United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
Alexandra Kobrick commenced this action advancing
constitutional statutory and common law claims against her
former teacher two school districts and various
administrators (Doc 1) The claims arise from an approximately
eight-month-long sexual relationship between Kobrick and
defendant Matthew Stevens her former music teacher and band
director which began during her senior year in high school
(See id) Before the court is Stevens' motion (Doc 100)
for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56 We will grant in part and deny in part
Factual Background & Procedural
Alexandra Kobrick (“Kobrick”) attended Lakeland
Junior-Senior High School from seventh through twelfth
grades. (Doc. 101 ¶ 3; Doc. 138 ¶ 3). During her
junior and senior years-the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school
years, respectively-Kobrick pursued a music-oriented
curriculum. (See Doc. 101 ¶ 7; Doc. 138 ¶ 7). She
was also an active member of the marching, concert, and jazz
bands. (See Doc. 101 ¶¶ 5-6, 8; Doc. 138
¶¶ 5-6, 8). Kobrick intended to pursue a career in
music education following graduation. (Doc. 101-2, Kobrick
Dep. 68:8-69:9, 90:23-91:4, Apr. 13, 2015).
School District (“Lakeland”) hired defendant
Matthew Stevens (“Stevens”) as the high
school's band director and music teacher sometime in
2010. (See Doc. 101 ¶ 12). Kobrick met Stevens at band camp
during the summer prior to the 2010-2011 school year.
(Id. ¶ 15; Doc. 138 ¶ 15). Kobrick
testified that she and Stevens had a “normal”
student-teacher relationship during her junior year. (Doc.
101 ¶ 17). In advance of a student trip during the
2010-2011 school year, Stevens exchanged cell phone numbers
with all band members for use in the event of an emergency.
(Id. ¶ 18). Stevens did not call or text
Kobrick using her cell phone number during her junior year.
(Id. ¶ 19).
auditioned and was selected for the position of drum major at
the end of her junior year. (Kobrick Dep. 24:18-26:13; Doc.
101 ¶ 6; Doc. 138 ¶ 6). In her role as drum major,
Kobrick had more contact with Stevens during her senior year
than other members of the band. (Doc. 101 ¶ 21). Stevens
arranged with Kobrick's study hall teacher, Derrick
Shayka (“Shayka”), for Kobrick to spend her study
hall period with Stevens in the band room. (Kobrick Dep.
194:8-195:19, 198:20-200:5; see also Doc. 101 ¶ 24; Doc.
138 ¶ 24). Stevens also taught Kobrick's music
appreciation, jazz band, and instrumental music theory
courses. (Id. ¶ 23). Kobrick considered Stevens
to be a “relaxed” teacher and had a “good
relationship” with him during the fall semester of her
senior year. (Id. ¶ 27).
began texting Kobrick about topics “outside of school,
” including their personal lives, sometime in the fall
of 2011. (Kobrick Dep. 213:13-214:21; see also Doc. 101
¶ 28; Doc. 138 ¶ 28). Kobrick did not perceive
these text messages as “flirtatious, ” (Doc. 101
¶ 30), but noted that Stevens began to adopt a
“friendlier” tone with her. (Kobrick Dep.
214:4-215:16; see also Doc. 101 ¶ 29). On December 31,
2011, Kobrick and Stevens exchanged text messages while
Kobrick attended a party. (Doc. 101 ¶ 31; Doc. 138
¶ 31). Kobrick texted Stevens and joked that she wished
she had someone to share a New Years' Eve kiss with.
(Doc. 138 ¶ 32; Kobrick Dep. 217:14-218:16; see Doc. 101
¶ 32). Stevens replied that he would kiss Kobrick. (Doc.
138 ¶ 33; Kobrick Dep. 218:17-23; see Doc. 101 ¶
33). Kobrick was “a little taken aback” by his
response and assumed he was joking. (Kobrick Dep.
218:24-219:2). At the time, Kobrick was 17 years' old.
(See Doc. 101 ¶ 1; Doc. 138 ¶ 1). Stevens was 29.
(See Doc. 101 ¶ 9; Doc. 138 ¶ 9).
relationship with Stevens became physical in January of 2012.
(Doc. 101 ¶ 36; Doc. 138 ¶ 36). In early January,
she was in the band room with Stevens helping him to sort
health records when he kissed her on the lips. (Doc. 101
¶ 36; Doc. 138 ¶ 36). Kobrick was
“shocked” by the contact, (Doc. 101 ¶ 37;
Doc. 138 ¶ 37), but did not leave the room. (Doc. 101
¶ 37). Later that afternoon, two of Kobrick's
friends pushed Kobrick and Stevens into a uniform closet as a
joke. (Id. ¶ 38; Doc. 138 ¶ 38). Stevens
locked the door from the inside and began “[t]ouching
[Kobrick's] private areas over [her] clothes.”
(Kobrick Dep. 233:21-234:11). Stevens continued touching
Kobrick despite her request that he stop. (Id. at
234:12-236:8). The two eventually exited the closet. (See
Id. at 236:18-21). The next day, Stevens again
kissed Kobrick, this time in the front of the band room.
(Id. at 242:10-244:19). Stevens then led Kobrick to
a practice room where he kissed her, touched her, and
“stuck his hand down [her] pants.” (Id.
at 246:11-248:5). Kobrick asked Stevens “what he was
doing” but did not protest or resist his advance; after
a few minutes, the two said goodbye and Kobrick went home.
(Id. at 248:6-249:9).
did not report either incident to her parents or to
administrators. (Doc. 101 ¶¶ 40-41, 47). Kobrick
did not think her mother-a colleague of Stevens at the high
school-would believe her because Stevens “was a teacher
and he's in a place of authority.” (Kobrick Dep.
228:2-229:14, 237:3-12). Kobrick testified that, although she
was surprised at Stevens' conduct, she enjoyed his
attention and the physical contact. (Doc. 101 ¶ 39;
Kobrick Dep. 238:21-239:9). Kobrick also testified that she
was not apprehensive about returning to the band room or
being alone in Stevens' presence. (Doc. 101 ¶ 42;
Kobrick Dep. 243:10-14).
and Stevens thereafter began regularly engaging in other
sexual contact, including oral sex. (Kobrick Dep.
251:24-253:13, 267:21-268:20; see Doc. 101 ¶ 43). The
relations took place in the band room-including in
Stevens' office, a practice room, and a drum closet-both
during and after school. (Kobrick Dep. 253:14-254:16,
255:25-256:3). On several occasions, the sexual acts occurred
with other students in the band room while Kobrick and
Stevens hid in a drum closet and closed the door to avoid
discovery. (See Id. at 255:4-257:8). Kobrick
estimated that she and Stevens had sexual contact two or
three times per week through the end of the school year.
(Id. at 258:2-259:1, 269:20-22; see also Doc. 101
¶ 43; Doc. 138 ¶ 43).
graduated high school on June 1, 2012 and turned 18 one month
later. (Doc. 101 ¶¶ 4, 43, 62; Doc. 138
¶¶ 4, 43, 62). She and Stevens continued their
sexual relationship during the summer following graduation.
(Doc. 101 ¶ 43; Doc. 138 ¶ 43; Kobrick Dep.
285:9-17). Kobrick visited Stevens at his home ten times
throughout the summer, and the pair engaged in sexual
relations during five of those visits. (Kobrick Dep.
289:13-291:19). The physical aspect of the relationship ended
when Kobrick left for college in mid-August of 2012. (See
Doc. 101 ¶ 43; Doc. 138 ¶ 43; see also Kobrick Dep.
292:14-24). During the course of their relationship and until
she left for college, Kobrick thought of Stevens as a
“boyfriend.” (Doc. 101 ¶ 63; Kobrick Dep.
297:1-16, 394:20-5). She believed their relationship to be
consensual at the time. (Kobrick Dep. 268:21-269:16,
and Stevens continued to exchange text messages and talk on
the phone while she was away at college. (Doc. 101 ¶ 80;
Kobrick Dep. 301:24-302:16, 303:25-304:22). At some point in
September of 2012, Stevens called Kobrick and became pushy in
asking her to touch herself while on the phone with him.
(Kobrick Dep. 304:23-308:7; see also Doc. 101 ¶ 83).
Kobrick refused and decided to end all communication with
Stevens. (Kobrick Dep. 311:13-20; see Doc. 101 ¶ 83).
Stevens texted Kobrick a handful of times thereafter, but
Kobrick responded with excuses to avoid talking to him.
(Kobrick Dep. 312:7-313:18; see also Doc. 101 ¶ 85).
returned to Lakeland Junior-Senior High School in January of
2013 for an assignment which required her to observe a
teacher for three days. (Kobrick Dep. 323:20-326:2; see also
Doc. 101 ¶ 88). During her visit, Kobrick saw Stevens in
the band room behaving flirtatiously with two younger female
students. (Kobrick Dep. 330:10-334:5). Kobrick admonished
Stevens “that he needed to . . . watch himself and
watch how he was acting with those girls because he's
going to get caught.” (Id. at 334:6-13).
February 14, 2013, Kobrick called her mother and disclosed
that she had sexual relations with Stevens and that she
believed him to be a “sexual predator.” (Kobrick
Dep. 338:19-25; see also Doc. 101 ¶ 92). Kobrick's
mother contacted the Pennsylvania State Education Association
and the school district's superintendent, defendant
Margaret Billings-Jones (“Billings-Jones”). (See
Doc. 101 ¶ 93). Billings-Jones immediately notified the
district attorney's office of the allegations.
(Id. ¶ 94). Kobrick provided a written
statement to the district attorney's office detailing the
sexual contact with Stevens the following day. (Id.
¶ 97). Stevens was arrested on February 19, 2013 and
charged with institutional sexual assault, unlawful contact
with minor, and corruption of minors. Commonwealth v.
Stevens, No. CP-35-CR-563-2013 (Pa. Ct. Com. Pl. Feb.
19, 2013). On June 16, 2014, Stevens entered a plea
of guilty to one count of corruption of minors. (Doc. 101
¶ 111). The state court sentenced him to a term of 6 to
23 months' imprisonment. See Commonwealth v.
Stevens, No. CP-35-CR-563-2013 (Pa. Ct. Com. Pl. Oct. 1,
mother's recommendation, Kobrick began treating with a
campus counselor on the same day that she reported
Stevens' conduct to authorities. (Doc. 101 ¶ 112;
Kobrick Dep. 341:16-21, 342:1-19). Kobrick began
suffering from anxiety after reporting the relationship and
is prescribed Zoloft to manage her symptoms. (See Kobrick
Dep. 362:5-363:1). Kobrick also described suffering from
nightmares and crying spells, and stated that she
“get[s] sick to [her] stomach” talking about the
incident. (Id. at 378:12-379:10). She testified
that, over the course of the two-year period preceding her
deposition in this case, she treated with a counselor while
at school, a social worker while at home, and her primary
care physician concerning her anxiety and stress. (See Doc.
101 ¶¶ 118-22; see also Kobrick Dep. 353:6-360:4,
362:4). Kobrick also testified that she was unable to work in
a classroom after this experience and had to change her music
education major. (See Kobrick Dep. 90:2-91:18).
commenced this action with the filing of a 14-count complaint
on November 25, 2013. (Doc. 1). In addition to Stevens,
Kobrick asserts claims against Lakeland, Billings-Jones, and
Thomas Kameroski, principal at Lakeland High School during
the 2011-2012 school year, as well as Stevens' former
employer, Western Wayne School District, its superintendent,
Andrew Falonk, and its principal, Patrick Sheehan.
(Doc. 1 ¶¶ 7-15).
Stevens, Kobrick asserted the following claims: in Count 1, a
claim for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment right to
bodily integrity and personal security and the Fourth
Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and
seizures via 42 U.S.C. § 1983; in Count 2, a state law
claim for assault; in Count 3, a state law claim for battery;
in Count 8, a claim for violation of due process rights under
the Pennsylvania Constitution; in Count 10, a claim for
sexual and simple assault; and in Count 14, a state law claim
for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Following
Rule 12(b)(6) motion practice, the court dismissed Count 1 to
the extent it relied on the Fourth Amendment, as well as
Counts 8 and 10, finding that there is no private right of
action under the state constitution nor recognized tort
claims for sexual and simple assault. Kobrick v.
Stevens, No. 3:13-2865, 2014 WL 4914186, at *3-9 (M.D.
Pa. Sept. 30, 2014) (Mannion, J.). The court otherwise allowed
Kobrick's claims against Stevens to proceed to discovery.
defendants moved for summary judgment on July 15, 2016.
(Docs. 100, 102, 105, 107). The motions are fully briefed and
ripe for disposition. In view of the distinct theories of
liability attending Kobrick's claims against Stevens, we
address Stevens' motion (Doc. 100) separately from the
school district and administrator defendants' motions.