United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
HOPE WRYE, CENTRAL INTERMEDIATE UNIT #10, AND PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants.
Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge
Central Intermediate Unit #10 (“CIU”) and the
Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District
(“POASD”) filed motions for summary judgment
against Plaintiff, C.K. For the reasons that follow, their
motions are granted.
C.K.'s Relationship with Hope Wrye
fall of 2000, C.K. enrolled as a student in Larry Krest's
emotional support class at the POASD High
School. Defendant Hope Wrye was Mr. Krest's
assistant in that class.
remained in Mr. Krest's class until February 2001, when
he transferred to another school district. A few months
later, in November 2001, C.K. transferred back to POASD,
where he remained until dropping out completely in October
this period, while still a minor, C.K. began a sexual
relationship with Ms. Wrye. Although the parties disagree
about when, exactly, the sexual relationship began, it is
undisputed that Ms. Wrye eventually became pregnant with
C.K.'s child, who was born in September 2003.
during this period, several CIU and POASD officials held a
meeting with Ms. Wrye about her personal relationships with
students at the school - and possibly about her personal
relationship with C.K. The parties and various witnesses give
disparate accounts of this meeting, which will be discussed
instituted this action by filing a complaint in February
2015,  and on October 9, 2015, C.K. filed his
Second Amended Complaint, which contained five
counts. In Count II, brought under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, C.K. alleged that his
“inappropriate” relationship with Ms. Wrye
violated his constitutional right to bodily integrity, and
that his injuries were the “direct and proximate
result” of a policy or custom of CIU and
POASD. In Count III, brought under 20 U.S.C.
§ 1681 (i.e., “Title IX”), C.K.
alleged that this relationship “created a sexually
hostile educational environment, and unreasonably interfered
with C.K.'s educational
February 6, 2017, CIU and POASD moved for summary judgment on
Counts II and III, arguing that C.K. is unable to produce
sufficient evidence to prevail on his claims at trial.
Standard of Review
judgment is granted when “the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” A dispute is “genuine if a
reasonable trier-of-fact could find in favor of the
non-movant, ” and “material if it could affect
the outcome of the case.” To defeat a motion for
summary judgment, then, the nonmoving party must point to
evidence in the record that would allow a jury to rule in
that party's favor. When deciding whether to grant
summary judgment, a court should draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Claim under Title IX
1681(a) of Title 20 of the United States Code - “Title
IX” - states that “[n]o person in the United
States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from
participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to
discrimination under any education program or activity
receiving Federal financial assistance . . . .” In
order to prevail against a school on a sexual harassment
claim, a plaintiff needs to show, inter alia, that
an “appropriate person” at the school had
“actual notice of . . . the teacher's
misconduct.” Here, C.K. has failed to produce enough
evidence to allow a jury to find that an “appropriate
person” at CIU or POASD had “actual notice”
of his relationship with Ms. Wrye.
bases his argument on this point entirely on the
aforementioned meeting between school officials and Ms. Wrye.
At the outset, it is unclear who, exactly, attended this
meeting. The conflicting evidence shows that, besides Ms.
Wrye, it may also have been attended by Charles Young
(principal of the POASD High School),  Gary Springer
(special education supervisor at POASD),  Dennis
Shanafelt (special education director at CIU),  and Kerri Ann
Bloom (special education supervisor at CIU). Since, at
this stage, this Court must draw all reasonable inferences in
favor of C.K., it will assume that all these officials were
in attendance. Evidence about the exact timing of this
meeting is also imprecise, but the Court will assume that it
occurred while Ms. Wrye was employed at the school and while
C.K. was enrolled there as well.
important than attendance and timing of this meeting is what
was discussed in it; the officials who were involved in it,
however, remember very little about its substance. In his
deposition testimony, Mr. Young indicated that “the
meting proceeded by bringing [Ms. Wrye] in and informing her
of a rumor that had come to light with regard to her
providing rides or being in a vehicle with
C.K.”Mr. Young has no recollection of
discussing anything else regarding Ms. Wrye's
relationship with C.K., e.g., whether anyone had
observed any romantic or sexual behavior between Ms. Wrye and
C.K. Similarly, Mr. Springer recalls that the
topic of the meeting was “grapevine hearsay that . . .
an aide . . . had been giving students a ride in her personal
vehicle after school hours.” Like Mr. Young, he cannot
recall hearing anything about a sexual or romantic
relationship between Ms. Wrye and C.K. Mr. Shanafelt
remembers that “there were rumors that there was an
issue between” Ms. Wrye and C.K., or a “rumor
that there might be something between” the two of them,
but his deposition testimony is no more specific than
that. Ms. Bloom remembers a “gossipy
report” that “said that [Ms. Wrye] and this
student were friends, were something, ” and that the
report involved someone “see[ing] this student in [Ms.
Wrye's] car . . . and also at her
home.” Ms. Bloom recalls “a report . . .
of [Ms. Wrye] in an inappropriate relationship with a
student, ” but does not remember any facts “which
would support a purported inappropriate relationship”
between the two.
Wrye's testimony contains scarcely any more detail. She
remembers someone “from [CIU or POASD] questioning
[her] about an inappropriate relationship with a student,
” but cannot remember being questioned about her
relationship with C.K. She claims that someone at the
meeting “said that they had received an accusation that
someone - I don't exactly recall what it was . . . that
someone saw me with a student or kissing a student,
” but pressed further, she could not
recall whether anyone actually asked if she had kissed a
student, ” and did not suspect that the officials
were referring to her relationship with C.K.
Wrye spoke to Mr. Krest after this meeting. With respect
to that conversation, Mr. Krest remembers later telling
someone that Ms. Wrye said “the principal accused her
of having an affair with one of her students,
” but questioned at his deposition, he
simply remembers that Ms. Wrye told him that “an
accusation had been made.” He does not remember
C.K.'s name being mentioned.
Wrye's testimony mentions a “Barb Neff allegation
thing.” Barbara Neff was a food services
employee at POASD who lived near Ms. Wrye at the time of the
underlying events. She claims that C.K. spent “many
evenings and weekends” at Ms. Wrye's home and
claims to have observed “outwardly inappropriate
behavior between” Ms. Wrye and C.K., including
“physical contact, kissing, [and] hugging, ” some
of which was “passionate.” Although she
recalls reporting this behavior to a physical education
teacher at the school, she does not recall reporting it to
“an authority or to the principal.” None of the
officials questioned could recall speaking with Ms. Neff,
either. Mr. Krest indicated that Ms. Wrye told
him that the accusations against her were made by a
“female cafeteria worker, ” but could not
identify Ms. Neff's name when prompted.
for C.K.'s case, no reasonable trier of fact could, on
this evidence, find that an appropriate person at either CIU
or POASD had actual notice of Ms. Wrye's misconduct. The
officials can remember, at most, hearing that Ms. Wrye and
C.K. were driving home together after school and possibly
visiting each other outside school hours. Mr. Young and Mr.
Springer specifically deny remembering that there was any
sexual or romantic behavior between Ms. Wrye and C.K.; Ms.
Bloom cannot recall any facts “which would support a
purported inappropriate relationship” between the two;
and Mr. Shanafelt can only remember hearing about
“something between” them.
this Court, C.K. points to Ms. Wrye's recollection of
being questioned at the meeting about an “inappropriate
relationship, ” but Ms. Wrye specifically denied
remembering being questioned about her relationship with C.K.
She did state that perhaps someone saw her “with a
student or kissing a student, ” but also could
not actually remember being asked about kissing a student.
Mr. Krest's recollections are similarly too vague and
amorphous to support a finding that any CIU or POASD official
had actual knowledge of any of Ms. Wrye's alleged
misconduct. And finally, although it is undisputed that Ms.
Neff observed inappropriate behavior and reported it to
someone, C.K. does not argue here that the
school's physical education teacher was an
“appropriate person.” C.K.'s Title IX claim,
then, must fail.
Claim Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides a means
by which individuals may recover for violations of their
constitutional rights. The statute, however, does not allow
recovery under a respondeat superior theory of
liability. Therefore, when a plaintiff attempts to
recover from a municipal entity like CIU or POASD, he must
show that his injuries were the result of a policy or custom
of the municipality. Further, ...