICIA MASON, Defendants.

OPINION

MAURICE B. COHILL, Jr., Senior District Judge.

Pending before the Court is a Partial Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 14] filed by Defendants Charleroi School District ("Charleroi") and Patricia Mason ("Mason"), the Principal at Charleroi School (collectively "Charleroi Defendants") pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. When making a determination regarding a motion to dismiss, the Court must consider the facts and allegations as they are presented by Plaintiff.

Plaintiff, Jane Doe, was a seventeen-year-old student in Charleroi School District [ECF No. 1 at 21. Jeffery A. Hahn, Jr. ("Hahn"), an adult, was a teacher at Bethlehem Center School District ("Bethlehem"); he was "borrowed" by Charleroi to produce a school musical at Charleroi [ECF No. 1 at 3-4]. Defendant Mason was the Principal of Charleroi [ECF No. 1 at 2], and Defendant Jennifer Marie Joyce ("Joyce") was a teacher at Charleroi and was in charge of the school musical and responsible for recruiting Hahn as the producer [ECF No. 1 at 3].

Hahn and Jane Doe entered into a romantic relationship during the course of the musical and after. The relationship included telephone and electronic communication, in-person meetings, handholding, hugs, and other physical contact. Joyce was informed by friends of Jane Doe and by Jane Doe herself that there was a romantic relationship between Jane Doe and Hahn [ECF No. 1 at 5]. Joyce warned Hahn to stop the inappropriate relationship but took no other action [ECF No. 1 at 5]. Jane Doe also alleges that Bethlehem knew Hahn engaged in other inappropriate relationships but failed to fully investigate or discipline Hahn [ECF No. 1 at 4].

On or about May 4, 2012 Hahn requested Jane Doe to help him remove stage props from a basement storage room at Charleroi's High School Auditorium. When the two met in the basement storage room Hahn subdued, sexually assaulted, and forcibly raped Jane Doe. Jane Doe's head was slammed against the wall causing a laceration and bleeding [ECF No. 1 at 4-5

Charges were brought against Hahn for sexual assault, corrupting a minor, institutional sexual assault, and statutory sexual assault. Hahn subsequently pled guilty and was sentenced to 4-8 years' imprisonment followed by 10 years of state-supervised probation [ECF No. 1 at 6]. Joyce was charged with failing to report suspected child abuse and sentenced to 12 months of court supervision [ECF No. 1 at 5]. Jane Doe, and her parents have filed this action against Charleroi, Bethlehem, Joyce, and Mason.

On July 15, 2014, Plaintiff, Jane Doe, tiled a Complaint in Civil Action [ECF No. 1] seeking compensatory damages, costs of suit, attorneys' fees, and any other relief the court deems appropriate under Title IX and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Complaint alleges Count I, Violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) (Sexual harassment and sexual assault by Hahn against Charleroi and Mason, among others); Count II, Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Sexual harassment and sexual assault by Hahn against Charleroi and Mason, among others); Count III, Violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(Sexually hostile educational environment and retaliation against Charleroi and Mason among others); and Count IV, Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Sexually hostile educational environment and retaliation against Charleroi and Mason, among others) [ECF No. 1].

On September 15, 2014, Charleroi Defendants filed their Partial Motion to Dismiss and supporting Brief [ECF Nos. 14 and 15] claiming that Counts I, II, and III should be dismissed with prejudice as to Mason because an individual is not a proper defendant under the law. Charleroi Defendants also assert that Counts I and II should be dismissed with prejudice as to Charleroi because the elements of the claim are not factually substantiated.

In Jane Doe's Brief in Opposition to Charleroi Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 17], Jane Doe consents to the Motion to Dismiss Counts I, II, and III as to Mason. With regard to Counts I and III there can be no individual liability under Title IX, and as such a claim cannot be maintained against an individual school official such as Mason. With regard to Count II under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Jane Doe must show a specific causal link between Mason and the alleged constitutional deprivation, which was not done in Jane Doe's Complaint. However, Jane Doe requests that Count II be dismissed without prejudice in the event that discovery reveals grounds for liability against Mason at a later date. As such, this Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss with regard to Defendant Mason on Counts I, II, and III. Counts I and Mare dismissed with prejudice. Count II is dismissed without prejudice.

Jane Doe, however, contests the dismissal of Counts I and II as to Charleroi. The Court will address the Parties' arguments with regard to these two counts below.

I. Standard of Review.

In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion for Failure to State a Claim upon which Relief can be Granted, a 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 of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.' Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd. , 292 F.3d 361, 374 n. 7 (3d Cir. 2002)); (see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 563, n.8 (2007)). A valid complaint requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8 "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S.662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555).

"To survive a motion to dismiss a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). "Factual allegations [of a complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. "This [standard] does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips , 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). Thus, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of [her] entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

The Supreme Court in Iqbal explained that although a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in a complaint, that requirement does not apply to legal conclusions; therefore, pleadings must include factual allegations to support the legal claims asserted. See 556 U.S. at 678. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555); see also Phillips , 515 F.3d at 232 (-We caution that without some factual allegation in the complaint, a claimant cannot satisfy the requirement that he or she provide not only fair notice, but also the grounds' on which the claim rests.") (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 n, 3 (2007)). Accordingly, to survive a ...


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