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A.B. v. Tredyffrin/Easttown School District

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 8, 2018

A.B and C.B., on behalf of minor child D.B., Plaintiffs,
v.
TREDYFFRIN/EASTTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT, and AMY A. MEISINGER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          DUBOIS, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This case arises out of the sexual assault of D.B., a minor child, by Arthur Phillips, an instructional aide at Conestoga High School, where D.B. was a tenth-grade student. Plaintiffs A.B. and C.B. assert claims on behalf of their minor child D.B. under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Tredyffrin/Easttown School District and Dr. Amy Meisinger, the principal of Conestoga High School, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et. seq. ("Title IX-) against Tredyffrin/Easttown School District. Presently before the Court is Defendants‘ Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The facts as alleged in Plaintiffs‘ Complaint are as follows. In January, 2017, D.B. was a 15-year-old tenth-grade student at Conestoga High School ("Conestoga-) in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Compl. ¶ 22. Arthur Phillips was an instructional aide at Conestoga, working in the TV production studio. Compl. ¶ 24, 25. Conestoga is a public high school in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District ("School District-). Compl. ¶¶ 12, 13. Defendant Dr. Amy Meisinger was the principal of Conestoga at all relevant times. Compl. ¶ 14.

         Beginning in January, 2017, Phillips initiated improper and indecent sexual contact with D.B., including touching, kissing, fondling, and digital penetration. Compl. ¶ 30. Phillips forced D.B. into sexual intercourse at least five times in April, 2017. Compl. ¶ 32, 33. Phillips also made romantic and sexual comments to D.B. and sent D.B. a photograph of his penis via text message on at least two occasions. Compl. ¶¶ 40-42. Many of the sexual assaults occurred on school grounds and during school hours. Compl. ¶¶ 33, 47.

         Plaintiffs allege that several faculty members at Conestoga knew about Phillips‘ inappropriate relationship with D.B. Piera Raffaele, a visual/performing arts teacher at Conestoga, accompanied Phillips and D.B. to restaurants and went on a double date with her husband, Phillips, and D.B. on or around D.B.‘s sixteenth birthday in March, 2017. Compl. ¶¶ 57, 58. In addition, TV studio aide Alex Azar referred to D.B. as Phillips‘ girlfriend in front of business and technology teacher Susan Houseman and language and composition teacher Caitlin Wilson. Compl. ¶ 104.

         Plaintiffs also allege that members of the Conestoga administration knew of some of Phillips‘ inappropriate behavior. Assistant Principal Anthony DiLella saw Phillips pull D.B. into an empty classroom and told Assistant Principal Bankert that the incident "made the hair on the back of my neck standup [sic]."Compl. ¶¶ 39, 128, 129. Assistant Principal Bankert told Dr. Christine Dunleavy, a mental health specialist at Conestoga, that she needed to check on D.B. because he "saw something in [D.B‘s] eyes"that worried him. Compl. ¶ 131. Assistant Principals DiLella and Bankert did nothing to discipline or question Phillips or inform D.B.‘s parents about the incident. Compl. ¶¶ 130, 131.

         On April 11, 2017, during Conestoga‘s spring break, D.B.‘s mother saw Phillips‘ car parked near plaintiffs‘ home and saw Phillips speaking to D.B. Compl. ¶¶ 112, 113. On April 18, 2017, the first school day following spring break, D.B.‘s parents went to Conestoga to meet with Assistant Principal DiLella. Compl. ¶ 118. After D.B.‘s parents left Conestoga, Principal Meisinger, Assistant Principal DiLella, and Dr. Dunleavy searched for D.B. and found her near Phillips‘ office. Compl. ¶ 122. After speaking with D.B., school administrators contacted the Tredyffrin Township Police and removed Phillips from Conestoga that day. Compl. ¶ 123-26. On April 21, 2017, Phillips was charged with 60 felony counts. Compl. ¶ 138.

         The Complaint also sets forth allegations of several sex-related scandals in the School District. First, Christine Towers, a former teacher‘s aide and coach at Conestoga, was convicted of having sex in 2016 with a 16-year-old learning-disabled student whom she tutored. Compl. ¶¶ 144, 145. Second, in October, 2015, upperclassmen students on the football team allegedly sodomized an underclassmen teammate with a broom handle. Compl. ¶¶ 148, 149. Third, in November, 2015, three students ages 11 to 15 faced charges of distributing or offering to share sexually explicit images, including photos of their classmates. Compl. ¶ 152.

         III. APPLICABLE LAW

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to respond to a pleading by filing a motion to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted."To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must allege facts that "‗raise a right to relief above the speculative level.‘"Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‗state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.‘"Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A district court first identifies those factual allegations that constitute nothing more than "legal conclusions"or "naked assertions."Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. Such allegations are "not entitled to the assumption of truth"and must be disregarded. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The court then assesses the remaining "'nub‘ of the plaintiff‘s] complaint-the well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegation[s]”-to determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs assert a § 1983 claim against Principal Meisinger and the School District and a sexual discrimination and harassment ...


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